Jesus makes two very important promises to his disciples in John 14:12-14. It just so happens that these two promises have resulted in some of the most hi-jacked and perverted interpretations of Scripture. In turn, such interpretations have provided the foundation for some of the most prominent false theological systems of our day. It is true that Jesus does use some very strong language in the words he chose. These words can be confusing, especially when we allow them to stand alone, apart from their greater context.
 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:12-14
So, what does Jesus desire to communicate to his disciples, both the ones in his midst as well as us today? What do these promises mean for the church? What do these promises mean for God’s mission?
Promise #1: Greater Works
What are these ‘greater works’ that Jesus promises his disciples will do?
These works are NOT greater because they are more powerful than the ones Jesus did. Jesus is not declaring that his disciples will necessarily do more powerful works than he did. It is not a promise by Jesus that we will be able to raise people from the dead or bring healing to people as a result of ‘enough’ faith, either.
These works are NOT greater because they are done over a longer period of time than the 3 years that consisted of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Some would suggest that greater here simply means more.
Rather, these works ARE greater because they are based on the fully accomplished work of Christ and because of the abiding and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. The works Jesus did were infinitely powerful, yet they all took place before the full completion of his redemptive mission by way of the cross. He had not yet gone to the Father, which opened a way for the Spirit to indwell the lives of believers (Acts 2).
These greater works speak of the fulfillment of the mission of the Church, empowered by the Spirit (think Matthew 28:18-20 & Acts 1:8). These greater works exist for the purpose of HIS Kingdom, HIS purpose, HIS fame, HIS glory.
Promise #2: Fruitful Prayer
What does Jesus mean that he will give anything we ask in Jesus’ name?
This is NOT a promise that God is obligated to do everything we ask with enough faith and by saying “in Jesus’ name.” It does not serve as an opportunity for us paint God into a corner, so to speak, forcing him to provide all we think of to ask.
This is NOT permission to use Jesus’ name as some sort of spiritual genie or superstitious tag line.
This promise has absolutely NOTHING to do with the empowering of our own ambition or desires. Jesus is not promising that God will grant everything it takes for us to experience our ‘Best Life Now.’
Rather, a look at 1 John 5:14-15 helps us in our understanding of Jesus’ promises.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. John 5:14-15
First, that passage recalls the very confidence we have in offering prayer in the first place. We only have that access because of the way opened to us through Jesus, who removed the dividing wall between us and God (Ephesians 2:14). As he worked to redeem us on the cross, the Scriptures tell us that the vail in the Temple tore in two (Luke 23:44), symbolically illustrating for us this access that we now have been granted with the Father, through Jesus. Hebrews 10:19-22 speaks more about this great confidence we now have through Jesus and his redemptive accomplishments.
Second, we learn a more pronounced qualifier for the anything Jesus asserts in John’s gospel. Asking for anything in Jesus name is to ask only those things that accord to his will.
The Logical Progression in Understanding These Promises
As I prepared to preach through this passage this past week, I began to recall all that we have heard Jesus say and do throughout the first 13 chapters of John so far. I remembered hearing much of the same language throughout those other chapters that are seen here in chapter 14. Jesus has continually alluded back to the central truth that he and the Father are one, that the Father is in him and he is in the Father. I began to realize that this message of Jesus has everything to do with the promises he declares here in John 14:12-14. This central truth provides a basis for our understanding, especially when we couple them with who the Scriptures declare us to be as disciples of Christ and what our lives are to look like as the gospel continues its work of transformation in our lives. You can see in the picture to the left how I began to see that word ‘authority’ as a key word to every mention of speaking and doing throughout the rest of the passage. In light of this, I sat down and just began to write. The following is what I came up with. This is nothing more than my stab at following the logical progression of Jesus’ message to his disciples and how that can help us understand how to view these two important promises of Jesus.
Jesus makes clear that he only speaks and does out of the authority of the Father. Whatever, then, he asks of the Father is granted, but only and always for the purpose of the Father. Whatever he does flows out of the Father’s authority for the pursuit of his agenda. Again, he and the Father are ONE.
We, through the gospel, have been united with Christ. Our lives are said to be hidden in him. We are called to follow Jesus (the Way), enlightened by his light (the Truth), and to experience the abundance of abiding in him (the Life). We experience this only as we abide in him and remain connected to him.
As we live then, united with Christ, the outward expression of our lives begins to flow out of our unity with Christ through the empowerment of the Spirit. We begin to speak and do out of that authority and not our own (this is a picture of Christian obedience). That ultimately points back to the Father’s authority and glory in ALL things.
So the greater works we do are greater because of all that is finished in Christ, and because of the power of the Spirit that now indwells the believer. Only when our minds and hearts are aligned with the Father’s purpose, plans and will, will we truly be able to ask anything “in Jesus’ name.” Our requests, then, will consist of those things that only accord with the Father’s purposes, authority and glory that will drive our prayers only as our hearts and minds are aligned with his.
Our focus, then…
We can experience the fullness of v. 13-14 ONLY as we consistently walk IN Christ and are focused on HIS grand story. We are not compelled to ask “in Jesus’ name” for him to come and join us and empower the vision we have for our little stories. As we walk IN Christ, we are compelled to ask “in Jesus’ name” for all that we need in giving our lives completely for His grand story! God is glad to grant all that we need and ask in order to demonstrate his power in completing the mission he has given us, through us (2 peter 1:3-4).
Jesus does not intend for our focus to be on greater works! He doesn’t intend for our focus to be on deciding what we should pray for “in Jesus’ name!” He desires for our focus to be on him. He is our greatest treasure. He is the author and perfecter of our faith! He is our desire and passion. Only when we keep our eyes focused on him will be able to truly pray in accordance with God’s will, in Jesus name. We will not have to look for greater works, they will be the natural by-product of living life in Christ and giving ourselves to his mission!
So, here is the most important question: Are you walking in Christ?