Anyone who believes in me, will do the same works I do, and even greater works, because I am going to my Father. (John 14:12)
This promise must have made a profound impression on the apostles. They had seen Jesus calm the storm, heal the blind, cleanse the leper, and even raise the dead. Now he tells them that they will be able to do the very things he did, if they believe in him. He passes his power on to those who hear his word, and accept that word. "Blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke 11:28). This surely is an extraordinary promise.
I just wonder, if a spot check was taken in a church any Sunday morning, how many people would admit that they actually believe this, and how many of them actually avail of it. The average person would be amazed to witness a miracle, because it would come as a completely unexpected surprise. The scandal is that there are so few miracles. "These are the signs that shall accompany those who believe in me… They will cast out devils in my name………They will place their hands on the sick, and heal them" (Mark 16:17-18).
I think it important that we give serious consideration to what exactly this promise means for us. Firstly, the promise is very specific, very definite, and very clear. It is obvious what is meant by the words Jesus uses. I can understand the promise, and I can easily have a good idea of what it would entail if this promise held up. The question I have to ask, of course is: Do I believe it? Can I believe it? It is absolutely essential that I keep out of my head when I reflect on this. I can understand what the words mean, and yet not understand the message they convey. I can reflect on it, of course, and, like Mary, I can ponder it in my heart (Luke 2:19).
In the final analysis, however, getting to the level of believing, in that I accept it, and am ready to act on it, is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. The promise comes from God, and the grace to respond to it also comes from God. I can read this promise very slowly, many many times. I can read it for my head, to understand what the words say. I can read it for my heart, to be open to the message those words contain. I can pray the words, meditate on them, and talk to God about them. I can listen to Jesus as he actually speaks those words to me, or I can ask the Spirit to please reveal the truth of the promise to me.
Elizabeth told Mary that all these things had happened to her, because she believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled (Luke 1:45). Someone in the crowd said to Jesus "Happy is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that gave you suck", to which Jesus replied "Happy are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27-28). It would be good, then, to include Mary in my prayers for the grace to accept and believe this promise, and, indeed, any other promises in the gospels.
What would it mean if I really accepted and acted on this promise? Before attempting to answer that question, may I draw your attention to another very important question? Jesus speaks about believing in him, not believing the promise. It would be a total contradiction to try to believe in a promise, if I didn't trust the person who made the promise. Once again, we are faced with the question : What exactly does it mean to believe in Jesus? Believing in Jesus involves accepting the whole package of Redemption. Jesus was sent by the Father. He never said anything unless the Father told him to say it (John 8:28). If we hear him, we hear the Father; if we believe him, we believe the one who sent him (John 14:24).
Jesus overcame all the damage done to our humanity by Original Sin. He overcame sin, sickness, and death. He is totally victorious over all the power of the evil one. If I accept him, believe what he tells me, and am prepared to walk with him, then I, too, can share in the spoils of his victory. The answer to my first question, then, is that I have full access to all the power of Jesus, and that I, too, am now beyond the power of the evil one. I can live with a Higher Power, who brings me to a life beyond my wildest dreams. Coming into an experience of this promise is like setting out on a journey. The journey begins with the first step. Bit by bit, step by step, I come to discover that this promise holds up. My faith grows when I exercise it. I learn to pray by praying, not by reading a book about it!