Bible Question:

John 14:12 — What did Jesus mean by greater works than these he will do?

Bible Answer:

In John 5:20 Jesus used the phrase “greater works than these” and then He repeated the phrase again in John 14:12. Our purpose is to explain what did Jesus mean by “greater works than these he will do”? We will examine both John 5:20 and John 14:12.

Greater Works Than These

John 5:20 —Greater Works Than These

The first time Jesus used the phrase “greater works than these” occurred in John 5:20. In order to understand verse 20, it is important to know what happened in verse 19, which says,

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NASB)

In verse 19, Jesus said that He could only do what the Father showed Him, and He did exactly what He saw the Father do. What the Father did, Jesus did. Now we are ready to understand verse 20, which says,

For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. John 5:20 (NASB)

Here Jesus said the Father revealed everything He did to Him. Then Jesus said the Father would show Him greater works. That is, when the Father did show greater works, then Jesus would do them too! Therefore, when Jesus said they would see “greater works than these,” the “these” referred to the healing of the lame man in John 5:2-18. That is, the Jewish leaders would see works greater than the healing of the lame man.

Then in John 5:21-22, Jesus revealed what He meant by the “greater works.”

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son . . .” John 5:21-22 (NASB)

The greater works He will do is the raising the dead and judging all people. Later He did raise the dead (Luke 7:12; John 11:43-44). Therefore, Jesus used the term “greater works” to refer to works of greater significance.

John 14:12 —Greater Works Than These

The second time that Jesus used the phrase “greater works than these” occurred in John 14:12.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. ” John 14:12 (NASB)

We have already discovered that Jesus used the phrase “greater works” in John 5:20 to refer to more amazing things that He would do. The greater things to which Jesus referred in this verse is the work of salvation, since He was speaking about things related to salvation in John 14:1-11.

The reason that He said the disciples would do greater works is that He was going “to the Father.” That is, after He ascended back to heaven, the disciples or apostles would perform greater works. The rest of the New Testament reveals the apostles did perform signs, wonders, and miracles (Acts 5:12-16; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4). God the Father used them to save many from eternal punishment.  The apostles did see many people become Christians or spiritual new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).


Jesus’ phrase “greater works than these” refers to the raising of the dead and saving people from eternal punishment. You and I cannot save anyone from hell. But God can save the spiritually blind. But He has chosen to use faithful believers to share the gospel. When we share the gospel, then we will see God do “greater works than these” through us. Are you sharing the gospel about Jesus Christ with others? If you want to know what is essential to be saved, visit Searching For God.

Suggested Links:

Searching for God
Who Is Jesus? — John 5:19-47