‘Greater Works Than These’ – John 13:31-14:31 – July 5th

If you would, please turn with me in your Bibles to John chapter 13, verse 31 through chapter 14, verse 31. That is John, chapter 13, verse 31 through chapter 14, verse 31, you can follow along as Elyse reads to us.  

John says:

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself and will glorify Him at once.

33 “Children, I am with you a little while longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’ so now I tell you.

34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36 “Lord,” Simon Peter said to Him, “where are You going?”

Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow later.”

37 “Lord,” Peter asked, “why can’t I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You!”

38 Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for Me? I assure you: A rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times.

14 “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.”

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

“If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.

12 “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.

19 “In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you. 21 The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it You’re going to reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.28 You have heard Me tell you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. 30 I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Me. 31 On the contrary, I am going away so that the world may know that I love the Father. Just as the Father commanded Me, so I do.

“Get up; let’s leave this place.”

This is the word of the Lord.

Let’s pray.

Father we thank you that even as we are temporarily forced to change some of what we do because of COVID-19, you are greater than COVID-19. Not one of us wouldn’t rather be inside that building, sitting in the pews, catching up with the folks who usually sit next us face-to-face instead of simply over the phone. And yet, You are greater than our inconvenience. We thank you for the way that you are with us even in the midst of our social distancing, that you are near us even in the midst of our isolation, and that even as we try to serve our neighbors by distancing ourselves to try and mitigate the spread of the virus, you have given us the profound blessing of being able to look closely at your word together, to learn from it, to be changed by it, and be edified through it.

We pray these things in Jesus’s name, Amen.

*

As you probably noticed, we are trekking through a pretty long stretch of scripture, this morning. Our passage today is a long discussion between Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper table that goes all the way from John 13:31 through John 14:31. As usual, John’s writing style is kind of long and meandering, so it’s difficult to follow some of what he records Jesus saying, but as we look closely at the text, what we’ll find is that a few remarkably clear and remarkably simple concepts make their way to the forefront.

The first of which is that God is glorious. That’s John’s first point.

Like I said: Remarkably clear and remarkably simple.

John’s first point, here, is about the glory of God.

How often do you think about that? “The glory of God.”

That’s a term we use pretty often, but rarely define, and so it’s worth stepping back and looking at what the Bible tells us about “the glory of God.” When we say that “God is glorious,” we’re not just saying that God is really big or really cool or really powerful. When we say that “God is glorious,” what we’re saying is that everything in the world is about the glory of God.

That’s why, in Isaiah 42:8, God says, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And in Psalm 72:19, Solomon says, “Blessed be God’s glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!” And so in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul says “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The list goes on.

God is glorious, and everything – absolutely everything in the world – is ultimately about God’s glory.

But when we talk about the glory of God, it creates a very important question. And that very important question is, “How do we see it?”

How do we see the glory of God?

If we really want to see and recognize the glory of God, where do we look?

The very obvious answer might be something like what Psalm 19 says. In Psalm 19, David celebrates, singing that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” In other words, you see the glory of God in a very general sense everywhere you look.

It’s like Romans chapter 1 verse 20, which tells us, essentially, that “God created us, and that something in us knows that.” You cannot look at a tree without something in you stirring and recognizing that fact, no matter how quiet the sensation is or how deep it’s buried down in you.

You cannot look at another human without something in you stirring and recognizing that. We recognize the glory of God in absolutely everything and absolutely everyone, in a broad sense. In a general sense. In a very undefined sense.

But the problem is that that really isn’t enough.

Seeing the glory of God in a very general sense is not enough.

We need to see the glory of God clearly. We need to see it clearly enough to really grasp it. To cherish it. To be gripped by it in a way that moves us to throw our whole lives into serving God and magnifying his glory here on earth.

But there is really only one way to see the glory of God that clearly. And that is through Jesus.

We see the glory of God clearly, simply, and accurately in Jesus Christ.

Beginning at chapter 13 verse 31, John says “When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself and will glorify Him at once.”

In other words, the glory of God is made visible in Jesus Christ.

We see that once again beginning at chapter 14, verse 7, Jesus says “If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” He continues in verse 9, he says, “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father,” and verse 10, he says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works.”

The point is very much the same: The glory of God is made visible in Jesus Christ.

That’s why in Hebrews 1:3, the author says that “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

We see God’s glory in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the glory of God made visible.

And part of the way that God glorifies himself through Jesus is by redeeming us through his blood.

We see in John chapter 10, Jesus says, “I lay down my life. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” And because Jesus laid down his life for us, today “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7. So Paul says, in Ephesians 1:7, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” And the result, Romans 5:10, is that “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” Because, Colossians 1:20, “God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself through Jesus, by making peace through his blood that was shed on the cross.”

Because of the cross, you are no longer under God’s wrath, instead you are a member of God’s family. You are no longer God’s enemy, instead you are God’s friend. You are no longer a trespasser on God’s property, you are a welcome guest at his dinner table. You are a member of God’s household.

What does that mean for you? It means, Jesus says in John 14:2, that “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places,” and “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

Because you are redeemed through the blood of Jesus, Christ has prepared a place for you in his Father’s house.

*

That’s step one. That’s the front porch, of what John is getting at in our passage today. And, unfortunately, that’s about where we leave it most of the time.

You know what I’m talking about?

We say, “Jesus died on the cross for you so that you can go to heaven.”

And we just leave it at that. And there’s an altar call. And we all go home, happy and satisfied ‘cause we’re going to heaven now.

Now, obviously, that’s true. That’s a true statement. Jesus did die on the cross so that you can go to heaven.

But, as you might have noticed, there’s a lot of stuff in the Bible that we don’t really know what to do with if all of this is just about “going to heaven.” Right?

In the cross, Jesus turns us from “condemned” into “redeemed.” In Jesus Christ you are rescued with a rescue that you did not earn and you cannot lose. But that’s the starting line, not the finish line.

I think we see that in Titus 2:14, when Paul says Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Jesus has redeemed us from the consequences of our “bad works” in order to turn us into a people who do good works. We see the same thing in Ephesians 2:10, he says, “For we are God’s creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ, and he has set apart good works for us ahead of time.

Think about that.

There are “good works” that God has already set apart for us ahead of time.

Your entire life, from this very moment to the moment of your eventual death will be filled with “good works” that God has set apart ahead of time for you to do, and your job is very simply to find them and do them./

But in our passage today, John takes this point and pushes it even further than Paul does in his letters to Titus and the Ephesians.

Looking at chapter 14, beginning in verse 12, Jesus says, “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

We saw earlier that the glory of God is made visible in Jesus Christ. That was John’s first point. But now we see John’s second point: And that is that today, with Jesus at the Father’s right hand in heaven, serving as our high priest, and our great prophet and our glorious King, Jesus glorifies God through us. 

God is glorified today through our good works.

God is glorified today through our love for each other, verse 34.

God is glorified today through our obedience to Christ’s call on us.

Jesus says, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.”/

(Pause)

That’s one of those sentences that just kinda hits you like a train. Jesus says, quite literally, that if we believe in him, then we will do the works that he does. And even more than that, he says that “We will do even greater works than these.”/

He says that we will do greater works today than Jesus did yesterday./

(Pause)

Like I said, that’s one of those sentences that just kinda hits you like a freight train.

But what, specifically, does that sentence mean?

Let’s start with what it obviously doesn’t mean. Obviously, we are not going to die on the cross for the sins of the world and then be resurrected. That’s just pointing out the obvious. I hope.

But what it does mean is that we are very much going to do the things that Jesus did.

That’s almost deceptively simple.

Read the four gospels. You could do it in a week if you don’t marathon Gilligan’s Island every night and you don’t spend 6 hours on Facebook. Read through the gospels, and what you’ll notice is that Jesus does things throughout them.

He heals the sick.

He feeds the poor.

He preaches the good news.

He shows people how to live.

There you go.

Those are the things that Jesus is talking about.

Those are the works that Jesus is talking about.

He says, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.”/

We do not have to have a supernatural gifting to heal the sick. Right? All we have to do is devote ourselves to helping them get the health care they need.

Literally.

That’s it.

Churches that do fundraisers, or people who dig deep into their own pockets to pool their money together to pay for life-saving or life-altering medical operations are “doing the works of Jesus.”

The same principle applies when it comes to “feeding the hungry.”

You do not have to be supernaturally gifted to feed the hungry. Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, but you can also feed the hungry by literally giving your food to them.

Right?

Not as flashy, every bit as effective.

Some folks, somewhere, are probably gifted with the ability to multiply food in dire situations so that they can “do the works of Jesus” by supernaturally feeding the hungry, but the gifting that most of us have been given is food.

You’ve been gifted with food.

Or, you’ve been gifted with money.

And you can use that gifting to give food to the hungry.

Literally. You can give your food to the hungry. You can give your money to the poor. You can find people who don’t have food and you can give them food. And when you do that, the scripture doesn’t simply call it “charity,” it calls it “doing the works of Jesus.”/

In other words, as the people of God, our good works aren’t just good works. Our “charity” isn’t just charity. Our evangelism isn’t just evangelism. When we “do the works of Jesus,” we are participating in the ministry of Jesus.

I’m gonna say that again: When we “do the works of Jesus,” we are participating in the ministry of Jesus. That’s why in 2 Corinthians 5:18 Paul says, “Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

In other words, the earthly ministry of Jesus never actually ended.

The earthly ministry of Jesus didn’t come to an end when Jesus died on the cross and was raised up on the third day. It’s the opposite. The earthly ministry of Jesus is alive and well today, the only difference is that today Jesus ministers through us.

That’s why Paul says in Philippians 2:13 that “it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We are tools in the hands of Jesus to carry out his earthly ministry through us.

Jesus is carrying out his earthly ministry every bit as much today as he was throughout the four gospels, the only difference is that today he carries out that ministry through you.

He carries out his ministry through us.

He carries out his earthly ministry through churches like Mount Zion. 

Wherever the people of God gather together to “do the works of Jesus,” the earthly ministry of Jesus is still alive and well./

*

Now, I say all of that, but the problem is that we suck at it. Right? At least, I do.

We are absolutely terrible at “doing the works of Jesus.”

We are absolutely terrible at “loving one another the way that Jesus loved us,” verse 34.

We are absolutely terrible at “walking in the good works that the Lord set apart for us beforehand,” Ephesians 2:10.

Because, just as a case-in-point, I don’t wanna love my neighbor. I want my neighbor to leave me alone.

Right? Can we be honest about that.

We are Fallen. We are selfish. We are broken. And that Fallenness and that selfishness and that brokenness work themselves out in our concrete day-to-day decisions.

And the question that that beckons for us is “How on earth could we ever be of any use to Jesus whatsoever?”

When we are as Fallen and selfish and broken as this, how could Jesus ever realistically expect us to “Do the works of Jesus,” and even to “Do greater works today than Jesus did yesterday”?

The answer, I think, is found in chapter 14, beginning in verse 16. Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.”

Jesus works through us because the Holy Spirit works in us.

We see the same thing, once again, skipping down to verse 25, he says, “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”

Once again: Jesus works through us because the Holy Spirit works in us.

We are able to carry out the continuing ministry of Jesus on earth not because we’re so awesome and trustworthy and reliable and consistent that we’ll do it automatically, but because the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus in John chapter 1 has now descended on us./

Take a moment to think about the fact that you have the Holy Spirit.

You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you.

You have the God of the universe, the third person of the Trinity, living within you – the word Paul uses in Romans 8:9 is “indwelling.” He says, “The Spirit dwells in you.”

And that Holy Spirit enables you to do good works.

That Holy Spirit enables you to do the works of Jesus.

That Holy Spirit enables you to love one another the way that Jesus loved you.

That Holy Spirit enables you to carry out the earthly ministry of Jesus together, today.

So as a point of application: Take hold of that. Surrender to the Holy Spirit as he guides you out of the Fallen, selfish, and broken patterns that your old life took and into the “good works that God set apart beforehand for you to walk in.”/

This is the point in the service where, typically, I would give something that we refer to as an “altar call,” but that’s not quite possible this morning, for obvious reasons. What we’re doing instead, is that as we respond to the Lord through song, we invite you to text or email me with your prayer requests, or decisions, or burdens, and we can set a time to sit down over the phone sometime the week and talk or pray through whatever is on your heart. Let’s pray.

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