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John 14:12

ESV “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.
NIV Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
NASB Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father.
CSB "Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
NLT I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.
KJV Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

What does John 14:12 mean?

The word "works" in Greek most literally means "actions," or "deeds." Just as in English, exactly what "works" are in mind is determined by context. Jesus' list of proofs for His critics referred to "works" in the sense of divine miracles (John 5:36). His instruction to do good in the name of God implied everyday behaviors (Matthew 5:16), as did His criticism of religious hypocrites (Matthew 23:3). In the last few verses, Jesus seems to have meant both in His explanation for why the disciples ought to embrace the truth that He is God (John 14:9–11).

Full biblical context is incredibly important when attempting to interpret this verse. Some of Jesus' "works" were displays of unspeakable power, such as resurrecting the dead (John 11:43–44). Other miracles demonstrated His sovereignty over nature, including weather (Mark 4:38–40), matter (John 2:7–9), and the body (John 9:6–7). In other cases, His "works" were accurate teaching (Matthew 4:23), and righteous intervention (John 2:14–16).

Jesus' promise here is not that all who claim to be believers will be endowed with the power to raise the dead or transmute matter. Nor does Jesus mean to imply that future Christians would have widespread supernatural powers. The following verses include two crucial qualifiers: "asking" and "in My name," clearly indicating that God does not sign a blank check for miraculous power to anyone. In part, this prediction of "works" refers to the early days of the apostles, who were granted miraculous signs (Acts 3:1–6).

The idea that anyone could do "greater" works than Jesus also helps explain the context. Scripture not only associates Jesus with miracles in the Gospels, it credits Him with creation itself (John 1:1–3). In terms of power, it's logically impossible to suggest anyone could do something beyond what Jesus accomplished. The meaning, therefore, ought to be taken in some other way.

The area where Christians can exceed what Jesus did is not "quality," but "quantity." His earthly ministry lasted only about three years—as He says here, He is soon to end this phase of God's plan. Jesus preached without modern communications, or modern travel technology. In contrast, modern evangelists can spend decades preaching to hundreds of thousands of people. Missionaries can serve the furthest reaches of the globe. As of this writing, this website is accessed by more people every week than lived in Jerusalem during Jesus' era. In a year, some bible-related websites speak to more people than populated the Roman Empire in the first century.
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