"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because 1 go to the Father." (John 14,12).
This is one of the statements made by Jesus which appear most amazing. How can his disciples do works like his or even greater works? Did he not work miracle after miracle during his lifetime as we read in the gospels? Didn't Jesus even raise the dead to life?
But perhaps we will understand what he said if we look in depth at what he means by 'greater works'.
But let's start at the beginning.
It was the eve of his passion. During the last supper he spoke of his unity with the Father which was so evident in his works, as well as many other wonderful things which he said and did in order to prepare his disciples right to the very end. At this point he said:
-Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father."
He begins solemnly with the words "Truly, truly" which announce the importance and the depth of what he is about to say.
He mentions straightaway "he who believes"; he is referring to each and every Christian therefore and not only to the disciples who were present, or to some privileged group. Whoever believes in Christ, whoever is united to him and lives of his life, is able to do the works that he does and indeed will do even greater works.
As we see, Jesus is not talking about just any sort of action, but the works which he does; he stresses the continuity with all that he has done so as to open to men again communion with the Father, and to communicate salvation to them.
It does not mean that the discipfes will be greater than the Master, because, through their work it will be Jesus himself who continues to act in the world even after his return to the Father.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.
The words 'greater works' which Jesus will carry out through whoever believes in him, bring to mind the miracles worked by the disciples; the conversions brought about by their preaching which outnumbered the conversions brought about by Jesus, or we may think of the words 'greater works' in terms of the gospel being announced by Christians all over the world whereas Jesus remained within the confines of Palestine. However the greatness of these works does not lie chiefly in their external features, their quantity or their geographical extension.
Essentially the 'greater works' consist in giving men divine life, the power of the Spirit, making men the adopted sons of God.
Only in his death and resurrection will Jesus fully achieve this. He will communicate this Life after his glorious transfiguration, and he will be able to do this through the works of the disciples.
Jesus says in fact "because I go to the Father". Jesus' departure does not interrupt his saving activity in the world, but assures its growth and expansion; it does not mean being separated from his followers, but means his presence in them which is real though invisible. Through unity with the risen Lord they are enabled to achieve "greater works", and to re-unite men with the Father and with one another.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father."
How should we live this word of life?
It depends on us whether Jesus will walk again on earth today fulfilling his work; he acts through us if we allow him to do so. For his first coming on earth God asked Mary's consent, the consent of one of us human beings. Mary believed and adhered totally to the Father's plans. And what "work" was the fruit of her faith? Through her 'yes' the Word became flesh (3n.1,14) in her and the salvation of mankind was made possible.
We too have a great responsibility: we must believe in Jesus so that he can live in us and work through us. We must welcome his Words and put them into practice, and these words are summed up by the commandment to love. Let's forget ourselves and start loving like Jesus loved, with a measureless love. Then on the tomb of our self, the Risen Lord will live more and more each day, with his power, his light, his joy, in each of us and in our midst.
The world has extreme need of this presence of his. Let this be our "work", our "greater work": to live in such a way as to offer to all we meet, the Risen Lord living in us and in our midst. In the Risen Lord a large portion of mankind will find what it sought in vain outside him: goodness, truth, unity, peace. Together with the Risen Lord we will work for the true transformation of the world.