“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father."
I believe that Jesus is telling the truth when He makes this bold prediction. But how can this be? How can redeemed sinners who still struggle with sin but who are nonetheless entrusted with Christ's gospel do what is greater than the works of their Lord? It seems impossibly contradictory. But in truth, it is a bold encouragement for us. Here's why...
Jesus has just explained to His disciples that He is the exclusive means of salvation for all humanity (John 14:6-7). He clearly taught them He was one with God the Father, sharing "oneness" (John 14:9-11) and that His actions demonstrated His divinity. Jesus did what the Father did, in His works, His miracles, His teaching, His interactions and relationships with people. He did this because Jesus is God. The total sum of Jesus' ministry showed the world what God does.
How can we possibly do "greater works" than God does? We can't. But Jesus can through us, and that is the point Jesus is making: we can do greater works because Jesus has left us, but will still live and work in us so that others may see the work of God in and through us. And that is how we do "greater works". Jesus even gives us the path to do this: Ask for something in His name. Jesus will do it for one reason only... to have the Father glorified in the Son. And Jesus will be glorified in us. And that is how and why the gospel of Jesus Christ still saves sinners and changes people.
As a pastor, I don't build the church. I humbly submit my needy self to the gospel as a broken and powerless sinner. I trust in Christ, His Word, and the Holy Spirit's work to sanctify me as I worship the Father and proclaim His Word to the world to encourage believers, and together we take the gospel into the world. I am an impotent sinner, but Jesus does greater work in me, and in all believers, for His glory. Amen!