Vol 4:23 Missional Vision: We Shall Do Greater Things

This past week I was at the Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix in which we discerned how to respond to the issue of immigration in the United States – how do we embrace the stranger among us, especially when they appear as undocumentable immigrants.

On our first evening of worship, we sang God of this City by Chris Tomlin. The chorus of this song expresses:

For greater things have yet to come And greater things are still to be done in this City Greater thing have yet to come And greater things are still to be done in this City

This song was meant to be a prayer for the church’s witness in Phoenix and Arizona in being a voice on behalf of the immigrant – who is often the unwelcome stranger among us. As we sang this song, I began to reflect on the missional nature of these words of Jesus found in John 14:12 – “all who have faith 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.”

What might Jesus mean by: “we shall do greater things?” I began to realize that Jesus is envisioning more than the mere multiplication of his ministry because there are more of us involved. Indeed, Jesus healing, Jesus taught, Jesus cast out demons, but I believe Jesus envisioned that we would not only do the things he did, but that we would do other greater things – things that Jesus did not do, or did not even think of doing.

In doing greater things, Jesus was envisioning that we would participate with God in God’s mission, just as he did, but that in being multiplied and filled with the Spirit, we would be active participators with God in advancing God’s reign into areas that Jesus did not envision in his three short years of ministry.

Indeed, Jesus came as God with us to establish the sole foundation for our participation with God in God’s mission. Jesus inaugurated God’s reign; Jesus was the embodiment of God’s reign; Jesus gave visibility to what God’s reign looked like in relationship with people in setting people free. Jesus demonstrated the transforming power of God’s reign by healing, by casting out demons, by teaching, by setting people free.

And Jesus provided the impetus for the ongoing transforming ministry of God’s people by conquering the power of sin and death over humanity through the cross and the resurrection. Jesus came to make possible the ongoing missional work of God’s people. Jesus came to create a new reality, a new humanity, a new community, yet Jesus never intended to do everything. Jesus came to mark a new beginning and he trusted the Spirit of God to continue the work that he began in myriads of ways beyond what he was able to do – hence, “you shall do greater things.”

Jesus, I believe, did not intend to address every issue, nor was he aware, at that time, every issue we would encounter two millennia later as his people. He was leaving this for us to do; he was trusting the Spirit in us to lead us to engage new issues, break down new barriers, and to uncover contemporary principalities and powers. Though the cross and resurrection promise that there is no longer any principality or power that has ultimate reign over God’s creation, we are called to continue participating with God in fostering the advance of God’s reign into every dark place in creation with the light and presence of Christ. In doing this, we are about doing greater things than he.

Jesus was leaving much of what still needed to be done undone – leaving these things for us to do, for us to extend and continue the reach of God’s purposes in the world.

Jesus enabled and modeled what our participation with God in God’s mission is to encompass. And as we engage issues that face us today as God’s people in the world – issues of violence, issues of inclusion, issues of justice and issues of stewardship – we engage in the greater things that Jesus was imagining.

Rather than these greater things being additions to what Jesus did, our engaging in God’s mission becomes a geometric expansion and expression of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven – indeed doing greater things that Jesus imagined us doing – even beyond what he did.

Jesus laid the foundation, overcoming the power of sin and death, and he poured out the Spirit upon us so that we could extend and complete, in participation with God, the work that he began to do. Luke in Acts 1, I believe has this understanding in mind when he wrote, “In my former book . . . I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach . . .” with the implication that Jesus left the finishing of God’s renewing and transforming work to be done through God’s missional people.

As we live out our discipleship in following Jesus, may the Spirit of God guide us in doing greater things that Jesus ever sought to do.

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iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl