Today we have the pleasure of having Pastor Henry Wildeboer leading us in worship. He will be reflecting on John 14:11-14, Even Greater Things…
“Even Greater Things…”
June 19, 2022
A 16 year old high school student was told by his cancer specialist, “Isa, we’ve run out of Chemo options; there is not much more we can do.” At school he approached a fellow grade 10 student, “I have cancer and the doctor told me I am going to die. I don’t want to die; I want to be baptized. Can I be baptized in your church?” I think he was hoping that would heal him or at least prolong his life. We worked it out. I briefly explained the gospel, asked some simple questions, and baptized him in a Sunday morning service in front of about 300 worshippers. In the service I also asked the church to pray for his healing for the next week. If they would, I asked them to stand up. Most did. After baptizing him I told him in front of all, “Isa, God will heal you.” (Thank God it was said before I could think it and stop it). Six months later I received a call from his mother, “Preacher man” - her name for me - “I got a call from Isa’s oncologist. He said, they did an MRI and Isa’s body is cancer free.” Now 6 years later he has graduated from University and was declared cancer free. God still heals!!
In John 14:12 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” Did He mean that we could participate in miracles today? Would more miracles today enrich our lives and show more clearly God’s existence and His power? How would that affect our culture and our spirituality? Those are big questions. And what does Jesus mean when He adds, “He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father?” (John 14:12.) Now after 40 years of active ministry and seventeen more as a retired pastor I’d really like to know what these “even greater things” are and maybe even be involved in doing them. God adds a follow-up offer in Vs.13 & 14 almost like He is taunting us to take Him up on His offer by repeating it! Like, come on, take me up on it. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Since Jesus is the one saying this, I view this as an “iron-clad” offer.
I went “back to the Book” and reread the four gospels and Acts, especially focusing on the miracles of Jesus. I was impressed with the variety of miracles He performed. Early in His ministry He turned water into wine. Later we see Him telling experienced fishermen where to catch a net full of fish. He stretched five loaves and a few fishes to provide a supper with enough food to feed five thousand men and their families - with plenty of left overs. He walked on water. When Peter saw that and also wanted to do that Jesus encouraged him. He was doing fine until he looked down and started thinking, “How can this be?” It was a faith walk until he doubted. This led Jesus to ask him, “Oh, you of little faith, why did you start to doubt?” His miracles included Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead and some years later Paul also brought someone back to life. (Acts 20: 7-12).
The miracles of Jesus also included many healings. In fact, forty-one according to Morton T.Kelsey who wrote what is described, “a comprehensive history of healing in the Christian Church from biblical times to the present.” In Healing and Christianity. (page 54) he summarizes;
“Everywhere Jesus went He functioned as a religious healer. Forty-one distinct instances of physical and mental healing are recorded in the four Gospels (there are seventy-two accounts in all including duplications.) Many of these references summarize the healings of large numbers of persons.”
Jesus did these miracles often without any explanation. But the word, “faith” is mentioned in some form a number of times in the context of miracles (like “belief, faith” or even the opposite, “unbelief.”) Healings were a primary connection for Jesus with His disciples as they watched and copied their Master. They grew into accomplished “apprentices.” The power that Jesus had was also theirs by faith. When He was ready to ascend to the Father, the disciples were told to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the filling of the Spirit they were touched by fire, and power; they said what He said, they did what He did, they taught as He taught, and they healed as He healed They learned from the best! They hated to see Him leave to ascend to the Father, but they were also sure that He would be “with them” to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20).
Here are just a few examples where Jesus and faith come together in healings.
In Matthew 8:5-13 Jesus, told by a centurion about his servant who was ill at home, responds with, “I will go and heal him” to which the centurion answers, That is not necessary. “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He had faith to believe that Jesus could heal from a distance, just by speaking. Jesus was astonished with the man’s faith. “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” A moment later He added “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” The servant was healed that very hour.
In Matthew 9:18-26, expanded in Mark 5:21-43, we see Jesus in action as two miracles are intertwined. What are the common ingredients? Two people who come in desperation but with the faith that Jesus had the power to heal - the man whose daughter is critically ill and a woman with a twelve-year-long bleeding problem. How can she appropriate His power? She believed if she could touch Jesus’ cloak, she would be healed. She touched Him and her bleeding immediately stopped. When He asked, “Who touched me?” She hesitantly raised her hand and with fear admitted the truth. Imagine her surprise when she heard Jesus say, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Her faith was the access to the power of Jesus the same way as it is for us. That was followed with Jesus continuing on to the house of Jairus even though his daughter now was reported dead. He raised her from the dead. These are two examples of the faith described in Hebrews 11:1. “It is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” That faith is not controlled by our feelings but by simply believing what God said is true because He said it! That’s all. Inner feelings to confirm faith are nice, maybe even helpful, but they are not essential.
Miracles were a vibrant part of the ministry of Jesus. Why did they occur? Were they necessary? John Wimber, a recognized charismatic leader of the seventies saw them as “signs and wonders.” In his book Power Evangelism he states,
“Signs and wonders, all Western evangelicals acknowledge, were necessary to authenticate Christ’s divinity. Further, signs and wonders were key in establishing the apostolic authority of the twelve and Paul.” (page 108.)
Similarly, Morton T. Kelsey writes:
“…it is clear what Paul was speaking of when he wrote simply about miracles in Galatians and with the emphasis of signs and wonders in Romans and
2 Corinthians. Healing, he told the congregation, is the sign by which they know that the divine Spirit had broken in upon them; it was one important test of a true apostle of Christ.” Page 108.
In the Gospels, but especially in the Book of Acts, the ministries and miracles were mentioned at least ten times as “signs and wonders.” (John 4:48, 6:30, 20: 30-31, Acts 2: 19, 22, 43, 4: 30, 5: 12, 6: 8, 7: 36, 8: 13. and Hebrews 2: 4.). Signs and wonders were miracles, in the Old Testament with Moses and Pharaoh, and with Jesus and the church in the New Testament. They were introductory preludes opening doors to the minds and hearts of skeptical listeners often leading to conversions. In Acts they came to know Christ by the thousands after witnessing miracles. ( Acts 2:41, 4:4, 6:1,7)
What does this say to us as a church? Do we need to be freshly convicted that Jesus is alive, divine, and able to surprise with miracles? In a hedonistic culture are many covenant youth losing the early convictions from their family upbringings? Are they dazzled and mesmerized by secular explanations of creation? Are they entranced by the many ways to God and intrigued with the variety of gods? These are challenging questions for our times. Is God inviting us not to shy away from showdowns as to who is God - Baal or God? The signs and wonders are still visible to convict all that He is alive and well. For those who question whether miracles are for today, I quote the Dutch Reformed theologian Dr. G.C. Berkouwer. He states:
“We find nothing in the Scriptures to indicate a line that we can draw through a definite period to mark off a boundary between the time of miracles and the time of the absence of miracles…The many signs that still appear after Pentecost should make us the more careful not to set limits, in our enlightened era, to the miraculous activity of God. There is not a single datum in the New Testament which makes it certain that God, in a period of strengthening and extending of the church in heathendom, will not confirm his message with signs, in holy resistance to the demonic influences of the kingdom of darkness.” Dr. G.C. Berkouwer, pages 224-225, The Providence of God.
Should we be praying for and seeking clear “signs and wonders” that draw many to saving faith? Yes! by all means if through that “we can convict and save some.” I note that many of our families and churches, who are skeptical about miracles today, often share stories about healings from family repertoires about God showing up to restore broken lives or break long-term bondages. The stories are usually related with joy, banter, and with face-wide smiles. The mood in the room is alive with animated story telling cloaked with fresh hope.
God did healings in partnership with His Son Jesus, then with the apostles, and now with us. We are His friends (John 15:15) with whom He shares His plans. He, working in heaven and we on earth are perfectly teamed exactly as He planned it. We work in close harmony with Him. It is work at its finest; it doesn’t come better than that.
Healings can be instantaneous or take longer times. I remember a 43 year old man in our Oshawa congregation who had Multiple Sclerosis so advanced that GM gave him early disability. He could walk no more than 200 feet and then only with a cane. In 1984 he asked our Oshawa elders to anoint him with oil, lay hands on him and pray for healing. Because it was the first time our elders had done this, some were skeptical. We did it in obedience to James 5:14-16. We prayed; the man strongly believed God would heal him. When we anointed him there were no signs of any changes whatsoever. However since that very day he had no further MS attacks! He healed slowly but steadily. Some twenty five years later, he was hiking and biking all over the city and regularly swimming laps. He died about 3 years ago at the age of 86, (43 years after we prayed over him) and not from the MS. How do we today carry on His work? To minister in that kind of setting with faith, love, and in obedience to His promises is exhilarating. Each time I participate in it it leaves me with deep gratitude, as it does the others involved, especially recipients. This is not a casual prayer or ministry. It is seeking in faith with all of my heart first God and His kingdom, (Matthew 6:33) which flows into trust, obedience, and contentment. It gives perspective.
How can we carry on God’s healing work with Him? We do have direct access to Him, His Word, and by faith, to His power. I witnessed one of my first miraculous healings some 50 years ago when a rural 19 year old young man was transferred to the large Calgary Foothills Hospital. He had been in a deep coma for some time due to a high fever. On arrival doctors told us we should not expect him to live. At the urging of a saintly Godly woman, we stood by his bed, believed, prayed and spoke words of healing to which there was an immediate response of a jolt followed with a long period of recovery in which Jesus healed him completely. Since that first instance I have experienced a number of healings. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us as we do the “greater things.” I urge pastors and others to step out of the boat and risk a water walk.
May 22, 2022