““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. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:12–15, ESV)
Jesus just finished telling His disciples that if they had a problem believing or understanding how He and the Father could be one, then they should at least look to the works and believe. If what He had said did not make sense and they could not grasp it, then look to the works and know from them that He really was who He said He was and trust Him that what He had to say was absolutely trustworthy. Having said this He then spoke to them with another “Truly, truly” statement that whoever (or everyone) who believes in Him would also do the works that He had done. Then He stepped it up by saying that what they were going to do was even going to exceed what He had done.
Of course, not one of them could perfectly pay the penalty for man’s sin, nor would they perform many of the miraculous signs that attested to Him being truly sent by the Father, though many would die for Him. When we look to the purpose for which He was sent, which was to save the lost, we can easily see that His disciples were on the beginning front lines. Within two months we would read in Scripture that Peter spoke to the people on the day of Pentecost and over three thousand souls were added that day (Acts 2:41). In Acts 4:4 we read that the number of men alone who had come to believe came to about 5,000 (not including women and children), and as we read elsewhere in the New Testament is was not uncommon for a whole household to come to believe when the husband came to believe. This was also true in the case of Lydia when she believed as well (Acts 16:15). We could readily see that within a short period of time that the number of believers could easily have grown from a small number to 15,000 and more. And from these numbers and the addition of another apostle (Paul) the gospel would continue to spread to the whole world. Truly they were left to be God’s instruments in bringing these things to pass. Never would any of them exceed the righteousness of Christ or approach Him in essence as God become man, but they indeed would be used to reach out into the world as incredible vessels of God used for His service.
The why? Jesus told them that they were going to do this because He was going to return to the Father, and we will see in a few verses when He did this the Father was soon going to send the Spirit as the supernatural enabler to work through man to make this happen.
But what were they (or we) to do on their part? Jesus had first told them to believe. Next He told them to ask. What they were to do was to ask Him and He would do it. This is a pretty bold statement. By answering these prayers of His disciples Jesus was going to not only continue the work He was sent to do, but He was going to glorify the Father in the process. Jesus said over and over again that His objective was that the Father might be glorified. Even here in saying that He would answer the prayers of His disciples, He again affirms that the purpose is that the Father might be glorified. Truly the objective of the Son whether here or in the presence of the Father is to glorify the Father. As Jesus brought to completion the purpose for which He was sent in obedience to the will of the Father, the Father was glorified in Him.
What were they to do? They were to believe Him, ask Him, and then obey Him. Jesus went on to say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Because of His great love for them He promised to answer their prayers in the process of the work He left them to do. And to demonstrate their love for Him in return, they were to obey Him. This did not mean jumping through all of the religious hoops that they had been trained to do as Jewish men, but it meant following after Him fully in obedience to His will. And though it was going to be tough, Jesus did not make what they were to do that complicated, even assuring them of victory in the end.
Later John would write to all believers what He learned from Jesus, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1–5, ESV)
Continuing on a few verses later John added, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 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.” (1 John 5:13–15, ESV)
Jesus may have been speaking directly to His disciples on that night, but what he told them was not just for them. John tells all of us that we are left to do the works that Jesus came to see completed. We are called to believe that He will do them in and through us. We are expected to ask Him for those things, and then we are to step out trusting that He will do as He promised. This is the promise mad to those who love Him and who are committed to doing His will. He will do His will through us and in this God will be glorified.