Truly, Truly! – Greater Works

Truly, Truly! – Greater Works

Truly, Truly! – Greater Works.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:12-14).

There is a much-used Hebrew word in the Hebrew Bible that points to its root word “truth.” The Greek in the New Testament also picked it up and used it for “truth” as well. That common Hebrew word is “amen.”

Amen. This biblical word basically means: This is truth! I agree that this is true! Yes! We heartily accept and approve of what was said! We are assured that this is certainly true! So be it! We believe this is trustworthy and we take it to heart!

Amen! Amen! is often translated as Truly, Truly, or Verily, Verily in the New Testament. This double Amen is only recorded in the gospel of John, and is said by Jesus before He offers a statement, not after.  He is the only Person to say this, because He is the only Person who has the authority to say this before He says it. This double Amen, as opposed to a single Amen, must be an important distinction for Jesus, because He felt compelled to use this preface twenty-five times in John.  When Jesus begins a statement with that double “Truly,” He is intending to be doubly intense when He says it, and so He wants the listener to be doubly attentive. He wants to emphasize the importance of His words. He is saying, In all truth I tell you. He wants the listener to focus, and He is serious about preparing the listener to be receptive. When Jesus says Truly, Truly, He is saying: Most assuredly, what I am about to tell you is absolutely true and trustworthy. So listen up, because an eternal truth is coming to you now. In all sincerity, says Jesus, this is the solemn truth. Take these words in, says Jesus, and have them go into your mind and then straight to your heart. For these words of mine are double truth, they are doubly true. Jesus might as well have been saying… And you readers out there centuries from now, get ready to apply your hot pink highlighter, get ready to do some double underlining! Truly, Truly, what you are about to hear is the honest to goodness truth. This is True! Really True!

Self-Imposed Limitations. It’s difficult to think of Jesus being limited in any way while on earth, but there is no question He was physically limited to what He could accomplish. After all, He was only one Man. He couldn’t be everywhere at once, just one small place on earth at a time. His voice couldn’t be heard in the far reaches of Egypt, just to those within listening distance. He couldn’t transport Himself from Jerusalem to Babylon in five minutes, or even if He did, that simply wasn’t His mission. His agenda was to be with the Chosen People first, and to remain in one human body before returning to the Father. So He chose to be present in one little village at a time, walking slowly and taking His time. If He was pure Spirit, Jesus could perhaps hear all the crying in the world, but He chose to take on a human body, so listening to the groans of the world was not possible. He kept His ministry local, not global, because He was only one Person, just one human being who could do only so much while in the flesh, ministering to the Jewish nation before anyone else. Even with supernatural powers, it would be humanly impossible for Jesus to walk in Israel while healing in Egypt and teaching in Africa. Jesus chose to limit Himself.

All Who Believe. After His earthly mission was accomplished, Jesus was glorified and is now pure Spirit in human form at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realm. But He left us His Holy Spirit, shared with the Father, to continue His work by enabling His followers to fulfill the mission of Jesus. What Jesus was not able to accomplish in the flesh is now the “greater works” that Jesus mentioned. Anyone who believes in Him may now do these “greater works.” Notice Jesus didn’t limit His greater works to the Twelve, or to those who were with Him in His ministry. The Holy Spirit will enable all of us Christ-believers to participate in these greater works.

Believe in Christ. “pisteno” = (from root word for faith, “pistis”); to trust in Jesus enough to cling to Him; to be convinced of Christ enough to rely on Him; to be persuaded of the truth of the Father, the Son and the Spirit enough to commit your life to God; to place full confidence in Jesus because He seems entirely trustworthy; to embrace the Lord who has proven to be true and worthy of belief; to adhere to God after a strong conviction that He is real and true.

Greater Works. What was Jesus talking about when He said “greater works?” How can you do anything greater than raising the dead, healing the lepers and the lunatics, making the blind to see, casting out demonic spirits, quieting the storm and walking water, or multiplying fish and bread? Or how about turning water into wine? How can anyone do something more spectacular than what Jesus did? While we’re at it, how can anyone do something greater than the act of creating a universe out of nothing?

One doubts if Jesus was expecting anyone to do things greater than what He did in terms of the quality of His miracles, signs and wonders. The Lord was probably referring to quantity, not quality. Jesus was talking about the quantity of His works that can now be accomplished through His Holy Spirit that couldn’t be done before while Jesus was just one Person in the flesh. The believers will be able to spread the kingdom world-wide. There will be a multiplication of His teachings, healings, casting out demons, and works of mercy. There will be a wide expansion of new converts, those who will follow Christ. These are the ‘”greater things” Jesus was talking about.

Prayer In His Name. In this passage, Jesus was very clear how pivotal prayer is to these “greater works.” Praying in the name of Jesus means praying for that which is in line with His character, His mission, His concerns on earth. Praying in His name is praying in union with Him through His Spirit. We will simply not get whatever we selfishly pray for, as if Jesus’ name was a magic formula. We are to pray what Jesus wants, not what we want. We seek God’s will in prayer, not our will. And Jesus clearly stated that He has one agenda, to glorify the Father (John 14:13). As we grow in prayer, we will learn what will be in union with Christ and what will bring glory to God. If we find ourselves praying for something or in a way that does not line up with Jesus or does not glorify the Father, there is a good chance that prayer will not reach the throne.

To Glorify God: To bless His holy presence in the world; to honor His greatness and majesty; to proclaim His purity of heart; to recognize the spiritual substance of His presence in the universe; to express our gratitude to God that He is the source of all truth; to praise His worthiness to be worshipped; to lift up His beautiful splendor; to amplify the wonders of His sacred name; to point to the weight of His moral virtue by living a life of self-sacrifice and remaining a living reminder of His mercy and justice. We glorify God through our words of praise and blessing and by our lives that bring praise to Him.

Good Practice. Jesus provided His disciples with a preview of coming attractions about mid-way thorough His public ministry. He sent out the Twelve (Luke 9), and then the Seventy (Luke 10), on their own, without the physical presence of Jesus. What better way is there for His followers to get a taste for life in ministry for after the Ascension, when Jesus is not with them physically?

Representing Jesus: The Twelve. “And Jesus called His twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits… So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” (Mark 6:7, 12, 13; also Matthew 10 and Luke 9).

Sent Out. About midway through His earthly ministry, Jesus decided to build on the experience the twelve disciples have had with Him, by sending them on their first missionary journey. This will be an extended training session to help them prepare for their many journeys after the Ascension and Pentecost, when they fan out to spread the Good News. So Jesus empowered them to represent Him, to display the spiritual power displayed by Jesus. He gave them power to preach the Kingdom, to encourage repentance of sins, to cast out demons, and to heal diseases. They will effectively do what Jesus had done to this point. They will graduate from disciples (“learners”) to apostles (“sent out on a mission”). They will be His messengers, His ambassadors, His representatives. They will physically expand Jesus’ ministry, since Jesus can only be in one place at a time. So Jesus sent them out in pairs to preach and to heal. Jesus and the disciples had earlier prayed for more workers for the Harvest. And now they are the answers to their own prayers. By giving His disciples His spiritual power and giftedness, He is establishing a pattern with all His future disciples through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As the Orthodox Church puts it, “He shares with us by grace what is His by nature.

Pairs. In His wisdom, Jesus sends the disciples out two by two. The pair of disciples will be present for mutual support. They can be present to encourage and strengthen each other, to comfort each other during difficult days, to offer discernment when decisions are called for, and to stir each other up when weary or tempted to be idle. Dividing into pairs will be an excellent team-building experience as they learn to rely on each other. Having a partner will also provide something important in Mosaic Law, a corroborating witness if one is needed (eg, Deut. 17:6).

Jesus the Delegator. Jesus provided an example of good leadership. He empowered His followers and invested His skills in His disciples. He gave them the authority to represent Him and use the gifts invested in them. He helped them to grow and mature by giving them responsibility to act on His behalf. Jesus, in a word, was skilled in the art of delegation. He shared his power, and He put them to work in order to learn by experience. He built up their faith as they worked and they saw the results of their efforts. He gave the disciples a sense of ownership of the mission as they took part in it. The disciples became participants instead of mere spectators. Jesus affirmed the dignity of each disciple by giving them a vote of confidence in their abilities. Jesus had only so much physical energy, and He could only be in one place at a time, yet He yearned to spread the word of the Kingdom far and wide in Judea. What better way to multiply His presence and power than to enable His disciples to preach and heal in His stead? Jesus loved to delegate, and it seems a part of His nature:

  • “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work. For He allows the muscles, minds, and wills of men to cooperate in the execution of His will.” (C. S. Lewis, “The Efficacy of Prayer’).

Instructions. Jesus had a few important instructions for His disciples. He had a vision for how he wanted the disciples to conduct themselves on their visits to various towns and villages.

  1. Travel light. Keep it simple. Depend on God for essentials. No extra money; no change of clothes; no extra sandals; no traveling food. There will be no “insurance” if left empty-handed.
  2. Go to the Jewish people first. That is Jesus’ mission right now. At this point don’t go to Gentiles or Samaritans. His priority is God’s lost sheep of Israel. He wanted His fellow Jews to be the ones to spread the Good News later, after He has returned to the Father and the Spirit has come down. Jesus’ Great Commission was very clear in Matthew 28:19, “Go to all the nations.” For now, start with the Jews. Everyone else will get involved in due time.
  3. Engage in a significant healing ministry. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matt. 10:8). Jesus is telling them, “I can do this, and now so can you!”
  4. Accept hospitality. Stay in the home that welcomes you, and give them your blessing of peace on that house. Stay in that home till you leave town, and receive whatever they give you for food and lodging. Don’t jump from one house to another as if you are dissatisfied with their hospitality. Be good guests.

Shake the Dust. Pious Jews would do this literally whenever leaving a Gentile town. They are making a statement that they are separating themselves from Gentile practices and influences. Even the very dust of a Gentile town was considered unclean. This was practiced as a way of staying pure from the heathens. The fact that Jesus wanted the disciples to do that act for unwelcome towns implies that those places who reject the Good News are no better than the heathens. If a town rejects you, Jesus is saying, shake the dust, shrug your shoulders, and move on. Leave them to their fate. You are not responsible for them anymore.

Give Freely. Give as freely as you have received.” (Matt. 10:8). I have graciously given you these spiritual gifts free of charge, so offer those same gifts in the same way in your travels. Jesus wanted them to invest themselves fully in this ministry. Don’t hold back and keep something in reserve. You have been generously empowered to do mighty works. It is not because you have somehow earned that power. It was freely given to you. So offer yourselves to others to the same extent I have offered myself to you. You have abundantly received, so in turn abundantly give to others.

Clever and Innocent. Jesus was frank about the opposition they would likely experience. He said they might seem to be sheep in among the wolves. So He wanted them to be as clever and shrewd as snakes, and as innocent and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16). Be street smart in your interactions. Don’t let the opposition outthink you. Be discerning and sensible, look deeply into the situation and be full of understanding. Be without guile or deviousness in your shrewdness. And another thing… Don’t fight back with those who resist. Don’t add to the problem by being defensive or vengeful. Don’t seek retribution or payback. You are not to harm or belittle anyone who doesn’t welcome you. You will not be doing the will of God if you try to get even. Be innocent of all that. When you shake the dust off your sandals, remember that you are also shaking off any resentment or unforgiveness. Shake the dust off, and move on without keeping any of that discord in your spirit. Depend on God for your protection, don’t think it all depends on you.

Accountability. As every good leader does, Jesus wanted a full report of the mission once they returned. He wants to process the whole experience with them so He can affirm them, encourage them, and provide what is needed to make it a learning experience. So, “when the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done.” (Luke 9:10). The content of their report was never recorded, but we can certainly imagine that they returned much like the way the Seventy returned in Luke 10:17, full of joy at the success of their mission.

When we arrive at our “accountability session” with Jesus, let us pray that He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. I couldn’t have done it without you.”


Representing Jesus: The Seventy – Christian Refuge