|These are the painted images of ‘the greater things.’ We are the reality.|
A Christian brother whose faith and witness I value highly asked me, ‘Could the “greater things” include spreading the gospel and seeing lives transformed? Is not the transformation of one life from darkness to being filled with the Spirit greater than any work that they had seen Jesus do up to that point?’
Yes, since at the moment Christ spoke these words to the disciples, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given as He would be on the day of Pentecost, one can say that ‘spreading the gospel and seeing lives transformed’ could be considered ‘greater than any work that they had seen Jesus do up to that point,’ but I believe there is more to His saying than we sometimes think.
More than anything, our personal and confessional understandings of Christ and His saving work shape what we think ‘greater things’ means. For example, when I hear ‘spreading the gospel and seeing lives transformed’ I do not feel that these works are ‘greater things’ than what Christ did during His three year ministry. Why not? Because Christ did not ‘spread the gospel,’ He was the gospel, He was the good news, in human form. As for ‘seeing lives transformed,’ it cannot be doubted that everyone and even everything He touched, came in contact with, was utterly changed, and forever.
When we say or think the words ‘spread the gospel’ we have in mind a set of actions and activities that we have come to accept as ‘what the Church does,’ and this sometimes, though not in everyone, limits what is called in the book of Revelation ‘the eternal gospel’ and which includes, but transcends, ‘what the Church does,’ what you or I do when we think ‘spread the gospel.’
To the immediate disciples of Jesus Christ, both then and now, during His earthly ministry and today, to ‘spread the gospel’ means no more and no less than to be what their Lord was, is, and shall always be, the good news, the bearers of the good news, the living testimony of the gospel, the permanent presence in the world of paradise. This is no mere idealism or religious fantasy. It is both bedrock and rafters of the gospel, the house not built on sand but on the momentous words of Jesus, who in speaking them has spoken us into existence as eternal beings, younger siblings of His, with whom He works, now and forever, transforming lives, yes, transforming the whole universe.
What ‘greater things’ can there be but this?