Some say, “Jesus only ministered in a tiny territory in Israel—and the disciples were the one to carry on His name to the ends of the earth.” In one sense that is true, but in another sense Jesus has ministered all over the world—even in my new home and beloved city of Denver, Colorado. You didn’t get the memo that He made it? Think again!
Have you ever been around someone that you’ve taught and taught and taught, and you think they should have it by now—but they just don’t? Maybe your children, whom you’ve told not to do something every day of your life—but they still do it?
Jesus spent time teaching them much, but many of the same truths kept coming to the fore. John MacArthur put it so well: “He is not merely a manifestation of God; He is God manifested. That truth, a constant theme in John’s gospel, is the watershed that divides true from false views of Christ.”
Jesus continues to comfort the disciples—even as he chides them. You had to work hard to seek after the Father. You had to keep the Law of Moses in every point. You had to offer the sacrifices for the forgiveness of the sins of the flesh. Keeping the Law of Moses left many frustrated. They had a significant ladder to climb in order to make it to heaven—and the ladder (the Law of Moses) they kept breaking.
So Jesus pressed the point. Only by me can you get to the Father. Philip ignorantly said, “Show us. That’s all you need to do.” Keep in mind, they had heard his teachings, seen miracles accomplished. Remember what Steven preached on last Sunday?
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers[a] are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:2-4).
Jesus repeatedly connected Himself with His Father. In fact, John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the ony Son from the Father full of grace and truth.” The whole intent of Christ coming was make the Father known, and in return for the Father to glorify His Son (John 17). How?
By words and by works. His teaching and His doing. His doing validated His teaching. This is nothing new to them:
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[a] does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel (John 5:19-20).
So Christ says that He is the only way to the Father. He also says that, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. The Father sent Christ to bring heaven down to earth.
Christ returns to heaven for us to do heavenly works here on earth (John 14:12-14).
The disciples wondered what they would do in the here and now. Jesus is going, but will return at some point. They would be without him. They followed him for 3 ½ years, seeing the works and the words that seemed to either change or harden hearts. He worked with such power. Such purpose! Can you see another layer of trouble needed? This isn’t getting much better. They get that Jesus will be leaving and preparing something great for them in the hereafter—but what about now?
Ever felt unqualified for a job? One time when I was first getting into serious piano playing in college, I tried out for a play that the drama department was doing called No, No, Nanette. If you’re familiar with the song Tea for Two, that’s the musical from which it came.
My job was to be a keyboard player who would provide improvisation and extra filler to help round out the pit band. Kristen Conn was the main piano player—one of the most incredible pianists I’ve ever heard. She was always there to keep it all together—she could look at an orchestral score that had lines for all the instruments and be able to play them all at once and provide all the music from all the parts for rehearsal. Unreal!
One day, she couldn’t make it. So Chuck asked if I could fill in. I played the good sport but at the time, I was way over my head. I tried to help—it hadn’t clicked in yet. Needless to say, we had an incredibly short rehearsal that night.
Jesus had been the foundation for the disciples. His works, His words, His influence—it was amazing to be a part of that ministry and to even be of use. But he would leave—now what? Jesus gives them the answer!
12“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. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Again, Jesus says he is going to the Father (v. 12). And because of this, they will do the works that He does—and even greater! Did you catch that? We will do His works! We will do greater works. In what way? We will do what He does in greater scope.
Where did Jesus minister? In a small piece of territory in Israel, with an excursion or two into Samaria. He didn’t journey far. But where did the disciples go? The book of Acts shows that they made it all the way from Israel, through modern day Syria and Turkey, even to Rome. Historians say that Paul could have made it all the way to Spain. Philip influenced and led an Ethiopian to faith. Thomas went to India. Andrew went into the western part of the former Soviet Union and even into modern day Bulgaria. Bartholemew went to India. Jude went into Mesopotamia, near modern-day Iraq and Iran before his execution. John died on the isle of Patmos.
The disciples passed the baton down through the ages. And we have taken that baton. We are in Denver, Colorado. We are doing the works of Him—greater even! How? Jesus never made it physically to Denver! He never made it to our part of the world.
Isn’t that exciting? We will be presenting soon some great things to do for the cause of Christ. Do we realize the greater works He’s called us to? He has called us physical presence with a spiritual purpose. While Jesus has never been to Denver—Jesus has and is in Denver through His body, the church. He has not left us alone, but through the Spirit He is still with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Whose works are we doing? The one in whom we believe. The only one worth believing!
So would Jesus leave them? Yes! But that’s a good thing! Because Jesus said He would send the Spirit who would teach us all things. Comfort us. Convicting us! But also connecting us to the Father and the Son. So Jesus was leaving them, but he wasn’t leaving them. And He was as close as the mention of his name (v. 14).
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:7-11).
Those who deny that Jesus is the only way believe it will be about their works. But we understand it’s about His exclusive, unique atoning work.