Greater Works Than Jesus
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
For many years I puzzled over the meaning of these words of Jesus. How could it be realistically possible for anyone to be able to do 'greater works' than Jesus Himself? I know, the most common explanation given for this is to interpret it to mean a greater volume of works done collectively through the body of Christ. And while Jesus could possibly have had that in mind, it just doesn't satisfy me.
As I was reading through a story found in Luke 8 this morning I suddenly realized that what was described there perfectly matches this reference to 'greater works' Jesus spoke of. And in this story it literally describes a greater quality and effectiveness of work, not so much a greater quantity. Is it true? Absolutely, and with rather clear reasons as to why as I am starting to see. This is the end of a story about a demon-possessed man delivered by Jesus while the demons who left him went off to compel a herd of swine to commit suicide, maybe something they had been trying to get the man to do for years.
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:37-39)
I find this action by Jesus to comply so easily with the demands of these people so afraid of His love that they refused to allow Him permission to continue to minister in their area of dominion, a little strange. This correlates directly to another story I find in Revelation 12 that relates to the same principle that Jesus obeyed in this story, a principle that supernatural forces are not allowed to remain where they are not welcome. Compare this story from Revelation describing what happened in heaven long ago to what happened in this story involving the very same forces Jesus encountered in His day.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)
Too often people assume that because Satan and his angels lost the war in heaven that God resorted to using Satan's methods to forcibly expel them from paradise. But the more I have come to learn about the principles upon which the kingdom of God is founded, the more I see that would not be consistent with the true character of God. God never relies on force to accomplish His will; He never forces His will on anyone, for that would violate their freedom and be counter to His character which is agape love. Love never forces its will on anyone. Check 1 Corinthians 13 if you have doubts about that. And God never changes, so if God is pure love then He does not act inconsistently with love. So we must look for a better explanation of what happened in heaven than what is most often assumed.
What I discovered in this story from Luke reveals an operative principle that is perfectly in tune with agape love providing a clue as to what happened in heaven, only in this case it operated in reverse. Jesus had come to bring the good news of God's character of agape love to a region so saturated with demonic mentality that demons could kidnap a man's body and no one could do anything to stop it. Does this imply that this man was the only one who had a problem of evil spirits or attitudes? Not at all. He was just the only one who had become so deeply caught up in Satanism that he had lost all his self-control and had become a host for demons that had then made a fool of him for a long time.
There are a number of clues in this story that reveal the general spirit of the people of that region. There were pigs being raised there, not sheep like would be expected if one were in the land of Israel. Also the fact that the healing of this demon-possessed man was not seen as good news to those living there seems a bit strange if you stop to think about it. This man was a terror to everyone living nearby while no one could restrain or control him. Yet they valued their swine's lives more than they valued the sanity of a wild man who threatened life and limb of anyone getting too close to him.
So we find a group of people living in a region where they have authority over the area where they lived, and they were more interested in maintaining the status quo than in allowing a Man with power to radically change them to remain on their soil. As strange as it may seem, these people had little interest in anything Jesus had to offer them because they viewed what He had already done in a few minutes of arriving as a threat to their whole way of living and thinking. All they could think about was the financial threat He presented to their economy resulting from just one incident of healing, so they had no interest in giving Him any more opportunity to disrupt and unsettle their way of life.
From our perspective this seems bizarre, unfair, even incredulous. Yet Jesus fully respected the decision of those living in deep darkness and fear and immediately complied with their demands for Him to leave at once. Without protest, complaint or censure or bitterness He got back into the boat and left that place where He had just arrived. Why was this?
What I have been learning over recent years is the fact that heaven operates on what I call a system of natural principles that are immutable and which form the underlying grid or fabric of all reality. These principles function in the realm of what we term natural law and operate by inherent cause and effect. We study what we call science to learn as much as we can about some of these natural principles knowing that only as we understand them better and learn to comply with and leverage them can we advance in our understanding and abilities. Even as young children we intuitively learn quickly through a process of trial and error the reality of these principles of cause and effect so we can know how to use them to our advantage and avoid violating them which results in harm.
These natural principles include what we call moral laws. I know many try to deny that moral laws are in the same realm as natural physical laws, but I no longer believe that. I am increasingly convinced that all of God's laws are merely descriptions of or are ate least based on natural law. It is our immaturity and lack of awareness that prevents us from appreciating how or why they function. But that does not change the fact that God runs His universe founded on these natural cause and effect relationships which are the principles that define all reality.
It is precisely here where most religions and philosophy deviates from the truth about God and how He relates to His creation. Because we live in a world functioning under counterfeit methods of law that uses artificial rules and artificial rewards and punishment systems, we have assumed that God does things the same way we do, so for His laws to have any power He has have to artificially inflict punishments on those who violate His commands. But this is out of harmony with the fundamental design of reality as God created it and imagines it to be a hierarchy where God has to personally intervene and manipulate things to control how everything turns out.
What does this have to do with Jesus leaving the area of the Gerasenes or Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven? It relates to one of God's natural principles requiring that beings may only remain where they are welcome and must leave if they do not have continued permission from those given authority over the place where they live.
Appreciation for this underlying principle has enormous implications for much of our theology as well as relationships with those around us. Clearly we often do not live in harmony with this principle, though we do understand and follow it to some extent. Yet when it comes to spiritual matters we tend to assume that natural law no longer is in force and a whole new set of artificial imposed laws have to be learned and obeyed arbitrarily in order to avoid punishment by God. But this logic is a perversion of truth, something not surprisingly we would expect a master deceiver to pawn off on us.
The truth of the matter is that not only do angelic beings live in harmony with this principle of social interaction, but God Himself also respects and lives in harmony with this principle. Which explains why Jesus turned right around and left a place He had just come to visit and offer blessing, because He always lived in harmony with the very principles He originally created that defines how reality is supposed to function. To do otherwise would be to violate natural law which is sin, for sin is simply living in out of harmony with the principles upon which all life is designed to thrive.
Satan and his disruptive angels had over time so destroyed the peace and harmony that had previously defined the atmosphere of heaven that they lost permission of the rest of the angels to remain among them. Just as Jesus found Himself disinvited to do any more ministry in the region of the Gerasenes, so too did Satan and his followers lose permission to remain around others who had become fed up with the incessant accusations, insinuations, inferences and negativity that he and his sympathetic associates were spreading about God. Things finally became so polarized in heaven that a split occurred. The constant attacks against God's government and His trustworthiness became so offensive that it was impossible for the loyal angels to any longer tolerate the rebellion. And because heaven is the place where God lives and was home to the majority of loyal angels, Satan and his crowd were compelled by this principle to find another place to take up residence. And at that point in time the place he found to move to apparently was this earth (which I believe at that point was still unformed and uninhabited).
Whether or not we choose to live in cooperation with this principle of remaining only where we are welcome, that does not diminish in the slightest the truth of this principle. Light and darkness demonstrate the operations of this principle in a dramatic way, for as more light comes into a place blanketed by darkness, the more the darkness dissipates naturally. Darkness has no choice but to simply cease to exist as light increasingly invades it, exposing in the process what has been hidden under the shroud of darkness. This is the analogy that Jesus often used to explain why He came to our dark world, in order to expose the dark lies of Satan about God with the authentic truth about the Father.
One might begin to wonder that if this indeed is a principle that cannot be ignored, might it be a principle that could inhibit God's ability to advance His kingdom in areas that refuse to allow Him permission to enter. But remember this: God is never outwitted or stymied by principles He Himself designed and created. God is so far superior and wiser than all of the collective principles He has designed that He has no problem living out love while at the same time respecting and preserving the freedom and rights He has granted to all of His intelligent children. In God's kingdom only the service of love, service motivated by a genuine appreciation of His true character that is willingly offered from the heart, is service that is useful and acceptable to accomplish His goals. All other service is useless.
So how did Jesus deal with this situation when He was rebuffed by people so resistant to allowing light entrance into their lives? Did they really prefer keeping a terrorist over accepting a deliverer and rescuer? Yet Jesus was not stymied in the least. He had already captured a strategic position in this hostile territory and needed no more at this point to advance His purposes. It was not necessary for Him to personally remain to minister there. Even if He had stayed His ministry would have only created more harm than good. At that point in their lives they were so entrenched in selfishness and their fears were so pervasive that the glory in loving service and in the kindness of Jesus who had come to reveal the Father to a suspicious world would have been impossible to accept positively.
Jesus actually had a better plan that worked out even more superbly. He had already used the power of His love and the authority of His Father to rescue a man from demonic control who was immediately willing to become His inside operative switching sides in the war and ready to be an infiltrator among his own people. By empowering a man already well-known among his own people and implanting in this man a new nature, Jesus had gained a strategic advantage whereby He would, through His Spirit inspiring this man to reflect the light of heaven, be able to spread the contagious truth about His love to many more people who would not have tolerated His clearer revelation at this point in their lives.
So we find in this story a vivid example of a person who was strategically used to accomplish a far greater work for God than even Jesus Himself could accomplish at that point. By injecting the contagious good news about what God was really like into a man who did not present an apparent threat to their current social fabric, a way was opened to soften many hearts and launch a revolution from the inside that later paved the way for Jesus to return in person and be welcomed to bring much more life and truth and light where previously He had been turned away.
Does not God work the same way among us yet today? How many people do we know who are so antagonistic toward God that they will not even listen to a single word about Him? Yet if a trusted friend would begin to share how a new power is bringing hope and life and healing inside them, and they do so in a way that does not trigger the other, does not that friend have ability to do a far greater work than what Jesus might be able to do personally at that juncture?
What I am starting to see is that Jesus wants to leverage our credibility with others to become His agents through which He can soften up the defenses of the enemy in their hearts until they are finally willing to allow a clearer revelation of love that at first they would not tolerate. And really, I think all of us fit into that category to some extent, for most of us prefer to encounter God initially through the influence of a trusted friend before becoming more open to letting God ravish us with His love directly.
Strange isn't it, how the lies of Satan have so permeated our hearts and minds that we are more terrified of love than we are of death itself many times. Oh, we think we would be willing to embrace love if it confronted us face to face and we sometimes feel resentful that God doesn't just show up to love us in person. Yet when we do become exposed to an intensity of love beyond our comfort level and begin realize how much love requires us to become transparent and vulnerable, suddenly we have second thoughts about embracing it so readily. We want to enjoy benefits of living in love while retaining an isolation of defensiveness believing it is still too dangerous to allow love permission to dismantle all of our strongholds. But we don't realize that God's love is so potent that to live in its presence requires full transparency and freedom from all fear, inhibition or dissonance with the principles of life that define His character. (Consider the truth exposed in Isaiah 33:10-22 for more on this.)
Jesus meets us where we are, often working through others and with His Spirit to disarm us until we are ready to embrace a stronger exposure to His love. His goal is to draw us into His love to the point where we will finally be ready to safely thrive in the presence of extreme love, a love so passionate that it would literally be severe torture to anyone unwilling to surrender fully to it. The control of true love in a heart is not an imprisoning, debilitating kind of control but rather a healing, empowering control when the Spirit of God is given free access to synchronize the heart with the very heart of God. As we participate in this love He knits all of His children to each other to create an amazing tapestry of glory.
Are we willing to become a subversive agent of Christ's love to infiltrate occupied territory of the enemy? If so, we must first experience deliverance from the spirits of fear, deception and selfishness and become filled with awe at the glory of God's heart as revealed in Jesus. Once our own hearts become supercharged with this passionate love from the Father channeled through Jesus into our lives, we can then be empowered to be secret agents injecting healing love into hearts around us that only we can access using the credibility we have with them. The Spirit will mentor us in how to do this most effectively, and this work, though challenging and sometimes discouraging, has enormous inherent reward. The rewards of such activities are the heart connections forged and strengthened as we pour out our lives in humble, loving service to change other people's minds about how much God loves them.
I want to be much more cooperative in this respect. I want to channel God's passionate love through me to others who are so afraid of love at this point in their life because of lies they have assumed or fears from abuse they have suffered. We have all been victimized by abusive people in our lives to some extent and are infected with false ideas about God and love and truth that has damaged our hearts. Yet God is expert in the healing, restoring business and is eager to use anyone willing to become an agent of hope and love. And the best part of such a mission is that in channeling His love to others, a love that is impossible to produce ourselves, this same loves reacts inside us on its way through to often bring even more healing to our own hearts than it does for the one we are loving for God.
Jesus, train me to do these 'greater works' than You were able to do, not because You couldn't or didn't want to but because the people You can access through me You cannot reach directly right now. I want to be mentored by Your Holy Spirit as well as transformed myself as Your healing power passes through me to bless others, even when they apparently reject it.
Your love is like seed broadcast recklessly into the lives of all sorts of people, many of which will resist it. But Your seed is life itself, and where ever it finds a receptive heart it will germinate and begin to grow as Your Spirit oversees its nourishment. In the meantime I can also being nourished in the very act of helping to spread these seeds of truth and love to improve Your reputation even while my own heart is healing and being restored by the truth of Your love. Thank-you for showing me all this this morning and I look forward to how You might use me in surprising ways today to do some of these 'greater works.'
Sometimes when I ask You to show someone Your love directly, someone who needs it desperately, I sense you responding by saying to me that You want to show it to them through me. That is why You instructed me to love my enemies. That certainly does not come naturally for me, but that is why I have to allow You to heal my heart with that kind of radical, unconditional love and remain connected to You as my Source for this love You want to channel through me. I don't have to originate love, just receive and embrace it so I can pass it along to someone else.
Continue to transform me to be more willing and more transparent so that others may increasingly see the light of Your glory so attractively that they will have a desire awakened within them to welcome You eagerly when You show up to visit them directly.