What are ‘Greater Works’?
Final piece in three-part series by Christine Irby Williams
(the first two pieces were published in our 2014 Summer and Fall newsletters)
Just prior to his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus made this remarkable declaration to his disciples: “Verily, verily…He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12) There’s much to be considered in this passage, all of which applies to any Christian Scientist and, most certainly, to the Christian Science nurse. In my own study of this passage, here are a few new views I’ve been considering.
First, why does Christ Jesus say, “Verily, verily”? He can’t have simply meant, “Truly, truly,” because everything he said was the truth. So, he must have been asking his disciples to PAY ATTENTION! We sometimes fall asleep at very important moments, so Jesus is rousing his students to listen up and hear what he is about to say. And, since this message concerns anyone who believes on him, we are all being invited to pay attention!
“He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also…” Does he mean we are to feed multitudes, heal every disease among the people, raise the dead, walk on water, and overrule time and space? Yes! Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the word “shall” implies both a command (you must do these things) and a promise (you are able to do these things). But, Jesus doesn’t stop there. “…and greater works than these shall he do,” he adds. What could he mean by ‘greater works’?
Many have suggested that he was implying there would be more of us to do a greater number of works, spreading the gospel and its healing practice world-wide. However, the pronoun Jesus uses is singular (‘he’), not plural (‘they’); he is speaking to us individually – indicating that we each must and can do not only what he has done, but even more.
As I’ve pondered what could possibly be greater, I’ve found it helpful to look at what else he says in the collection of teachings where this message appears – the Last Supper. At that feast, Jesus explicitly tells his friends four times that they must “love one another.” (John 13:34,35, 15:12,17) Why this repetition? Did his disciples love one another, consistently and completely, in the way he loved them? Did they love one another the way the Father loved Christ Jesus? The record shows they didn’t.
Did Mary Baker Eddy’s students truly practice consistent Christly love for one another? Unfortunately, no. In fact, there were such large gaps in the love expressed among her students that she was led to disorganize the first model for The Mother Church ten years after its founding and reorganize it three years later. She did this “because this Church has not preserved the unity of Spirit and bond of Love among the brethren, which the Mother Church should…Perfect love is the bond of blessedness in Christ’s Church, and the one which I beg you to earnestly strive to attain as sometime you must, in order to demonstrate on earth Christian Science.” (Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity, Letter from Mary Baker Eddy to The Mother Church, dictated to Calvin Frye 12/02/1889)
This may be our biggest lesson to learn and the point of Jesus’ message about greater works. Christian Science nursing offers a door into the understanding and demonstration of the “vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science,” which is healing Love. (SH 113:5) Christian Science nurses are learning, practicing, and living this Christian standard daily – to love one another. This standard, found in the section of the Church Manual as “A Rule for Motives and Acts,” “Daily Prayer,” and “Alertness to Duty,” is clearly written for all members to embrace in their healing practice.
Mary Baker Eddy writes, “God has appointed for Christian Scientists high tasks, and He will not release them from the strict performance of each one of them.” (No and Yes, page 7) The ‘greater works’ of Love are ‘high tasks.’ We are called to do them; not just to wonder about who will do them or when they will be done, but to do them ourselves, each one of us. Now. Let’s value and appreciate every effort to achieve this standard, support everyone who is seeking and experiencing the healing power of Love, and let ourselves reflect this Love, which is destined to encircle the globe and to heal the world.
To read the first two pieces in this three-part series, see our 2014 Summer and Fall newsletters at http://issuu.com/csbroadview.