John 14:12 – We Can Walk on Water? – Part 1

In addition to teaching this lesson today, I want to teach something else at the same time.
·    Because of the text’s obvious puzzling nature, it provides us with an excellent opportunity.
·    I want to show you how I study the text and gather info for my lessons.
·    My hope is that in addition to understanding Jesus’ startling proposition, you will also come away with some ways to make your personal bible study more effective.
o   Something you should be teaching your children.

To facilitate teaching both the lesson and how I prepare a lesson, we will go through eight steps.
1.  What does the text say?
2.  Ask questions?
3.  Context, context, context
4.  Word Study
5.  Analogy of faith
6.  Affirming the negative
7.  Meaning and Answers
8.  Commentaries

How I blend these and the extent I use each depends on the text.
·    Today’s text, for example, requires an in depth word study.
·    But that is not always the case.
·    And I almost always come up with more info than I put into a lesson.

Before we begin, a few cautions.
·    Never go straight to your study Bible or commentaries – they come last and will serve to correct any mistakes you made in the study process.
·    Never read a single Bible verse (“judge not lest ye be judged” example).
·    Never interpret Scripture with experience; interpret your experience with Scripture.
·    Always let the text speak; your goal is to know the truth not be “right”.

John 14:12–14 (ESV) — 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.


This is not the time to hash out any meaning.
·    It is simply a restating of the text to ensure you understand its basic premises.

Jesus makes a conditional statement and uses the future tense to do so.
·    If you believe in Me, then you will “do the works that I do” and “greater works than these” you will do.

He then qualifies His statement with additional commentary.
·    This will happen “because I am going to the Father

After we get more info on our text, understanding that Jesus qualifies His conditional statement will help deepen our understanding.


At this time, we are asking questions about what the text means, not questions about what it means for us.
·    Questions about implications and applications for us can be rightly handled only after we know what the text means.
·    So save those questions for later.

Some Questions:
·    1) What does Jesus mean by “works”?
·    2) What does He mean by “greater works” than His “works”?
·    3) What does “going to the Father” mean?
o   And why did Jesus qualify his statement with “going to the Father”?
·    4) What future is in view?

Once we come up with a few good questions, we need to gather the info to answer them.
·    And as we do this, the context of the text must always be in view.
·    Context is king.


Context has to be a consideration in every step of the studying process.
·    But it is also necessary to understand the general context of the text itself.

We learned last week that John 14 is what is called the Farewell Discourse.
·    Jesus’ words here follow a number of startling revelations.
·    Judas will betray Jesus.
·    Peter will deny Jesus.
·    And where Jesus is going they cannot come.
o   “lifted up” to the cross
o   “exalted” to the right hand of the Father

He also sought to comfort them by telling them that a time will come when they will be with Him again.
·    He is going to prepare a place for them and He will return to get them.
·    So, just as today’s text speaks of the future, Jesus also was speaking in the future tense with His assurance that He will return.

Jesus also dropped the ultimate J-Bomb when He taught them He is the only way to the Father.
·    This was a further assurance to them.
·    He will come back for them and they will be with Yahweh.

From this understanding of the Context, we can already answer a couple of our questions.
·    Going to the Father” means Jesus journey through the cross and His exaltation to the Father’s right hand.
o   Why this qualifies His works statement in our text today, however, we don’t yet know.
·    And using the future tense, Jesus is referring to a time not before His exaltation at the very least.

So this is the context in which Jesus speaks John 14:12.
·    This context should influence any direction we take going forward.

BTW – John 14:12 is yet another encouragement for the disciples.
·    Not only will He come back for them, but it appears they will get to walk on water.
·    This will make for great fishing!

Now let’s move on to a word study to help us answer the other questions.
·    We need to know what “works” are and what “greater” signifies.


It will help to look at how else the word, in Greek “ergon”, is used by John.
·    Depending on context, it does have a variety of meanings.
o   Evil deeds (John 3:19-20)
o   Good deeds (John 3:21)
o   Revelation of God’s Glory/Light (John 2:11; 11:4; 9:3-5)
o   Belief that Jesus is of the Father (John 6:28-29)
o   John 6:28–29 (ESV) — 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

It is also helpful to know that “signs” and “works” are often used as synonyms in John.
·    We know this from John 6:30.
o   John 6:30 (ESV) — 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?

We also need to notice a very important contextual observation.
·    It appears that when “works” refers to miracles it does so in context of a warrant for belief.
·    Jesus’ works = Reasons to believe

Examples of “Jesus’ works = Reasons to believe”:
·    John 2:23 (ESV) — 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.
·    John 7:31 (ESV) — 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

And so given the “signs/works” connection and the “works/believe” contextual consideration, we can see “works” as miracles in numerous examples similar to our text.
·    John 5:36 (ESV) — 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
·    John 10:25 (ESV) — 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,
·    John 10:37–38 (ESV) — 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

And importantly, in the immediate context of our text (vs. 12), verse 11 presents the same connections:
·    John 14:11 (ESV) — 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Once you have done some leg work yourself, it is also helpful to consult Lexicons and Dictionaries.
·    The BDAG (The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) tells us that in our context that “works” are “the deeds of God and Jesus, specifically miracles.”
·    The TDNT (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) tell us that, In John, works are “individual acts of God” that “bear witness to Jesus and the salvation that he brings…” (cf. Jn. 5:20, 36; 7:3, 21; 10:25; 14:10ff.; 15:24).

So I think it is clear that when Jesus speaks of “works” in our text, He is referring to His miracles.
·    Miracles whose purpose was to authenticate His ministry and point to His origins from the Father and God’s glory.
·    This appears to be the answer to our 1st question.

The Greek word is “megas”.
·    Jesus used the “greater works” once before in John.
·    John 5:20–21 (ESV) — 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
·    The “greater” is apparently the “gives life to whom he will”.

Lexicon/Dictionary Definitions:
·    In our context the BDAG tells us the word is not making a quantitative claim but a qualitative claim.
·    In other words, not “more” works but “better” works.

So it appears that “greater works” are qualitatively better than the signs and wonders.
·    And it seems they might possibly pertain to the giving of life.
·    This appears to be the answer to our 2nd question.

So, right now it appears that believers should be walking on water and raising people from the dead.
·    At this point, we need to hold out that this is a possibility.
·    This doesn’t feel right, but feelings cannot be part of the equation.
·    We have to go where the text leads.
·    But, we are not done yet.
·    We need to do a couple of very important things before we can get to the bottom of Jesus’ words.

BTW – We can be tempted at this point to start asking implication/application questions.
·    If I am a “whoever believes” why can’t I “_________”?
·    We have to resist this until we exhausted our study and have understood the text as best we can.

We need to now move on to one of the most important study tools, Analogy of Faith.
·    You will see next week why this is so crucial to effective Bible study.