Summary: Jesus prepares his disciples for his death by telling them about their union with God and how they are never alone in the world.
We tried to get to verse fourteen in our last study, but I really felt like I was rushing it, so we’re going to back up a little and start again from verse twelve. Twelve, thirteen, and fourteen are pretty tough verses, and they can cause a lot of confusion:
12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Taken by themselves it sure sounds like Jesus promises all Christians that they can get whatever they want as long as they ask for it in his name. And you know that there are preachers out there who make their living off verses like these; they tell people they can be rich and worry free if they’ll just have enough faith to believe these verses, and if they’ll just demand their blessing from God “in Jesus name.”
But even when they’re considered in context they still aren’t easy to interpret. We know that Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples, and that he’s trying to get them ready for his crucifixion. They’re about to carry on their lives without him, and they need to know everything will be ok. They need to know he didn’t fail, and that the gospel is more than just another Jewish king.
And so, what we saw last time, is his promise to go and prepare a place at his father’s house. There are many rooms there, and, when the time is right, Jesus will come again to bring all God’s children home. The disciples can be sure he’s telling the truth because Jesus is one with the Father. If they have any doubts about that, they can just remember all the great works he’s done in their presence. Works prove union. Take note of that. Works prove union, and this is another source of comfort:
12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
These “little children” will also do great works, but it won’t be from their own power; it will be the power of God in them.
But how does anyone do greater works than Christ? And what about today’s disciples? I doubt any of us have ever done even a minor miracle, let alone something greater than what Christ did. How do we explain that?
Well, it’s certainly debatable, but remember that he’s only talking to his disciples, and they actually did go and do some amazing things. They raised the dead, healed the sick, and cast out demons, and this promise confirms their union despite his absence.
But what about modern disciples? Perhaps this verse is directly aimed at only the first eleven, but I think that conversion and salvation are bigger works than those temporary miracles. Bearing the spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit and walking in a manner worthy of our calling is something that all Christians everywhere have in common. Victory over death and sin and Satan are greater miracles, and this, I think, could be what Jesus means.
Don’t miss the fact that it’s all because he goes to his father. These great works aren’t because of our own personal holiness or great faith. These are done simply because he is the way, truth, and life and he has prepared a place for us and guaranteed it by his sacrifice.
13And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
So, is God obligated to give me whatever I want as long as I ask in Jesus’ name? No; this is another verse of comfort. They’re united to him, so they’ll do great works. They’re united to him, so he grants them what they ask for the same way he granted the requests of his Son! That’s why we ask for things in his name. It’s not a magic formula; it’s a reality.
It’s not about greedy demands or a blank check to get whatever we want; it’s a source of comfort knowing God is for us and we’re not left alone in this earth just because Jesus isn’t with us bodily.
And now he says something that seems to come from nowhere:
15If ye love me, keep my commandments.
It seems largely out of place, doesn’t it? But remember he’s calming their fears. Do they love him? Obviously they do; Peter’s ready to die for him. But look again at the verse. The Greek is future tense. He actually says, “If you love me, [you will] keep my commandments.” In other words, it’s more evidence to them of their union with him and the hope they can have in his return. “I’m leaving, but I’m coming back. It’s not the end. The miracles will continue, God’s work will keep going, and my will is still carried out in your lives.”