John 14:7 – “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Jesus is in the middle of a discourse with his disciples about where he is going (heaven) and how they can eventually be where he is. He has plainly told them that he is the way, the truth and the life; the way to Father God is through faith/belief in him.
If you had known me: They key word in this phrase is ‘know’. It means to have a full and accurate knowledge of something.
While the disciples believed that Jesus was the Messiah, they were still clinging to the traditional Jewish notions of who the Messiah was, what he was going to do, and when he was going to do it. Most unfortunately, Jewish tradition did not contain a fully accurate depiction of the Messiah and his work.
But if they could look past their own traditions, they would see the true character and designs of Jesus. He exhibited goodness, justice, mercy and wisdom through his doctrine and miracles. He lived a holy, sinless life. He came to fulfill the law, which required a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people.
You would have known the Father also: These attributes of Jesus are not unique to him; he is an exact representation of Father God (John 10:30). This means that God can also accurately be described as good, merciful, wise, holy and full of justice. Although God is invisible to the human eye, the disciples can know (have an accurate knowledge of) him because they know Jesus.
Part of a full and accurate understanding of Jesus and the Father included the knowledge that only blood can atone for sin:
Leviticus 17:11 – For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.
Jesus had told the eleven numerous times that he was going to die. This was his ultimate plan and purpose; it was the reason God sent him into the world. If the disciples had an accurate understanding of God, they would have seen that this was the best and wisest course of action because there was no other way for man to be reconciled to God.
From now on you do know him and have seen him: The hour had come for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Only then would the disciples have a full understanding of the plans and counsels of God, because they would see them manifested in the life of Jesus.
John 14:8 – Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Philip hears the word ‘seen’ and immediately thinks of some visible revelation of the glory of God. Perhaps he was thinking of the events that transpired on the Mount of Transfiguration witnessed by Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-6). Or he may have been thinking of the time when God partially revealed his glory to Moses (Exodus 33:18-23).
In any case, Philip seems to think that if some such manifestation would be made to the disciples, it would be sufficient to remove all of their doubts and satisfy their minds.
But Philip is still overlooking the fact that the Son is a perfect manifestation/revelation of the Father. Since he is the Messiah, his word ought to be enough to convince them on this point. Any remaining doubts should have been banished long ago by the miracles and teaching of Jesus.
John 14:9 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
Jesus rebukes Philip for not having eyes of faith.
At this point, Jesus has been with the disciples more than three years. During their time together he healed the sick, cast out devils, confounded the logic of his enemies, supernaturally multiplied food, walked on water and even raised the dead. No one could have done these great works if they had not come from God.
During these years the disciples had ample opportunity to see his character and understand his mission from God. After so many proofs of his divine mission, it was completely unnecessary for God to visibly manifest himself to them. They could easily know the Father (have a full and accurate knowledge of his plans, purposes and character) because they had seen the works of Christ (Colossians 1:12-15).
John 14:10 – Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”
Notice the way Jesus describes his relationship with the Father: He is in the Father and the Father is in him.
This is not the kind of union that could exist between a mere man and God. If Jesus had been nothing more than an ordinary prophet, he would have said ‘the Father who sent or commissioned me’ does these works. Instead, he describes God as dwelling/abiding within him. This denotes an intimate union and agreement; the Son and the Father are essentially one. Therefore, the works which Jesus did might be said to have been done by the Father (John 5:17-27).
Because the Father and Son are in complete agreement, the Son does not speak on his own authority. He speaks only what the Father tells him (John 8:38). All the words of Christ, uttered throughout his entire time on earth, were a collective revelation of the Father, who Philip was asking to see.
John 14:11 – “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
It is imperative that the disciples believe in the unity between Jesus and the Father. There are two grounds or foundations on which the disciples may believe.
First, they could believe because of the testimony of Jesus. This is the preferred foundation for belief. Remember, Jesus is the fountain head of truth. When he tells us something, we should believe it simply because he said it. (This applies not only to this particular circumstance, but to ALL the words of Jesus.) Therefore, if Jesus says he and the Father are one, then by faith we should believe they are.
Secondly, the disciples could believe based on the works Jesus performed. Let’s ask ourselves a question about the works/miracles of Jesus: How are they different from miracles performed through ordinary men?
For example, in II Kings 4:18-37 the prophet Elijah raised the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead. Was that different than Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-15)? If so, how was it different?
The difference is that ordinary men like Elijah could not raise the dead in their own name or by their own power. When Elijah raised the child to life, he did it by praying to God; it was the power of God that responded and granted his request (II Kings 4:33). Elijah was nothing more than a tool that God used to perform the miraculous. We might say that he was a conduit for the power and blessing of God. Likewise, the myriad of miracles performed by the apostles after the day of Pentecost ALWAYS occurred in the name of Jesus Christ, and by his power:
Acts 4:10 – Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole.
The disciples readily admitted that they had no power within themselves. Like Elijah, they were simply tools or conduits for the mercy and power of God:
Acts 3:12, 16 – And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, You men of Israel, why marvel you at this? Or why look you so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? … faith in his name [Jesus] has made this man strong… and given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
But Jesus was different. He is not just a conduit for God’s power; he and the Father are one (John 10:30). Therefore, when Jesus works a miracle it is not just by the power of God but by his own power and virtue as well. Scripture confirms that the fullness and power of the Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit) dwelt in the body of Jesus:
Colossians 2:9 – For in him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Deity bodily.
So, the miracles themselves were clear evidence that Jesus and the Father were one. This includes the greatest miracle of all time – the redemption of mankind.
John 14:12 – “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.”
Hmmm… what do you make of this verse?
Is this a promise that we should take at face value? If so, is it true in our own lives? If not, why not?
If this is not a verse that we should take at face value, then how should we interpret it?
The first step is to clarify what Jesus meant by ‘works’. Scholars offer two possible answers. One, ‘works’ refers to miracles. Two, ‘works’ refers to achievements related to establishing the kingdom of God and bringing souls to repentance/salvation.
The second step is to clarify what Jesus meant by ‘greater’. Does ‘greater’ refer to the quantity of the works, or the scope/power/quality of the works?
The third step is to clarify what Jesus meant by ‘whoever’. Is he speaking only of the disciples, or is he also referring to you and me? Or is he referring to the church, as opposed to an individual believer?
All of a sudden, this verse is looking rather complicated, isn’t it?
Let’s consider the first interpretation – works refers to miracles. We know at least some of the miracles that Jesus performed. He healed the lame, restored sight to the blind, cured diseases, cast out demons, multiplied food, made nature (the wind and sea) obey him, confounded his enemies and raised the dead.
If we assume this is the correct interpretation of the verse then we should be able to show that someone (either the disciples or us or the church collectively) have done greater miracles. Is that what we find?
John tells us that if the miracles of Jesus were all written down in books, they would fill the whole earth (John 21:25)! So we can’t be sure that the disciples performed a greater quantity of miracles than Jesus did. Neither can we say that they performed miracles greater in scope/quality/power than Christ. The greatest miracle is to raise a person from the dead. Since Jesus and the disciples both did this, their miracles are equal in scope and power.
If we believe that Jesus is speaking to you and me, the answer to the question (for most of us) is easily answered – NO. We have not done more miracles than Jesus did; in fact most of us have never had God use us to perform even one miracle, much less raise the dead.
If we believe that Jesus is speaking of the church as a whole, we find that we don’t have enough information to verify the statement of Christ. Just as we don’t have a complete listing of the miracles of Jesus, neither do we have a complete listing of the miracles done by the church.
Let’s switch gears and look at the second interpretation – works refer to achievements related to establishing the kingdom of God and bringing souls to repentance/salvation. Obviously, Jesus is the foundation upon which the church is built:
1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
In addition, he is also the head of the church he established:
Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
So Jesus is both the foundation and head of the church. However, he ordained that his followers would be the ones to spread the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 16:15). He sent his disciples out to preach the gospel and gave them authority to do the miraculous in order to confirm the gospel message and lead people to salvation:
Matthew 10:7-8 – And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons: freely you have received, freely give.
Furthermore, he gave all of us the keys to unlock his kingdom. He has given us authority to bind and lose things on the earth (Matthew 16:19) and he promised that the gates of hell would not stand against his church (Matthew 16:18).
If this is the correct interpretation of ‘works’, then we should be able to show that someone (either the disciples or us or the church collectively) have added more souls to the kingdom of God than Jesus did when he walked the earth. Is that what we find?
Yes, it is! The preaching of Jesus was confined to the small geographic area of Judea. While he preached to many, it was a very, very small percentage of the world’s population. And remember, Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In other words, it was not his priority to bring the Gentiles to salvation (Matthew 15:24, Matthew 10:6).
But once Jesus empowered his disciples with Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the church exploded. On the very day they received this gift, Peter preached a spontaneous sermon and 3,000 people were saved!
Acts 2:41 – Then they [the Jews] that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Not long after, Jesus opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles again through the preaching of Peter (Acts chapter 10). Even in relatively modern times there have been individual men and women who have preached to more people and seen more souls added to the church than Jesus did. What names can you think of? How about Billy Graham, Charles Finney, Mario Murillo or Charles Spurgeon?
And obviously, it is also true that the church as a whole has shepherded more souls into the kingdom of heaven than Jesus did. The church has sent the gospel message into nearly every nation on earth. Today, the good news is sent around the globe by missionaries, radio, TV, internet, podcasts, bibles in every language and potentially even this blog!
So what conclusions can we reach about this verse?
- Because Jesus left earth and went to the Father, he was able to pour out the gift of Holy Spirit upon all those who believe in him (John 16:7).
- Through the power of Holy Spirit, we (the disciples, the church and you &me) are able to boldly share the life changing message of the gospel with those who are lost.
- Many times Holy Spirit will confirm this message with signs and wonders, which convinces sinners to turn to Christ.
As previously mentioned, Jesus has also given us authority over demons and sickness. He paid the price for these victories through the cross. He has given us the authority (keys) to manifest and expand his kingdom here on earth.
And as we will look at in our next post, he has promised to answer our prayers so that the Father will be glorified!
Let me offer you some encouragement and relief and strength:
It is likely that Jesus is referring to the salvation of lost souls when he says we will do ‘greater works’ than he did.
This should bring relief to anyone who is worried about not performing miracles like Christ did.
But at the same time, it should light a burning fire and hunger down in your soul. Jesus has set us up to do great and awesome things in his kingdom.
- He has given us the living word of God.
- He has empowered us with Holy Spirit, who in turn blesses us with spiritual gifts to assist us in our mission.
- He has given us spiritual armor to fend off the attacks of the enemy.
- He has given us 24-hour access to his throne.
- God listens to every prayer we ever pray, and Jesus sits at his right hand making constant intercession for us.
- He has given us every tool we need to succeed in expanding his kingdom.
- He desires to set us on fire with his passion for the lost.
In light of all this, what is our response to his call/commission? Are we ignoring it because we are focused on the things of this world? Or worse yet, are we lukewarm in our response to his call (Revelation 3:15-16)?
Might I suggest that we spend time in his presence this week, asking him to sharpen our focus for revival? Dare we ask him to begin working through us to confirm his message with signs/wonders/miracles? My guess is that we will need to make some changes in our lives in order for that to happen. Are you willing to make the sacrifice and be one of those who does greater works?
This is the season of the year when we rejoice in God’s most precious gift to mankind – his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ! I hope your holiday is safe and joyous; be blessed this Christmas Day!