Knowing the Father - John 14 The Father's Visibility - The Works of the Father vs 4-14
The Father’s Visibility vs 8-14
What the Lord has just said about having “seen the Father” grabs Philip’s attention enough to make him request the Lord to show to the disciples the Father. Again it’s John who gives us a look at Philip, one of the early followers of Jesus (John 1:43-48; 6:5, 7; 12:21-22; 14:8-9). These references in John’s gospel give us a little glimpse of what Philip was like. The first thing that impresses us about him is his faith. He not only followed Jesus himself, but told Nathaniel of Him in a way that also indicates his studiousness, he had knowledge of what Moses and the Prophets had written. Then at ‘the feeding of the five thousand’ we get a look at his thinking. He appears as a man with a practical mind as he calculates the possibility of feeding the crowds. When the Greeks approach him for an audience with Jesus perhaps we can discern two things about him. First of all his carefulness in consulting Andrew, rather than some of the others, and in not acting independently. The other thing was his approachability, the Greeks came to him. Then here in the upper room he displays his desire, a spiritual desire. He wanted to see the Father even though his understanding of what he was requesting was limited.
Clearer Vision vs 8-11
Philip claims that if they see the Father it will satisfy or content them. The desire is admirable, but you do wonder just what was in his mind. The Lord answers in a way that exposes the shallowness of Philip’s request. The point is the Lord Jesus is the full revelation of the Father, to know Him is to know the Father. He is giving them a clearer vision of the Father in relation to Himself. John writes at the beginning of the gospel:
'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him' (John 1:18).
The Lord again speaks of the unity of Himself and the Father. He and the “Father are one” (John 10:30). He asks do they believe concerning His unity with the Father, first as a question (v 10) which ought to challenge them and then He tells them to believe as a command (v 11). The things He was saying to them in this discourse was not from Himself, but from the Father who dwelt in Him and who was the source of His mighty works (v 10), therefore they were to believe what Christ was telling them plainly and if they found that difficult the works were the clear evidence for their belief (v 11).
The relationship between divine persons and the very nature of the Godhead form the highest possible truths for us to grasp and try to understand. Yet, there is a certain level beyond which we cannot go with our finite minds. But, as the Lord is telling His disciples, the revelation He has given of the Father by His words and through His works is sufficient for faith. In our understanding of divine persons our faith is not a leap in the dark, rather it is the only adequate response to such revelation and the one the Lord wants from us. There are things we just cannot explain in human terms. While the truth of the unbreakable unity, eternal intimacy and perfect harmony between Father and Son might stretch our minds to their limits, it ought to produce unstinted worship from our hearts.
Josiah Conder (1789-1855) penned these words:
Thou art the everlasting Word, The Father’s only Son; God manifestly seen and heard, And Heav’n’s belovèd one:
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou That every knee to Thee should bow.
In Thee most perfectly expressed The Father’s glories shine; Of the full deity possessed, Eternally divine:
True image of the Infinite, Whose essence is concealed; Brightness of uncreated light; The heart of God revealed:
But the high mysteries of Thy name An angel’s grasp transcend; The Father only—glorious claim!-- The Son can comprehend:
Throughout the universe of bliss, The center Thou, and sun; Th’ eternal theme of praise of this, To Heav’n’s belovèd one:
Greater Works vs 12-14
The Lord Jesus makes another “verily, verily” statement. He wants to strengthen and encourage these men by assuring them that greater things lie ahead. What follows is for us a startling statement: “the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (v 12).
I won’t pretend v 12 is easy to explain, but I’ll make an attempt, though that is all it is. As always we know that context is key. The first part of v 12, in light of vs 10-11 refers, I take it, first and foremost to the apostles, though not limited to them for we only have to think of what is said about Stephen and Philip, two of the seven (Acts 6:3, 5, 8; 8:6-7) and of course Paul (Acts 14:8-10; 19:11). The works are the works of the Father and while some interpret works in a broader sense than miracles it does seem such are primarily in view (John 5:17-20, 36; 7:3; 9:3-4; 10:25, 32, 37, 38). The broader interpretation of works as including preaching the gospel and seeing souls saved may be correct in a secondary sense as we try to grasp the relevance of the Lord’s words throughout Church history and to ourselves. Primarily though, I think what He says applies to the apostolic era. It is certainly an assurance to the apostles if they along with others believe as the Lord has just commanded them to (v 11). The Father is in the Son doing the works, soon the Spirit sent from the Father would be with and in the apostles on behalf of Christ (v 16-17) who was going to the Father (v 12) and because of this fact would continue doing the divine works through His apostles. He would continue the works through His disciples to the same end that He did His works, to glorify the Father (v 13). The ministry of Christ in the way described would continue through the apostolic ministry and in the apostolic era. Miracles too would be performed (Acts 3:1-10; 4:30; 5:12-16; 6:8; 8:6-7; 9:32-43; 14:8-10; 19:11).
But, what of the ‘greater works?’ This cannot mean that the miracles of the apostles were greater than the miracles performed by Christ. The “greater than these” (Darby Trans.) has probably to do with the effect and extent of the works of the apostles and others in what was the ‘greater’ era of the Spirit and accomplished redemption. The Lord Jesus in His ministry did most of His mighty works in Galilee, yet we read concerning the cities where He did them that ‘they repented not’ (Matt 11:20-24). The sense is that the Lord’s preaching was met largely by unbelief from the nation. John records:
'But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, “Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?”' (John 12:37-38).
However as the story of Acts unfolds, the coming of the Spirit and the speaking in tongues ‘the wonderful works of God’ (Acts 2:11) accompanied by the preaching of Peter resulted in about 3000 souls saved (Acts 2:41) on the day of Pentecost and then the miracle of healing on the lame man by the power of “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 3:1-10) and the preaching that followed resulted in about 5000 men getting saved (Acts 4:4), a count, it appears, that doesn’t include women or children. Also the miracles and preaching of Philip in a city of Samaria resulted in many being saved (Acts 8:4-8, 12). This is probably what the Lord meant by “greater than these”; the effect and extent of these works was indeed greater than the effect and extent accompanying His works during His ministry.
The reason for this was because the Lord Jesus had gone to the Father and the Holy Spirit had come down. That is the key. Peter said on the day of Pentecost:
"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" (Act 2:32-33).
What the Lord says next in vs 13 & 14 follow and flow out of v 12. It explains how and why ‘greater works’ will be accomplished. They will happen because the apostles will ask for them in His name. Therefore, their asking will not only be in accordance with all that His name represents and in the authority of His name, but also for His name’s sake so that “the Father may be glorified in the Son” (v 13). What the Lord Jesus refers to here is perhaps demonstrated by the apostles as they prayed after Peter and John were released having been before the Sanhedrin for the healing of the impotent man:
"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness" (Act 4:29-31).
The promise the Lord is giving has obviously primary and particular relevance to the apostles. This is not referring to the many things we ask in prayer, which we do and should do, in the name of the Lord Jesus, but for which we don’t necessarily receive the desired answer either at the time or even ever. Again these references in the upper room to asking in the Lord’s name and being assured of an answer accordingly (John 13:14; 15:7, 16; 16:23–26) particularly refer to the apostles’ in their ministry. However, the principle holds for us in that as we pray in accordance with all that the name of the Lord Jesus represents and in the authority of His name, we should also be praying for the sake of His name so that glory will be brought to the Father. Such will put a different impetus to our prayers than sometimes marks them.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the King James Version.