John 14

Today’s reading is John 14.

We usually don’t expect a leader’s followers to be more successful than the leader himself. In the NFL, a great coach like Bill Walsh has had a number of his assistant coaches go on to become head coaches. None of them, however, had the kind of sustained success that Walsh had. Not even close.

Bill Parcells was another great football coach whose assistants became head coaches themselves. One of Parcells’s assistants, Bill Belichick is an exception to the principle I’ve been talking about. Belichick has been more successful than his mentor, Bill Parcells, but Belichick’s assistants who became head coaches have been failures. Being tutored by a great coach, then, does not necessarily set one up for success. Athletics is just one example. I think you will find this to be true in music, in business, and in ministry. It is rare that a student surpasses his master.

It is surprising, then, to read Jesus’s statement here in John 14:12b, “...whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these....” Jesus prophesied that his disciples would do greater things than he did, that we would be more successful than he was. What was he saying, exactly?

First of all, the next phrase explains why Jesus said this: “...because I am going to the Father.” Disciples do greater works than the Lord himself because the Lord himself did not remain here physically. That’s one reason, then, why Jesus said his disciples would do greater works than he did. Jesus preached to thousands early in his ministry, but only a handful of disciples remained even after his resurrection (see Acts 1:12-14). By contrast, the disciples of Jesus would reach thousands with the gospel (see Acts 2:41), so the raw numbers of believers were greater.

But verses 13-14 give a greater answer for why the disciples of Jesus did greater works. The answer is not that they were greater than the Lord but that their works were empowered by the Lord. As verse 13 put it, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” We are capable of doing more than Jesus did because he will work through us when we ask him to use us for his work. We have his empowering promise and we need it because he is almighty and we are weak and incapable without him.

Do you live and serve God in light of and based on this promise? Do you expect God to use you in service to him? Do you ask him to use you, in his name, to do great works for God? If something is lacking in our ministry for Christ, maybe it is that we just don’t ask the Lord to use us and keep his promise to do greater works through us. But Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Live by this promise when you share the gospel or open the word or do any kind of ministry. Ask Jesus to do powerful work through you that only he could do. He promised that he would! All we need to do is claim that promise by faith and serve God accordingly.

Exodus 35, John 14, Proverbs 11, Ephesians 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 35, John 14, Proverbs 11, Ephesians 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read John 14.

John 14:1-6 is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible to me. Christ’s soothing command, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” his promise that “I will come back and take you to be with me,” and, most importantly, his assurance “I am the way and the truth  and the life” may have been lost on his disciples, but they give me great hope in a world that is troubling and hard to understand. Because the first 6 verses are so well-known and so filled with hope, I wonder how often people miss the great truth in verses 8-9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9b). This is one of many clear statements of the deity of Christ. No man could say these words and intend them to mean something less than an overt claim to deity. 

Still, they are not easy to interpret. The church has never struggled with tri-theism (the idea that there are three Gods), but it struggles to this day with modalism—the idea that there is one God and that the three persons of God are merely “modes” of presentation. Modalism might be explained that, just as I am one man who is also a husband, father, and pastor, so God is one person who has three distinct roles. Or, some modalists say, “God sometimes puts on his Father suit, or his Son suit, or his Holy Spirit suit but he’s just one person appearing in different ways. Christ’s claim that “anyone who has seen me as seen the Father” looks like a good supporting text for modalism; it suggests that Christ is the same person as the Father. But this cannot be reconciled with other clear texts where the Father, Son, and Spirit all appear in the same scene. We saw this in Luke 3:21-22 where Jesus was baptized and the Spirit descended on him like a dove while a voice from heaven, the Father’s voice, said, “This is my beloved Son.” Taken together, we understand God to be a trinity—a being unlike anyone or anything else. He is one in nature: the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Since they have the exact nature, anything that is true of God can be seen in Christ. In the life of Christ we see God’s holiness, wisdom, power, righteousness, justice, and so on. Yet, although all three members of the Trinity are fully God, sharing the same nature, they are also distinct person. The Father is God but the Son is not the Father. The Son is God but the Spirit is not the Son. It is correct to say that God the Son died on the cross for our sins but it is incorrect to say that the Father died on the cross. Because of God’s uniqueness, and our creatureliness, it is impossible for us to fully understand the Trinitarian God we worship and serve. But we should understand that Christ is the clearest, most concrete revelation of God that humanity has ever experienced. In Christ we learn all that we need to know about God and because of Christ, we can know God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.