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John 14:12 (NASB), says:

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.

Interpretations often suggest that the sum total of believers over the last 2000 years have done many more works in the name of Jesus (e.g. good deeds, preaching/conversion, miracles) than he did in total over the course of his earthly ministry.

But the use of a singular "he", seems to be making a stronger claim - not just all believers will altogether, but each individual believer. If he meant all believers together, it seems like there would have been clearer ways to say this (e.g. "those who believe in me will do [...] greater works than these").

Does this verse entail that any true believer today should expect to do greater works him/herself than Jesus did?

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A variety of suggestions have been put forward regarding this view--here are 3 I find noteworthy:

  • Jesus speaks of works He does (present tense) and works the disciples will do (future tense). At the time He said this, Jesus had performed many miracles and taught many great sermons, but He had not yet suffered & died for the fallen world, or risen from the dead to complete His atoning sacrifice. The disciples would perform many miracles & teach many great sermons (the kinds of the things Jesus had already done); they would not atone for humanity.
  • Gill's Exposition suggests what is meant here is a "greater number" of works. Jesus' ministry lasted a little over 3 years; Peter & Paul each had an apostolic ministry spanning more than 3 decades; John longer than the two of them combined.
  • Barnes' commentary suggests this passage speaks of the geographic spread of their ministries:

The works of Jesus were confined to Judea. They were seen by few. The works of the apostles were witnessed by many nations, and the effect of their miracles and preaching was that thousands from among the Jews and Gentiles were converted to the Christian faith. [sic]

These possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Note that in this sermon Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining apostles (Judas has already left)--some would read these instructions as specifically applicable to the apostles.

However,

  • It is not necessary to conclude from this verse that all people who truly believe in Jesus will during their earthly ministries perform miracles on par with raising the dead (even though some have); the collective works of those with faith in Christ is arguably greater than any individual healing or sermon.
  • I suggest the changing of a human heart (spiritually) is a far greater miracle than the healing of a human body (physically).
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  • 1
    +1 Excellent and complete answer.
    – Austin
    Apr 17, 2022 at 21:07
  • 1
    @Austin I agree. This answer is indeed complete. +1
    – Rajesh
    Apr 17, 2022 at 21:19
  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. I think though, it still presumes the collective amount of works to be greater. My main concern in this question is the passage seems to imply each individual believer’s works will be greater.
    – mwfearnley
    Apr 17, 2022 at 21:42
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    Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Apr 17, 2022 at 21:49
  • @mwfearnley this is a fair point, and some of these possibilities would indeed focus on collective works, but not necessarily all of them. Option 1 could be centered on an individual. Even option 2 could be looked at that way -- Peter's earthly apostolic ministry was much longer than Jesus' earthly Messianic ministry. Option 1 occurred to me as the most straightforward reading, but it was interesting to see a variety of views commentators have put forward Apr 18, 2022 at 0:38
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The Comforter : παράκλητος | He - will do greater works through each believer [John 14:26].

  • What “works” ἔργον are greater than [John 15:13]❓ - Establishing world peace [Isaiah 2:4] was never fulfilled by Yeshua of Nazareth.

The Comforter (παράκλητος) would fulfill יְשַׁעְיָהוּ Yeshayahu 2:4 - “And he shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (וְשָׁפַט֙ בֵּ֣ין הַגּוֹיִ֔ם וְהוֹכִ֖יחַ לְעַמִּ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבוֹתָ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַֽחֲנִיתֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ לְמַזְמֵר֔וֹת לֹֽא־יִשָּׂ֨א ג֚וֹי אֶל־גּוֹי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹֽא־יִלְמְד֥וּ ע֖וֹד מִלְחָמָֽה)

How will the Comforter shine in every believer to fulfill world peace of [Isaiah 2:4]❓- By truly Fasting in order to help maintain justice, feeding the hungry, donating to the poor & honoring יְהֹוָה YHVH on שַּׁבָּת the Sabbath day as stated in [Isaiah 58:6-13].

In the name of יֵשׁוּעַ “Salvation”.

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