Doing the Works He has Done

 

By Pastor Cofer
Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 14:1-14

Have you ever broken your arm or leg?  I did, back when I was in first grade.  My right elbow was fractured for a significant portion of that year.  I don’t remember a lot about that year, but I do remember the cast.  I remember it being sweaty and itchy inside there, and occasionally aching quite a bit.  But that wasn’t the worst part of it.  The very worst was just not having the use of that arm.

I couldn’t really play kickball or foursquare or do much on the playground at all.  I had to eat left-handed.  And, of course, I didn’t have many good options when it came to practicing my handwriting.  My wrist was fine, so I think I mostly tried to write with my right hand…. But with the cast covering part of my palm and the inability to bend my elbow, things just didn’t go well.

And then you get the cast off and you have both hands again.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  And it’s a little awkward too.  After a few months of immobility, my arm wasn’t as strong as usual.  I was clumsier with it than normal.  But after a little while it was as good as new.

A cast on one arm is an inconvenience.  But I really feel for the folks who break both at the same time.  Or even worse, being laid up in traction at the hospital.  You’re there, thinking about all the things you could be doing.  Thinking about all the work that’s piling up.  Thinking about… well, anything, because that’s about all you can do for the time being.

Brothers and Sisters, I want to tell you that Jesus has no intention of being laid up in traction. I know he’s thinking about the things he wants to get done.  I know there’s a load of work piling up.  Remember when He said, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few?”  That’s what we’re talking about here.

It is a fact that we are the Body of Christ.  We are His hands and feet.  If He is going to get any work done around here, it’s going to be through us.

Now, this isn’t a sermon about being busier.  That’s the last thing we need.  So, before you jump ahead of me, let’s just ask the very fundamental question: What is the work that Jesus wants to get done?

He’s already died and rose again, so we can cross that off the list.  He’s paid the price for the sins of the whole world.  He’s broken the power of sin and death and crushed Satan under his heel. Check, check, check.  But there is still this big job to be done – spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Spreading the life-giving, life-saving faith to folks dying without it.

think we’re probably all still on board at this point.  But what’s coming to mind is probably more about being the “mouth” of Jesus than His Hands and Feet.  Don’t get me wrong, you can’t spread the gospel without opening your mouth.  But there’s a lot of talk in this world.  And just talking about Jesus isn’t going to get it done.

So let’s take a step back and ask, how did Jesus spread the faith?  How did His disciples spread the faith?  How did the generation after them do it?  It wasn’t just talk.  They prayed, and God did impossible things… and then they got to explain it.

I used to think that miracles were a rare thing that once in a great while God would do.  Usually they’d happen to other people, and probably in some third-world country.  But by-and-large miracles were just proofs that Jesus is God.  I’m not, so I won’t do any.

A careful reading of the scriptures would kinda blow that thought out of the water.  If I can’t do them because I’m not God, how come Peter could?  How come Paul could?  How come Stephen and Philip could?  And for that matter, what about Moses and Elijah?

I had misunderstood something very important. Yes, Jesus’ miracles were proof that He is the Son of God.  But the disciples’ miracles were proof that Jesus is the Son of God.  It wasn’t about Peter’s extraordinary power.  It wasn’t about Paul’s superhuman faith.  Jesus’ followers follow Jesus. They do what they learned from Him.

Imagine what Jesus would do among us if He were here today.  If your template is the ministry you read about in the Gospels, in Acts, and in the Epistles, then it’s probably much more supernatural than what we are used to.  Why?  Because they lived in a specially blessed era of history?  Because they were physically closer to Jesus?

I don’t think those reasons hold much water.  After all, Jesus promised to be with us until the very end. And the words we read today are pretty inclusive: “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.”

The stuff that you imagine Jesus would do if He was here right now is stuff that Jesus wants to do, and that’s why He’s made us His Body on Earth.  Because He is ascended, He has passed on his ministry to us.  But not just the ministry.  He has given us his Spirit to live in us and empower us to carry out these works.

It isn’t your power, it’s His.  It’s on His authority.  It’s His promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You will ask anything in my name and I will do it.

I know it can be hard to believe that as an absolute statement, because we’ve all prayed for things that didn’t happen. And I’m not about to tell you that it’s because you didn’t believe hard enough or something.  Rather, let’s talk about what praying in Jesus’ name means.

See, there are times when the Father is glorified in ways we don’t expect.  There are times when His plans aren’t what we expect… so even though we ask, and ask in faith, He might still say no.  Those times are often hard to understand, but God can be trusted to know what’s best.

The trouble is that those experiences can be formative.  We can start expecting Him not to intervene, not to heal (or just to do so in small, natural ways).  And so we start wrapping a cast and a sling around Jesus’ arms as if they were broken – immobilizing them so we don’t hurt ourselves further.

Friends, Jesus’ arms work just fine.  His hands can do so much more than we expect or even imagine.  If we start with expecting God to say “no” to the prayers we really want to pray, then we will never pray them. Don’t you know that God’s heart is for life and healing and restoration?  “No” is not his default position… “No” is the exception, not the rule.

It isn’t about getting what we want.  It isn’t about demonstrating our great faith.  It’s about Jesus being glorified.  It’s about being His hands and feet to continue His ministry.  It’s about putting actions behind our words.

We do nothing on our own. He is calling us to pray in His Name, with His power and on His authority.  The Father is revealed in Jesus and Jesus is revealed in us when we do the works that He does through us.

 

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