Wednesday May 20, 2020
John 5:19-24 19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”
Our second Scripture today has one of the most amazing statements for us, after the revelation that God offers us eternal life. During his last supper with his disciples, he tells them they will do greater works than Jesus had done!
I think Jesus was referring to things we can do in this life, as Jesus had done. He was not saying his followers would do divine activities like creating the universe. But look at what Jesus did in this life. He fed crowds without stocking up on food ahead of time. He healed diseases, even congenital handicaps. He walked on water. He raised the dead. Are we able to do “even greater” acts than these?
As best we can tell, no one has done acts that bend the laws of nature as much as Jesus did, let alone even greater acts. Some approach Jesus’ meaning this way. They say that Jesus used what linguists call ‘hyperbole’, exaggerations to make a point. By this argument, when he said (Mark 11:23), “If you had faith, you could toss a mountain into the sea,” he probably didn’t expect us to move mountains without equipment. He probable meant that we would be amazed at what faith would allow us to do, just as making a mountain move would amaze us.
I’m not sure if that interpretation is a cop out. However, if that was Jesus’ intention, when he used this kind of hyperbole it always taught something important and true. If we can’t move a physical mountain, we can move to a new direction in life that we would never have imagined was possible.
So what is a truth for us about doing great works? Or about doing ‘even greater’ works?
In our first Scripture, Jesus explains what worked for him. He begins saying he can’t do great works alone. He depends on God for direction. He depends on God for inspiration. He does what he sees God doing. This is true for us. We may think we can’t see God, but Jesus said this to Philip (John 14:9), “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” If we want to do great works, we look at what Jesus did and taught. Jesus goes on to say we will be amazed by what we accomplish through humility, faith, and obedience.
I think we have to beware of a cultural trap. We tend to associate ‘even greater’ with ‘even more spectacular’. Jesus walked on a lake. By this trap, we would say that, to do something even greater, we should walk on the ocean. Jesus was aware of this trap. He avoided what was culturally spectacular. He flatly refused Satan’s suggestion that he jump off the temple roof to become a superstar. Even further, he taught his disciples (Matthew 20:26-27), “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” Things ‘even greater’ in Jesus’ teachings are things that are ‘even less selfish, less self-promoting, and more caring for others’.
How can we do anything ‘even greater’ than Jesus? The short answer for me is, in direct comparison, we can’t do anything anyway near what Jesus did, let alone anything ‘greater’. We can take heart, nevertheless. Possibly there is another way of understanding Jesus’ encouragement that we attempt things ‘even greater’ than he did. Jesus fed 5000 at one sitting. By working together, our red and blue teams have fed 9000 over 10 years. Jesus poured his teaching efforts into adults. Working together, our Christian Education and Mission teams have extended Christian teaching and service to children and youth. So far as we know, Jesus did not sing or play a musical instrument (he did like weddings which did include singing and musical instruments). We have applied many forms of music to add emotion and power to our worship.
What about sheltering in place? This in no way prevents us from going ‘beyond’. Over the last two months, I have seen more e-mails giving positive feedback than before, when we could talk face-to-face. The music and graphics in our video worship services have drawn encouraging feedback. Pastor Joyce, Jon, and I have been receiving such encouragement as we offer devotions, sermons, and liturgy during our video worship. Your photographs and signs, shown during special music, have lifted all our spirits. Positive feedback is encouraging, empowering, and reason for joy. And, as a congregation, you have been giving positive feedback to one another, to us, and to others.
As this pandemic continues, please continue giving one another positive feedback. You have incredible power to lift one another up. You will be doing something ‘even greater’ that we could imagine before this all began.
Thank you, wonderful people.
-Pastor Doug Donigian
Stay in touch. Share your needs. Let us help. Amen.