Sermon: John 14:12-14: The Work To Be Done, And The Power To Do It

Old Testament Reading: Proverbs 15:29

“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 14:12-14

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12–14, ESV)


You really have to stand in the place of the disciples of Jesus to fully appreciate all that Jesus has to say to them in chapters 14-17. We should try our best imagine what it would have been like to see the long awaited Messiah with our own eyes, to be overwhelmed with excitement concerning his arrival, to assume that he was here to stay, and then to hear Jesus say, I am going away, and where I am going you cannot come. This would have been most disappointing – most troubling.

I’m sure you have experienced disappointment before. You expected to get the job – you expected to get the promotion – you expected the relationship to last forever, and when things went in a different direction, your heart was troubled. All of a sudden everything needed to be reconsidered.

This was the kind of emotion the disciples of Jesus were experiencing. They had thought that things would go one way, but Jesus revealed that they would go another. They expected that the Messiah would remain forever, but Jesus made it clear that he would go away for a time, and then come back for his people at the end. What the disciples thought would be one, simple, and all encompassing event (the coming and remaining of the Messiah) would actually be more complex – the work of the Messiah would actually be accomplished over a long period of time – his first coming marked the beginning of his work, and his second coming would bring about the completion of it.

It is not that these truths were missing from the Old Testament, mind you. It’s that the disciples where ignorant of these things. Jesus simply made these truth known to them, and their hearts were troubled upon hearing his word. I imagine their heads were spinning as they labored to wrap their minds around the fact that Jesus would go away for a time, and then come again at the end of the age to finish what he started.

What would Jesus be doing while he was away? John 14:1-3 revealed that he would be preparing a place for his people.

Where would he go? He made it clear that he would go to the Father?

And how would his people get from where they are now to where Jesus would be? They would get to the Father by believing upon Jesus – believing that he indeed was the Christ, the Son of God incarnate, and that life is found in his name.

So now the disciples of Jesus knew that he was going away. They knew that he was going to Father. They knew that he was going to prepare a place for them. They also were instructed as to how to get there. They would get there by believing in Jesus.

But the question remained in their minds, what would the time between the first and second coming of Jesus be like? What were they to do? They had depended upon Jesus so heavily during his earthly ministry, how would they get along without him? This, I think, was a most disturbing thought to the disciples of Christ. They trembled at the thought of going it alone.

Jesus had already alluded to the fact that he would be with them even after his departure. This allusion is contained in the dialogue between Jesus and Philip. I addressed this two weeks ago as we looked at verses 8-11, and will not repeat it for the sake of time.

But notice how Jesus, in verse 12, begins to speak rather specifically concerning how things would be in the time between his first and second comings.

Brothers and sisters, these are the days that you and I live in. We live in the age between Christ’s first and second coming. You may call it the “church age”, if you wish, or the “New Covenant age”, or the “age of the Spirit” – whatever we call it, it is important to recognize the significance and purpose of the age in which we live. John chapters 14-17 has much to teach us about this age.

Two things become clear through the text we are considering this morning: One, we learn something about the work to be done in this age. And two, we learn something of where the power to accomplish this work is found.

Let Us Consider The Work To Be Done In This Age

Let us first of all consider the work to be done in this age.

That there is work to be done is probably the first thing that needs to be said.

This is something that the people of God may loose sight of from time to time.

When we hear the statement, “there is work to be done in this age” we might agree, saying, yes, I must go to work to pay the bills, the lawn needs to be mowed, and the eaves need to be painted. Or, yes, the laundry needs to be done, the checkbook balanced, and the children need to be bathed and clothed. And it is true, this is some of the work that needs to be done in this age. This kind of work is necessary – it should not be neglected. It should also be said that this kind of work is good and pleasing to God – it should not be minimized. God is glorified when you are diligent to fulfill his calling upon your life, whatever that calling may be.

But what is the work that I am ultimately referring to here? It is not worldly work, or common work that I am referring to, but to the work directly associated with the advancement of Kingdom of God. Christ came the first time to accomplish his work as Redeemer, he ascended to the Father, and from there he will return. And in this age between his first and second comings, the people of God are to labor for the furtherance of his Kingdom. This is not a purposeless age. It is not an idle age. No, there is much work to be done for the Kingdom of God until the Lord returns.

That there is work to be done is the first thing that needs to be said.

Secondly, it should be noted that the work we are to engage in is nothing less than a continuation of the work of Jesus Christ.

Look with me at verse 12 where Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do… (John 14:12, ESV)

Remember that the disciples of Jesus were troubled by the fact that he was going away. Here he says to them, “Truly, truly” – in the Greek it is “ἀμήν, ἀμήν” – it is as if Jesus were saying, I am telling you the solemn truth.  And what does he promise? That “whoever believes in [him] will also do the works that [he does].” The believing ones – the one who believes in Jesus – will do the works that Jesus did. In other words, our works will be a continuation of the work that Jesus began.

Now of course we should not press this too far. There are some things that Jesus did that we could never do. For example, never could we claim to be from above, as Jesus was from above. Never could we fulfill the duties associated with being the Messiah, or  the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus alone was the Prophet, Priest, and King. We do not share with him in the work that he accomplished as the Messiah, the Son of God. To think in those terms would be to misunderstand what is being said here.

Instead, Jesus is making the point that his work will not end when he goes to the Father, but it will have, in fact, just begun. Perhaps another way to say the same thing is to point out that Jesus accomplished redemption in his first coming – he alone could do that – only he could live in perfect obedience to God, die for the sins of others, and rise again, defeating sin and death for us – we can in no way join him in that work. That work was his work, beginning, middle and end – it is finished! But what is Jesus doing now? Is he not applying the work of redemption that he accomplished to those given to him by the Father in this age between his first and second coming? This is the work that we share in. Christ started it at his first coming, and he will continue it until he returns; and he will involve us in that work!

This is a part of what is meant when the church is called the body of Christ. Though Christ is not present on earth in the flesh, his work continues in the world through the church, as each individual member does it’s part.

We might also think of the five great commission passages – one in each gospel, and also one at the beginning of Acts. What do they all communicate? They communicate the fact that the work of Christ will continue even after his ascension, through the Apostles, and through the churches they plant, to the ends of the earth.

It is interesting that the great commission passage in John goes like this: “Jesus said to them… ’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” (John 20:21, ESV)

The work that you and I together are called to engage in is nothing less than a continuation of the work of Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, notice that the works those who believe in Christ will do in the time between his first and second comings are, in some respects, greater than works that Christ did while on earth.

Listen to Jesus in the second part of verse 12:  “…and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12, ESV)

This sounds strange to our ears, doesn’t it? We think, how could it be that our works will surpass Jesus’ works?

If we take the word “works” here to refer only to the miracles of Christ, then this passage makes little sense. It’s hard to imagine how those who believe in Jesus could do anything greater than walking on water, or raising a man from the dead after four days in the grave, for example.

On the other hand, it would not be right to exclude miracles, for the word “works” (ἔργον) is used throughout John’s Gospel to refer to the miracles that Christ preformed. Jesus’ Apostles would indeed preform miracles – the book of Acts makes that clear. And thought I do not believe that anyone has the gift of miracles today, as they did in the age of the Apostles, I would confess that God is still able to work miracles through the prayers of his people, if he so chooses.

What I am saying is that we should not limit the meaning of the word “works” to miracles, nor should exclude miracles (this is consistent with John’s usage of the word ἔργον). Instead we should understand Jesus to be saying that after his departure those believing in him would continue the work that he began in his earthy ministry, and would in fact advance that work. Jesus’ work would reach new heights as it continued through his followers after his departure.

This would have been most comforting to his disciples, just as it is comforting to you and me.

Their thought was this: if Jesus is departing then it is game over.

Jesus’ response: was, no brothers, it has just begun.

They were troubled of heart thinking, how will we win given that we are loosing our star player?

Jesus’ comforted them saying, in effect, you will not loose the battle. In fact you will do even greater things after I go away.

And Jesus explains why this would be so. Those believing in Christ would greatly advance the work that he had begun, “because [he was] going to the Father.”

This “going away” was not a demotion for Jesus; it was a promotion. He would not loose power, but gain it. His work would not be hindered, but rather launched to new heights. His disciples would not be at a disadvantage, but rather it was to their advantage, and ours, that he go away.

I have heard some say, “Oh, if only I were there when Jesus was on earth, then I would have more faith! Then I would serve him better!” This is not true. The scriptures reveal that you and I are in a better situation now that Jesus has gone to the Father. Our Lord Jesus Christ is in a more powerful position now that he has ascended to the right hand of God. It was to our advantage that he go away!

May I say two things about the exhalation of Christ to the right hand of God?

First of all, we should see that when Christ went to the Father he was given authority over all things. I could point to many scriptures to support this point. Peter says it in a most succinct way. Speaking of Jesus he says that “[he] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (1 Peter 3:22, ESV)

Do you hear that, church? Jesus has power over everything now. This is certainly to our advantage!

Notice also the introduction and conclusion to the great commission.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

Why should we engage in the work that Christ gave us to do with boldness? Because all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to our Lord, and he is with us always, even to the end of the age.

Jesus is ruling and reigning now in his Kingdom. This is a most significant and comforting truth.

The second thing that needs to be said about Christ going to the Father is that he was then able to send the Spirit to us. I will not linger on this point for too long – to do so would steal the thunder from what we will encounter later in John 14. For now, please notice that this is the focus from verse 15 onward. Jesus promised his disciples that after he ascended to the Father he would send the Spirit. This certainly was to their advantage.

If you would like to see for yourself what Jesus meant when he said that those who believe in him would do greater works than he himself did during his earthly ministry, read the book of Acts. Christ had a very small band of disciples at the end of his earthly ministry; and yet 3,000 came to faith in one day when Peter preached the gospel in Acts 2. Also, Jesus’ ministry was limited to Palestine during his time on earth; but the Kingdom would spread to the ends of the earth after pentecost through the church planting efforts of his disciples. If you like to see more of how the those who believe in Christ would do greater works than Christ, study church history, giving special attention to the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In others words, we should not overlook the significance Jesus’ ascension to the Father, all things being subject to him, and to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out in New Covenant power. The gospel of the Kingdom advanced with great power after Jesus ascended to the Father.

Please hear me. It is not that Jesus’ followers would preform more spectacular miracles than he preformed (how could that be), but that the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated at his first coming would expand and grow and multiply from being the size of a mustard seed to the size of an enormous tree through the work of his disciples after his departure. This was made possible because he went to the Father, was given authority over all things in heaven and on earth, and from there sent the Spirit help us and to empower the continuation of the work he began at his first coming,

Application: Brothers and sisters, here is the question I have for you: Are you contributing to this work? I chose the word “contributing” carefully, for I do not think that an individual Christian is able to do the work of Christ (the Great Commission) on his or her own. The work of Christ continues through the church, which is the assembly of God’s people. We together are the body of Christ. The great commission was given – not to individuals – as if an individual were capable of fulfilling it on his own – but to the Apostles of Christ. And how did they go about fulfilling the command to “Go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)? They planted local churches. Those local churches consisted of Elders and Deacons, and members. And each member was to do their part, according to the gift given to them from on High.

Take for example Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. He wrote to them in chapter 4, saying,

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” (Ephesians 4:1–15, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, are you doing the work that Christ has called you to do. He has gifted you in a particular way. You have a role to play. It does not matter what your vocation is. It does not matter if you work in the secular realm, or the sacred, we all have the same mission in this age between Christ’s first and second comings – our mission is to continue the work that Christ began. We are his body.

Let Us Consider Where The Power To Accomplish This Work Is Found

Having first of all considered the work to be done in this age, let us now turn our attention to where the power to accomplish this work is found.

Notice first of all that Jesus points his disciples to the power of prayer.

He says in verse 13, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, ESV)

This is quite a promise, isn’t it? Jesus was going to the Father. He would no longer be with his disciples in the flesh, but that did not mean that they would be alone. He left them on earth with the gift of prayer. Those who believe in Christ are able to commune with him by coming to him in prayer.

And notice the promise that Jesus makes. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do”, he says. And, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Our instinct is to immediately begin to qualify this promise, saying, well, Jesus only really means that he will do what we pray for so long as we pray according to the will of God, or something like that. And that is true. Christ is not offering himself up to us as if he were a genie in a bottle, ready to do all that our hearts desire.

But before we add qualifying remarks to what Jesus promises here, should we not first of all stand amazed at the breadth and depth of the promise that he made. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do”, he says. And, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

If this is true, then why are we so prayer-less? Should we not read these words and think to ourselves, if this is so, then I will pray to my Lord always and about everything! Our Lord has gone to the Father, but he has left us the gift of prayer. We are invited to come to him with our concerns and desires, and he has promised to act. This must have been a tremendous comfort to his troubled disciples, and it should bring comfort to you and me. Our Lord hears us. He is in a position of power. And he is ready and able to act for us.

The fact of the matter is that we do not need to add any qualifying or restraining remarks to Jesus’ promise concerning prayer – the text itself provides limits to the promise of Christ.

Noticed that we are to pray for those things which will bring glory to God the Father.

Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The prayers that Jesus promises to act upon are those prayers which are in line with the purpose of Christ, which is to glory God the Father. These are the prayers that Jesus promises to act upon!

The sinful and fleshly man is saddened by this news. The sinful man is disappointed when he hears that Jesus promises to act upon those prayers which are supremely concerned with glorifying God. He thinks to himself, well what is the use of that! What is the use if I am not guaranteed to have my prayers for health, wealth, and prosperity acted upon by Jesus!

But the godly are encouraged by this news. The godly – those who are true disciples of Christ – are filled with great joy to hear the Savior say, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, ][in order that] the Father may be glorified in the Son.” This was Jesus’ supreme desire – to glorify the Father. And it is the supreme desire of all those who truly love God. The leading cry of our heart is, Lord, be glorified!

Jesus taught us how to pray, didn’t he? He said,  “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9–10, ESV) What is to be our leading concern? That the Father be glorified! That his kingdom come, his will be done! After we begin in this way, it is then that we are invited to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:11–13, ESV)

Jesus makes a great and broad and unconstrained promise to us concerning prayer. And he does so assuming that those who truly belong to him will certainly pray for those things which make his heart smile. Those who believe in Christ are united to Christ. Those who believe in Christ have the Spirit of Christ. Those who believe in Christ have a heart transformed by Christ, and will naturally (or supernaturally) pray for those things that Christ loves. The thing that Christ loves more than anything is the Father, and the magnification of his great name.

Notice thirdly that our prayers are to be prayed in the name of the Son.

We conclude our prayers in Jesus name, do we not? We end our prayers by saying, “in Jesus name we pray. Amen”, or “in the name of Christ we pray. Amen”, or  something of these sort. Why do we do such a thing? Is it simply a tradition? It is just a nice way to bring things to a conclusion? No, it is in obedience to what is said here: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do”, Jesus says.

It is not that the name of Jesus is magical. It’s not as if the sound of the name has some sort of mystical power. No, to pray in Jesus name is the to pray trusting in him. We are praying in his name because he is our Savior.  We pray in his name because he is our Mediator even now – he is our great high priest who lives to intercede for us. When we say, “in the name of Christ we pray” we are saying that we trust that our prayers are heard by God and effective because of who Christ is, and all that he has done for you and for me.

Application: Brothers and sisters, are we diligent prayer? What a gift prayer is! Why we neglect it, I do not understand.

Are you diligent in your private prayers?

Do you “go into the closet” and pray to God, in the name of Christ?

Do you pray throughout the day, offering up adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication to him?

Are you praying with your family – your wife and children; extended family? Notice that we are trying to encourage family prayer through the Family Worship Guidelines that we send out each and every week.

Are you praying with the brethren? Did you know that there is a prayer meeting here every Sunday at 9:30am? How about praying with one another after the service, in your GCG’s, etc?

And are your diligent in prayer when we pray corporately in the worship service? When someone leads in prayer, you should be active in prayer too! When we say “amen” we are saying, I agree! Let it be so! Church, our “amens” should be hardy “amens”.

It is my objective as your Pastor to find more ways to motivate prayer. What a gift it is! What a promise Christ has made to us! Do you want to see Christ accomplish his work in and through us? Then we had better be a praying people!

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, ESV)

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