Summary: Not only do we have a God given purpose to fulfill while on earth, believers have the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to succeed because Christ is risen!
What exactly did Jesus mean? Admittedly, when we think of the works Christ performed while on earth, they are pretty hard to top. Raising people from the dead is a pretty magnificent work I doubt any one of us could pull off, let alone attempt. At this point, however, I think it might be good for us to reflect on something an older pastor told me once:
"Instead of seeking to lower the high and lofty meaning of God's Word to the level of our experience; we need to allow God to elevate the level of our experience up to the high and lofty level of God's Word." - Byron Moore
If there was ever a promise of God we might be tempted to lower to the level of our experience, it'd be this one. Instead, we need to allow God to elevate the level of our experience to the level of God's Word. But to do that, we must understand what Jesus means when He speaks of the works that He did and the greater works He says we'll do as believers.
1. How Jesus went about His work while on earth.
A good rule of thumb is to always consider the context of a passage in order to understand it. So let's read the verses before and after our text.
(Read John 14:8-14)
Phillip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said the Father had been revealed through His life. I believe we learn what Jesus meant about believers doing what He'd been doing. What'd Jesus been doing?
A. Jesus walked in communion with the Father - v. 10a
"I am in the Father and the Father is in me."
B. Jesus spoke the words His Father wanted Him to speak - v. 10b
"The words I say to you are not just my own."
C. Jesus did the works the Father wanted Him to do - v. 10c
"It is my Father, living in me, who is doing His work."
D. The Father was revealed through Jesus' life - v. 9b
"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."
When Jesus spoke of the works those who believed on Him would do, rather than referring to the miracles which the Father worked through Him; Jesus was referring to the manner by which the Father worked through Him.
2. Believers are to do the kind of works Jesus did and even greater.
How's God work through us? The same way He worked through Jesus. We are to commune with Him and have Jesus revealed in our lives by what we say and do. This is our purpose as the people of God.
"It was the Father who sent me, and I am now sending you in the same way." - John 20:21 (Easy to Read)
Believers are sent by Jesus to represent Him just as the Father had sent Him to represent Him. We do this like Jesus did. But how can God work through us in ways that are greater than His work through Jesus?
The work through believers is not greater in nature, but greater in number.
The greatest work of all time is the work of redemption accomplished through our Savior's crucifixion and resurrection. We will never do works that are greater in nature than what our Savior has accomplished. But we can do works that are greater in number. Why?
"Because I am going to the Father." This refers to Jesus' resurrection and ascension, after which the Holy Spirit would be sent to indwell every believer. Rather than being confined to one body, Christ would indwell and work through every believer; and through our lives, others would come to know Him. Today, because the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, the work of Christ continues 24/7, all around the world!
When Jesus appeared to Mary after his resurrection, He told her that though it had been good for Him to be among them, His going away would make it possible for Him to be with them in a way that's far better (John 20:17). Before the Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the Spirit's presence had to be requested (Luke 11:13) and His presence wasn't permanent (Psalm 51:11). But note the difference Christ said would take place afterward.
"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever. The Helper is the Spirit of truth. The people of the world cannot accept him, because they don’t see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you all alone like orphans. I will come back to you. In a very short time the people in the world will not see me anymore. But you will see me. You will live because I live. On that day you will know that I am in the Father. You will know that you are in me and I am in you."