I received the following question:

I was in a religious discussion last night and I had mentioned the part about the disciples (apostles) doing greater miracles (works) than Christ.

John 14:12. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”

 I had said that this likely referred to the fact that the apostles could heal without the healed needing faith, but then the other person brought up John 5, when the lame man was healed without displaying any faith beforehand. If not requiring faith to be present for healing to take place, what works will the apostles do which are greater than Christ’s?

There was no faith on the part of the man in John 5. Here is what I had to say on John 5:8-9 in Precepts.

“Notice that the man had no faith whatsoever in the Lord before this healing.  His whole focus and hope was directed toward the pool of Bethesda.  He had not a thought that the Lord could heal him, and so he had no faith that He would.  Some erroneously suppose that faith is necessary before anyone can be healed.  This miracle shows clearly that this is not so.  The man had no faith whatsoever, and yet the Lord was still able to heal him.  The Lord can heal when and how He wishes to.  He doesn’t have to have faith to work with first!”

So the greater works definitely were not that they could heal without faith being displayed first. So what were the greater works? There are quite a few possibilities here, though it is difficult to pin down exactly what the Lord meant. Here are a few ideas:

1. The number of those reached by the apostles was greater than the number reached by the Lord. Not only did they reach even the remotest part of the land of Israel, but they went beyond that to the remotest places of the earth where Israelites resided. Therefore, their works were greater in scope than the Lord’s.

2. This expands the miracles they worked as well. It means they healed more people, cast out more demons, etc.

3. The great unity in Jerusalem formed by the apostles was greater than anything the Lord ever did. The Lord established the principle of sharing everything with each other, but upon His death, we only read of 120 taking part in this in Acts 1:15. Yet in Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-37, we read of thousands of believers living this way, and the number kept expanding until the murder of Stephen caused them to scatter. This was a greater work indeed.

4. The apostles in some ways do seem to have accelerated the healing miracles from what Christ did. For example, Peter’s shadow healed all whom it passed over in Acts 5:15-16. In Acts 19:12, we read that Paul could send a handkerchief to those who were sick, and when they received them they were cured of diseases or even of evil spirits, something that we have no record of the Lord ever doing. These might by some be considered even more spectacular healings than those the Lord did while on earth.

5. Some of the powerful works they did, we have no indication that the Lord ever did. For example, we have no indication that He ever spoke with tongues, as they did in Acts 2:4-11. A room never shook at His prayer, as happened to them in Acts 4:31. He never declared instant death upon anyone in punishment, as they did in Acts 5:5,10. He never shook off a poisonous serpent into the fire and felt no harm, as Paul did in Acts 28:5. These powerful works might even be considered greater works than those Christ did while He was on earth.

Thus, though we cannot say for certain what this is referring to, as I said in my study on John 14, “But even if some would argue about the relative greatness of this miracle to those the Lord did, we do not need to argue this point. Rather, we can just say that we believe the Lord’s statement here, and know that these men did works once the Lord had returned to the Father that were even greater than those that He had done!”