14:12-14 "This is the truth I tell you--he that believes on me will do the works that I do, and he will do greater works than these, because I go to my Father. And I will do whatever you shall ask in my name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."

There could scarcely be any greater promises than the two contained in this passage. But they are of such a nature that we must try to understand what they mean. Unless we do, the experience of life is bound to disappoint us.

(i) First of all Jesus said that one day his disciples would do what he did, and even greater works. What did he mean?

(a) It is quite certain that in the early days the early Church possessed the power of working cures. Paul enumerates among the gifts which different people had that of healing ( 1 Corinthians 12:9 ; 1 Corinthians 12:28 ; 1 Corinthians 12:30 ). James urged that when any Christian was sick, the elders should pray over him and anoint him with oil ( James 5:14 ). But it is clear that that is by no means all that Jesus meant; for though it could be said that the early Church did the things which Jesus did, it certainly could not be said that it did greater things than he did.

(b) As time has gone on man has more and more learned to conquer disease. The physician and the surgeon nowadays have powers which to the ancient world would have seemed miraculous and even godlike. The surgeon with his new techniques, the physician with his new treatments and his miracle drugs, can now effect the most amazing cures. There is a long way to go yet, but one by one the citadels of pain and disease have been stormed. The salient thing about all this is that it was the power and the influence of Jesus Christ which brought it about. Why should men strive to save the weak and the sick and the dying, those whose bodies are broken and whose minds are darkened? Why is it that men of skill and science have felt moved, and even compelled, to spend their time and their strength, to ruin their health and sometimes to sacrifice their lives, to find cures for disease and relief from pain? The answer is that, whether they knew it or not, Jesus was saying to them through his Spirit: "These people must be helped and healed. You must do it. It is your responsibility and your privilege to do all you can for them." It is the. Spirit of Jesus who has been behind the conquest of disease; and, as a result, men can do things nowadays which in the time of Jesus no one would ever have imagined possible.

(c) But we are still not at the meaning of this. Think of what Jesus in the days of his flesh had actually done. He had never preached outside Palestine. Within his lifetime Europe had never heard the gospel. He had never personally met moral degradation of a city like Rome. Even his opponents in Palestine were religious men; the Pharisees and the scribes had given their lives to religion as they saw it and there was never any doubt that they revered and practised purity of life. It was not in his lifetime that Christianity went out to a world where the marriage bond was set at nought, where adultery was not even a conventional sin, and where vice flourished like a tropical forest.

It was into that world the early Christians went; and it was that world which they won for Christ. When it came to a matter of numbers and extent and changing power, the triumphs of the message of the Cross were even greater than the triumphs of Jesus in the days of his flesh. It is of moral re-creation and spiritual victory that Jesus is speaking. He says that this will happen because he is going to his Father. What does he mean by that? He means this. In the days of his flesh he was limited to Palestine; when he had died and risen again, he was liberated from these limitations and his Spirit could work mightily anywhere.

(ii) In his second promise Jesus says that any prayer offered in his name will be granted. It is here of all places that we must understand. Note carefully what Jesus said--not that all our prayers would be granted, but that our prayers made in his name would be granted. The test of any prayer is: Can I make it in the name of Jesus? No man, for instance, could pray for personal revenge, for personal ambition, for some unworthy and unchristian object in the name of Jesus. When we pray, we must always ask: Can we honestly make this prayer in the name of Jesus? The prayer which can stand the test of that consideration, and which, in the end says, Thy will be done, is always answered. But the prayer based on self cannot expect to be granted.