My house mate is a music producer, and I remember one day last year he came home and played a song he’d recorded that day. It was a cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’, by a local artist called Brooke Bentham. It was haunting and beautiful and I can honestly say that, much as I love the original, I enjoyed this more.
But that’s rare, isn’t it? In general no one is flocking to Elvis impersonators because they’re better than the man himself, they’re going to impersonators because the real thing is dead.
When we’re reading the words of Jesus, however, we come across a fascinating moment where He says that His followers will do the works that He does, and greater things to.
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.
– John 14:12
Often people read this passage and think immediately of the great miracles Jesus performed. I don’t know about you but I’ve never walked on water, or used my packed lunch to feed an arena full of people. We compare it to life today and there’s seemingly a disconnect.
So what then does Christ mean when He talks about greater works than these? I can’t help but think that we sometimes focus on the works that signposted His major work, rather than on His major work itself. Like art fans in the Vatican looking at a sketch of the Sistine chapel without ever looking up to see the finished piece.
The signs and wonders Jesus did point to something far greater, they weren’t the end nor were they the means, they were pointers to who He was and what He had come to accomplish.
In Luke 17, Jesus heals ten lepers. Yet it’s clear that the healing itself wasn’t the miracle Jesus wanted to achieve. While ten were healed of leprosy, only one was made whole. Only one received the finished work of salvation. The initial miracle wasn’t the end goal, the greatest work was salvation.
The initial miracle wasn’t the end goal, the greatest work was salvation.
As I worshipped in church last week I glanced around and saw a number of people who had came to Jesus within recent months. I saw people who had received salvation while in some very dark places, and equally people who were saved when living a seemingly fulfilled and happy life in the world.
The truth is that miracles are happening everyday, but we’re so often looking for the signposts we don’t see what they’re pointing at. Salvation is the greatest miracle of all, the reconciliation of people with their creator. And because Jesus went to be with His father, we can be part of the great work that is the reconciliation of mankind to God.
If we want to see greater works, we need to open our eyes to the way Christ works through the church. If we want to do greater works, we need to open our lives to the broken and the lost.
The signposts may change, but the vision and goal of the church remains to bring reconciliation to a hurting world. We exist to point people to Jesus, and when they meet Him? That is the greatest miracle.