He that believeth on me - This promise had doubtless special reference to the apostles themselves. They were full of grief at his departure, and Jesus, in order to console them, directed them to the great honor which was to be conferred on them, and to the assurance that God would not leave them, but would attend them in their ministry with the demonstrations of his mighty power. It cannot be understood of all his followers, for the circumstances of the promise do not require us to understand it thus, and it has not been a matter of fact that All Christians have possessed power to do greater works than the Lord Jesus. It is a general promise that greater works than he performed should be done by his followers, without specifying that all his followers would be instrumental in doing them.
Greater works than these shall he do - Interpreters have been at a loss in what way to understand this. The most probable meaning of the passage is the following: The word “greater” cannot refer to the miracles themselves, for the works of the apostles did not exceed those of Jesus in power. No higher exertion of power was put forth, or could be, than raising the dead. But, though not greater in themselves considered, yet they were greater in their effects. They made a deeper impression on mankind. They were attended with more extensive results. They were the means of the conversion of more sinners. The works of Jesus were confined to Judea. They were seen by few. The works of the apostles were witnessed by many nations, and the effect of their miracles and preaching was that thousands from among the Jews and Gentiles were converted to the Christian faith. The word “greater” here is used, therefore, not to denote the absolute exertion of power, but the effect which the miracles would have on mankind. The word “works” here probably denotes not merely miracles, but all things that the apostles did that made an impression on mankind, including their travels, their labors, their doctrine, etc.
Because I go unto my Father - He would there intercede for them, and especially by his going to the Father the Holy Spirit would he sent down to attend them in their ministry, John 14:26, John 14:28; John 16:7-14. See Matthew 28:18. By his going to the Father is particularly denoted his exaltation to heaven, and his being placed as head over all things to his church, Ephesians 1:20-23; Philemon 2:9-11. By his being exalted there the Holy Spirit was given John 16:7, and by his power thus put forth the Gentiles were brought to hear and obey the gospel.
And greater works than these - The miracles which I have wrought could not have been wrought but by the omnipotence of God; but that omnipotence can work greater. And those who believe on my name shall, through my almighty power, be enabled to work greater miracles than those which l have ordinarily wrought. An impostor might seduce the people by false miracles; but he could not make his power and cunning pass to all those who were seduced by him: but I will give you this proof of the divinity of my mission and the truth of my doctrine.
Perhaps the greater works refer to the immense multitudes that were brought to God by the ministry of the apostles. By the apostles was the doctrine of Christ spread far and wide; while Christ confined his ministry chiefly to the precincts of Judea. It is certainly the greatest miracle of Divine grace to convert the obstinate, wicked heart of man from sin to holiness. This was done in numberless cases by the disciples, who were endued with power from on high, while proclaiming remission of sins through faith in his blood.
Some account for the greater works thus:
Where I shall be an Intercessor for you, that: -
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” John 14:12. By this, Christ did not mean that the disciples would make more exalted exertions than He had made, but that their work would have greater magnitude. He did not refer merely to miracle working, but to all that would take place under the agency of the Holy Spirit. “When the Comforter is come,” He said, “whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26, 27. AA 22.1
Wonderfully were these words fulfilled. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were so filled with love for Him and for those for whom He died, that hearts were melted by the words they spoke and the prayers they offered. They spoke in the power of the Spirit; and under the influence of that power, thousands were converted. AA 22.2
As Christ's representatives the apostles were to make a decided impression on the world. The fact that they were humble men would not diminish their influence, but increase it; for the minds of their hearers would be carried from them to the Saviour, who, though unseen, was still working with them. The wonderful teaching of the apostles, their words of courage and trust, would assure all that it was not in their own power that they worked, but in the power of Christ. Humbling themselves, they would declare that He whom the Jews had crucified was the Prince of life, the Son of the living God, and that in His name they did the works that He had done. AA 22.3Read in context »
“Let not your heart be troubled,” He said; “ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” For your sake I came into the world. I am working in your behalf. When I go away, I shall still work earnestly for you. I came into the world to reveal Myself to you, that you might believe. I go to the Father to co-operate with Him in your behalf. The object of Christ's departure was the opposite of what the disciples feared. It did not mean a final separation. He was going to prepare a place for them, that He might come again, and receive them unto Himself. While He was building mansions for them, they were to build characters after the divine similitude. DA 663.1
Still the disciples were perplexed. Thomas, always troubled by doubts, said, “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.” DA 663.2
There are not many ways to heaven. Each one may not choose his own way. Christ says, “I am the way: ... no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” Since the first gospel sermon was preached, when in Eden it was declared that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, Christ had been uplifted as the way, the truth, and the life. He was the way when Adam lived, when Abel presented to God the blood of the slain lamb, representing the blood of the Redeemer. Christ was the way by which patriarchs and prophets were saved. He is the way by which alone we can have access to God. DA 663.3Read in context »
Looking upon His disciples with divine love and with the tenderest sympathy, Christ said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” Judas had left the upper chamber, and Christ was alone with the eleven. He was about to speak of His approaching separation from them; but before doing this He pointed to the great object of His mission. It was this that He kept ever before Him. It was His joy that all His humiliation and suffering would glorify the Father's name. To this He first directs the thoughts of His disciples. DA 662.1Read in context »