11““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.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Here I accept the general sense of this verse. It can have no other meaning than this, that the works of Christians are called greater because the apostles and the Christians had a wider field for their works than He did, that they brought more people to Christ than He Himself did during His earthly sojourn. Christ preached and worked miracles only in a small nook, and for just a short time. The apostles and their successors, however, have come to all the world, and their activity has extended over the whole history of Christianity. Thus Christ personally merely initiated His work. It has had to be extended farther and farther through the apostles and the preachers who came after them; it must go on until the Day of Judgment. Thus it is true that the Christians do greater works, that is, more works and more extensive works, than Christ Himself did. Yet the works are identical; they are the same as His.
For when Christ declares that he who believes in Him will do greater works, He does not deny that such works must be done through His power and must issue from Him as the Fountainhead. No, He affirms both when He says: “He who believes in Me.” Also in the following words: “Because I go to the Father.” Likewise in verse fourteen: “Whatever you ask … I will do it.” Thereby
Christ demonstrates that such works are performed exclusively by those who adhere to Him in faith. Through them He works and manifests His power.
But which works of the Christians accomplish this? We see nothing special that they do beyond what others do, especially since the day of miracles is past. Miracles, of course, are still the least significant works, since they are only physical and are performed for only a few people. But let us consider the true, great works of which Christ speaks here—works which are done with the power of God, which accomplish everything, which are still performed and must be performed daily as long as the world stands.
In the first place, Christians have the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament, by means of which they convert people, snatch souls from the clutches of the devil, wrest them from hell and death, and bring them to heaven. With these they also comfort, strengthen, and preserve poor consciences that are saddened and troubled by the devil and others. They are able to teach and instruct people in all walks of life and to help them live in a Christian and blessed way.
In the second place, the Christians also have prayer. Christ will speak of this later. Through prayer they obtain for themselves and for others all that they ask of God, even physical things. This is one of the greatest works they do to help and preserve the world, even if they did nothing else. Thus when a Christian subject prays, and the prince is victorious over his enemies, who, then, actually defeated the enemies and achieved the victory? No other than the Christian, even if no one gives him credit and he gains neither reputation nor honor because of it. God did not grant victory for the sake of the prince—if he was an unbeliever—but in answer to the prayer of this one Christian. So greatly can a whole country or kingdom be benefited by one pious man, for whose sake all are blessed. This we find illustrated in [reftagger title=””]Gen. 14:14[/reftagger] by the story of Abraham; also in the story of Lot, which is recorded in [reftagger title=””]Gen. 19:22[/reftagger], where we read that Sodom and Gomorrah were spared while Lot still lived there. And in [reftagger title=””]2 Kings 5:1[/reftagger] we read that because of Naaman alone God bestowed good fortune and victory on the entire kingdom of Syria, which, after all, was idolatrous. According to [reftagger title=””]Gen. 41:46[/reftagger] ff., all Egypt was helped because of Joseph. The kingdom of Persia fared similarly for the sake of Daniel. And the prophet Isaiah defeated the hosts of the Assyrian emperor singlehandedly through his prayer. Thus in times gone by good fortune and victory in war were often granted to the Romans, the Persians, and others solely for the sake of the Christians.
To summarize, kings, lords, and princes cannot claim credit for their rule, for peace, or for obedient subjects; all this is due to no one else on earth than the Christians…Hence these men receive a hidden help, a help that is unseen by them and unknown to them, namely, God’s Word and order and the prayers of Christians. But just as they do not know that their reign is God’s order and work and does not rest in the hands of man, so they do not know that
God tolerates and preserves their rule solely for the sake of the godly Christians and their prayers. And that is why they repay this by persecuting both God’s Word and His Christians.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 78–81). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
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