Doing the (Miraculous) Works of Jesus: Reflections on John 14:12 (Part Three)1
In the previous two articles we’ve been looking at John 14:12 Continue reading . . .
In the previous two articles we’ve been looking at John 14:12 where Jesus said,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to my Father."
After looking at a variety of attempts to account for the meaning of this passage, I said this in the previous article: “Most people argue that Jesus can’t mean what he seems to mean because we know it hasn’t happened. Believers in Jesus have not, in point of fact, done the same works that he did. I disagree. It has happened. And is happening.”
Dr. Craig Keener, whose Ph.D. is from Duke University, is one of the most highly regarded evangelical NT scholars in the world. He is professor of NT at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has written what is widely regarded as the definitive treatment of miracles: Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker, 2011). It is two volumes, totaling 1,172 pages! He spends the first 250 pages or so defending the reliability of the miracle accounts in the Bible and responds at length to the philosophical and theological arguments that some have used to deny the possibility of the miraculous.
But by far and away the largest portion of these two volumes is devoted to recording and describing miracles of every sort from all around the world during the present church age, with special attention given to the last 150 years or so. He cites documented miracles of healing and deliverance in the Philippines, in Thailand, Viet Nam, in Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Dozens and dozens of documented examples from reliable sources are listed.
He has several hundred examples from churches in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, South Korea, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and China. The remarkable growth of the church in China is due in large part to the reality of the supernatural as people are confronted with what they simply can’t deny: that there is a supernatural God who answers the prayers of his people.
The cases he cites involve healings of every imaginable sort: cancerous tumors, congenital blindness, deafness, paralysis, heart disease, kidney disease, tuberculosis, and diabetes, just to mention a few. On top of this Keener reports several documented cases of people being raised from the dead.
He proceeds to devote several chapters and a couple of hundred pages to miracle after miracle after miracle in Africa, throughout Latin America, and in the Caribbean. He focuses specifically on the work of Reinhard Bonnke in Nigeria and Heidi Baker in Mozambique, as well as in the Republic of Congo.
The accounts he records from virtually every country in South America are stunning, especially in Ecuador and Chile. He also describes dozens of miracles in Cuba.
At this point in the book, he turns his attention to miracles throughout the entire course of Christian history, beginning in the era immediately following the age of the apostles. People who have argued that when the apostles died, miracles ceased, simply have not looked at the evidence. Keener has, and he describes them in great detail. He chronicles miracles throughout the Middle Ages and even into the time of the Reformation.
In my dialogue over the years with cessationists, people who believe miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased or died out following the death of the last apostle in the late first century a.d., I often hear them declare with great confidence: “If God intended for spiritual gifts to continue, why did they die out following the death of the Apostle John? Why is it that they are nowhere found in the first several hundred years of the church’s history following the apostolic age?” My answer is simple: They didn’t disappear! They are present and operative throughout the first five hundred years of church history, and I’ve thoroughly and meticulously documented such. And so too has Craig Keener.
He describes countless miracles in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries among a wide variety of Protestant traditions. And his examples are from virtually every Protestant denomination: Baptist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Methodist, Pentecostal, as well as from virtually every theological tradition.
He devotes several hundred pages to documenting a wide variety of healing miracles throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
In one ten-page sequence he documents with great detail no fewer than 95 stunning miracles of a wide variety and brings it to a conclusion by saying: “Such accounts represent only a very small sample of the claims” (p. 505).
He turns his attention to healings of blindness and documents more than 350 instances. He also focuses on a variety of types of paralysis that were healed and several dozen instance of resurrections from the dead. And that’s only in Volume 1!
Are all the hundreds and hundreds of miraculous claims cited by Keener authentic? Probably not. And he openly concedes that point. But the utmost care was taken in his research and only the most rigorous standards of medical documentation and eye-witness testimony were utilized. Even if there are many instances that ultimately prove to be false, one simply cannot ignore or deny the hundreds, dare I say thousands of cases that Keener cites. And may I remind you that this is only one man’s research. I would not be surprised if dozens of volumes of God’s miraculous work could be written if there were enough time and people available to record them all.
I’m not basing my conclusions solely on Keener’s research. I’ve read dozens of other books that testify to the same truth. I do not base my interpretation of John 14:12 on Keener’s work or that of anyone else. I simply cite Keener’s work as evidential confirmation of what I think John 14:12 clearly asserts.
So what, then, are we to conclude about John 14:12? My answer is two-fold, corresponding to the two halves of the verse. As noted, in the second half of the verse Jesus says his followers will do “greater works” than he did and that this is due to the fact that he is about to go “to the Father.” Thus our works are “greater” not because of their quantity or quality but because they occur under the terms of the superior New Covenant, empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus gave to us in unprecedented fullness on the day of Pentecost.
But in the first half of v. 12 we hear Jesus promise that his followers will do the same or equivalent works that he did. Whereas many try to explain this away, I am confident in saying that what Jesus prophesied has already been fulfilled in the course of church history and is in the process of being fulfilled in our day as well.
Therefore, our response to the possibility of the miraculous, in whatever form it might occur, is not to be cynical, skeptical, doubtful, or gullible. We must instead, at all times, be prayerful and hopeful.