Let’s read that verse: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (NKJV). As you can see from the words of Jesus, He not only said that the believer would do “the works that I do,” but He went on to say “and greater works than these he will do.” In other words, He is promising that believers would do works greater than the ones you mentioned! That makes your question even more difficult to answer, for what could be greater than raising the dead and healing the sick?

We believe there is a simple and satisfactory answer to these questions, but before we seek to answer them from the scriptures we need to ask, “Who, exactly, was Jesus speaking to?” If we were to read the first 11 verses, we would learn that Jesus was speaking to His eleven disciples (Judas Iscariot, who was not a true believer, had already left the room…see John 13:18-30). They had already been given the power to do these works, for we read in verse 1, “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of diseases.” Verse 8 goes on to say they would also “cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.” In the verse we are considering I believe He is promising them that they will CONTINUE TO DO THOSE WORKS after He returns to heaven. This was confirmed after Jesus’ resurrection in Mark 16:14-17 where we read, “Later He appeared to THE ELEVEN….and He said TO THEM, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And THESE SIGNS will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” We learn two things here: 1) the ELEVEN APOSTLES would continue to do the works that Jesus did; and 2) OTHER BELIEVERS would also be able to perform these miraculous works. In the book of Acts, we have the fulfillment of this promise, for the Apostles did perform such miracles as we see in Acts 5:12, “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.” Later we read there were others who were able to do the SIGNS that were mentioned in Mark 16, for some spoke in “new tongues” (2:1-4 and 10:44-46) and Paul healed the sick (), raised the dead (20:7-12), and was bitten by a poisonous snake without being harmed (28:1-6).

Now let’s answer your specific question. Why can’t believers today perform the works that Jesus did? To answer this, we need to see that “the works” and “the signs” were 1) PHYSICAL signs, and 2) TEMPORARY in nature. If we read on in Mark 16:20 it says, “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and CONFIRMING THE WORD THROUGH THE ACCOMPANYING SIGNS.” The physical miracles performed had a purpose; to “confirm the word” that the apostles were preaching. Once the Word of God (that they preached) was confirmed, the purpose for the signs was fulfilled and they were no longer needed. As one reads through the book of Acts you see that miracles became less and less and we can conclude from the epistles that they finally ceased. That, dear friend, is why you don’t see believers today performing the physical signs promised in Mark 16:17-18.

We have one more question to answer. What are the “greater works” that Jesus referred to in our verse? I believe the answer to this is in seen in the difference between the PHYSICAL SIGNS that believers performed and the SPIRITUAL WORKS they did. As “they went forth and preached everywhere” thousands upon thousands of souls were saved. For example, on the Day of Pentecost alone 3,000 souls were saved (2:41) and sometime later Peter and John preached the gospel and 5,000 souls were saved (5:1-4). The Lord Jesus also preached the gospel and people believed on Him, but we don’t read of great numbers being saved. So, the “greater works” must refer to the SPIRITUAL RESULTS that occurred after the Lord ascended to heaven and believers went out into all the world and preached the gospel. And that “blessed work” continues to this day! So, don’t be discouraged that you aren’t able to perform the “physical works” that Jesus did, or the “physical signs” that believers in the early church did. Instead, rejoice that you can preach the good news of salvation through faith in Christ and see the miracle of salvation and New Birth in those who believe.  (DO)  (541.5)