So Jesus made these momentous claim regarding himself: No one comes to the Father except through him, and he is the Way (not a way), the Truth (not a bearer of truth), and the Life. And he told his disciples that from that point forward they knew the Father and have seen him (not going to see him, but have seen him).
I love Philip in vs. 8: He might be sticking his foot in his mouth, but he was saying something a lot of them were probably thinking: "We have seen him? So where is he?"
Our Lord’s answer is simple: Right here. When you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father. Everything that the Father is--in his nature, his character, and in his works—the Son is. If anyone wants to see God without going through Jesus, they’re wasting their time.
Now we come to mysterious verses which need to be examined carefully. I personally am trying to be cautious to say what the Scriptures say, nothing more and nothing less. First off, what does our Lord mean when he says that we (as his followers) will perform “greater works than these”? He healed lepers and blind men and crippled men with a word! At his command, demons fled out of poor people whom they'd possessed for years. Hello, he raised the dead! I haven’t done that lately, have you? How can we say that the Church is performing “greater” works that what Jesus did while on earth?
There are two ways to interpret this. Now, some people say that the problem is a lack of faith. If we aren’t healing people in the exact same way as Jesus did, then something’s wrong with us. Nope, don’t buy it. In the two thousand years since Jesus walked around, there's never been a time that’s been recorded with the quality and quantity of Jesus’ miracles. Has everyone been completely out to lunch since he left? Every single believer?
Maybe, just maybe, we need to reexamine our definition of “greater.” Notice that he didn’t say “as good as mine.” He said “greater.” What could be greater than raising the dead or healing with a word?
Well, I have two answers to that. First, there's the simple answer of extent and scope. During his earthly ministry, our Lord limited his ministry to a small back-water province that most people in the world had never heard of. On top of that, he mostly worked among Jews--not because he loved us Gentiles any less, but because that was the Father's plan and timetable. So he was touching a sliver of one percent of the world's population. But now, all such limits are gone as of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit--sent by Jesus after he returned to the Father--empowers and spurs the Church to reach out to all the world in the Name of our Savior. Ultimately there will be no corner of the world where people aren't touched by his grace and power.
Second, there is a greater work than physically raising people from the dead. Lazarus died again. The lepers whom he cleansed? Their bodies eventually fell apart again. All of his physical miracles only had a temporary effect. But if someone is resurrected spiritually, if they’re raised to new life in Christ, that’s permanent. And just as miraculous.
And we have a part in that. When you share the Good News (in the power of the Spirit, so Christ is really doing it through you), then you have a part in doing something greater than any physical miracle which Jesus performed on earth.
Now, how’s about this seemingly unlimited promise: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Two quick points:
• We need to clarify “in my name.” It's not just tacking Jesus’ name onto the end of your prayer and expecting him to leap forward like a starving waiter to serve you. Praying is not magic or a science, where you submit the right input or formula and thus get the output you desire. “In my name” means praying--asking--with his interests in mind, praying for things he wants. You don't get a new Ferrari because you end with your prayer with “in Jesus’ name, amen.”
• And why is Jesus going to do as we ask when we truly ask “in his name”? So that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Not so you can gratify your personal desires.
Having said that, I think I might be too cautious. I was raised in an atmosphere in which I was warned repeatedly against the excesses of the Pentecostal/Charismatic side of Christianity, so I’m instinctively always on guard against the extremes to which their belief system is inherent. But are my prayers bold enough? Do I really believe that he can do anything he wants, and he delights in answering the prayers of his children? Maybe my view of my Savior is too small.
Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I don’t want to sell you short. You're Almighty God, and you’re intimately involved in the lives of your children. May my prayers reflect that.
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