Are we living meaningful and fulfilled lives? Do we feel a sense of emptiness and longing in our hearts? Do we allow Christ to dwell in us and work through us?
Jesus told his disciples: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
His disciples were trembling and oppressed with the thought that His departure would be the end of His ceaseless activity for them, on which they had depended implicitly for so long (Cf. Matt 17:17). Henceforth, whatever distress or need might come; they would be left to face every storm, unaccompanied and unadvised. Some of us know how dreary such experience makes life, and we can understand how these men shrank from the prospect. Christ’s words give strength to meet that trial, and not only tell them that after He is gone they will be able to do what they cannot do now, and what He used to do for them, but that He will work through them and for them, and be the power of their action, after He has departed.
Over and above that perpetual influence of past recorded work, there is the influence of Christ’s present work, and today He is working as truly as He was when on earth. One form of His work was finished on Calvary, as His dying breath proclaimed (Cf. John 19:30); but there is another work of Christ in the midst of the ages, moving the pawns on the chessboard of the world, and presiding over the fortunes of the solemn conflict, which will not be ended until that day when the angel voices shall chant, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Rev 11:15)
It is of great importance for the joyousness of our Christian lives, and for the courage of our conflict with sorrow and sin, that we give a very prominent place in our creeds, and our hearts, to this great truth of a living Christ. What a joyful sense of companionship it brings to the solitary, what calmness of vision in contemplating the complications and calamities of the world’s history, if we grasp firmly the assurance that the living Christ is actually working for the good of His people in the world today!
But that is not all. There is another path on which our Lord shows us here a glimpse of His working, not only for us, but on and in and therefore through us, so that the deeds that we do in faith that rests upon Him are in one aspect His, and in another ours. This is the deepest of the lessons that He would teach us here. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20), and through me, if I keep close to Him, will work mightily in forms that my poor manhood could never have reached. The emblem of the vine and the branches (Cf. John 15:5), and the other emblem of the house and its inhabitants, and the other of the head and the members, all point to this one same thing which some men call ‘mystical,’ but which is the very heart of the Christian prerogative and the anchor of the Christian hope. Christ in us is our present righteousness and our hope of a future glory.
All the doings of a Christian, if done in faith, and holding by Christ, are Christ’s doings, inasmuch as He is the life and the power which does them all. And Christ’s deeds are reproduced and perpetuated in His humble follower, inasmuch as the life which is imparted will unfold itself according to its own kind; and he that loves Christ will be changed into His likeness, and become a partaker of His Spirit. So let us curb all self-dependence and self-will, that that mighty tide may flow into us; and let us cast from us all timidity, distrust, and gloom, and be strong in the assurance that we have a Christ living in the heavens to work for us, and living within us to work through us.
“They will do even greater things than these.” Is, then, the servant greater than his Lord and he that is sent greater than He that sent him? Not so, for whatsoever the servant does is done because the Lord is with and in him, and the contrast that is drawn between the works that Christ does on earth and the greater works that the servant is to do hereafter is, properly and at bottom, the contrast between Christ’s manifestations in the time of His earthly limitation and humiliation, and His manifestations in the time of His Ascension and celestial glory.
The wider and more complete spiritual results achieved by the ministration of the servants than by the ministration of the Lord is the point of comparison here. Only the poorest Christian who can go to a brother or sister, and by word or life can draw that person to Christ, does a mightier thing than it was possible for the Master to do by life or lip whilst He was here on earth. For the Redemption had to be completed in act before it could be proclaimed in word; and Christ had no such weapon in His hands with which to draw men’s souls, and cast down the high places of evil, as we have when we can say, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15: 3-4) “He laid His hands on a few sick folk, and healed them”; and at the end of His life there were one hundred and twenty disciples in Jerusalem and five hundred in Galilee. That was all that Jesus Christ had done; while today and now the world is being leavened and the kingdoms of the earth are beginning to recognise His name. “Greater works than these shall he do” who lets Christ in him do all His works.
“Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” Faith, the simple act of loving trust in Jesus Christ, opens the door of our hearts and natures for the entrance of all His solemn Omnipotence, and makes us possessors of it. It is the only condition, and plainly the indispensable condition, of possessing this divine Christ’s power, that we should trust ourselves to Him that gives it. And if we do, then we shall not trust in vain, but to us there will come power that will surpass our desire, and fill us with its own rejoicing and pure energy. Faith will make us like Christ. Faith is intensely practical. It is no mere cold assent to a creed which is utterly impotent to operate upon men’s acts, no mere hysterical emotion which is utterly impotent to energise into nobilities of service and miracles of consecration, but it is the affiance of the whole nature which spreads itself before Him and prays, “Fill my emptiness and vitalise me with Your Spirit.” That is the faith which is ever answered by the inrush of the divine power, and the measure of our capacity of receiving is the measure of His gift to us.
“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” People think they have fulfilled the condition when, in a mechanical and external manner, they say, as a formula at the end of petitions that have been all stuffed full of self-will and selfishness, ‘for Christ’s sake. Amen!’ and then they wonder they do not get them answered! Is that asking in Christ’s name?
Christ’s name is the revelation of Christ’s character, and to do a thing in the name of another person is to do it as His representative, and as realising that in some deep and real sense — for the present purpose at all events — we are one with Him. And it is when we know ourselves to be united to Christ and one with Him, and representative in a true fashion of Himself, as well as when, in humble reliance on His work for us and His loving heart, we draw near, that our prayer has power. Prayer in the name of Christ is hard to offer. It needs much discipline and watchfulness; it excludes all self-will and selfishness. The end of the Son’s working is the glory of the Father, that same end, and not our own ease or comfort, must be the end and object of all prayer which is offered in His name. When we so pray we get an answer.
Trust ourselves to Christ, and let our desires be stilled, to listen to His voice in us, and let that voice speak. And then, we shall be lifted above ourselves, and strength will flow into us, and we shall be able to say, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)
Let the hymn “Christ Before Us” remind us to be for one another all that Christ would have us be: