It is one of the more puzzling things Jesus is ever reported to have said,

12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do…

That’s not the really puzzling part. It is possible to imagine that those who “believe” in Jesus might do works similar to those that Jesus did during his earthly ministry.

Certainly, for centuries, those who put their faith in Jesus have participated in bringing healing in a variety of ways. Followers of Jesus have shared good news, given generously to the poor, welcomed the outcast, proclaimed God’s justice, and fed the hungry.

The really strange part of Jesus’ statement in John chapter 14 verse 12 comes in the second half of the verse, where Jesus, apparently went on to say that, not only will those who believe in him do the works he did but they will in fact

do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

How is it imaginable that anyone might ever do “greater works” than those which Jesus did? How can anyone do “greater works” than casting out demons, making the lame walk, restoring sight to the blind, feeding thousands with a meagre supply of loaves and fishes, walking on water, and raising the dead?

If we look only at the surface of Jesus’ actions, it is impossible to make sense of this obviously exaggerated statement. What could possibly be greater than raising the dead? But, if we look beneath the surface to the significance of the “works” Jesus performed, it may be possible to find some meaning here.

Repeatedly in the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as performing his “works” in response to splänkh-nē’-zo-mī (Matthew 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:3,4; 8:2; Luke 7:13).

Splänkh-nē’-zo-mī is a strong Greek word; it means literally to be moved as if in one’s bowels; the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity.  So to perform works in response to splänkh-nē’-zo-mī is to act in response to the movement of compassion within.

When Jesus, who was the full embodiment of self-less self-giving grace and love acted in response to the prompting of compassion, it was not actually all that “great” a work. It was simply Jesus being Jesus, doing what Jesus did, living in response to the prompting of his Father in heaven without impediment or hindrance.

But, on those rare occasions when Christopher Page acts in response to splänkh-nē’-zo-mī, it is a pretty big deal indeed. In those rare moments when I am able to get my small, petty, self-serving, ego out of the way for a second and perform something that comes even close to being a truly selfless act of love, it is a “great” work indeed. And this “great work” is only even remotely possible because Jesus has gone “to the Father” and released in me the gift and power of the Holy Spirit to live and act in and through the inadequate vessel of my life.

Paul wrote,

we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

When the “clay jar” allows the “extraordinary power” of love to move through its fragile frame and manifest in the world with some degree of selfless compassion, it is the greatest work on earth.

It takes a transcendent miracle for the fleshly self-serving egoic small self to get out of the way for even a moment and allow God’s power to work. The daily challenge of believing in Jesus, is the willingness to surrender to love and allow that love to perform the miraculously great work of moving in my life.

 

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