{Word Study} Works “Erga”


John 14:12:  “Greater works than these shall you do because I go to the Father.”
Works: Greek – erga:  Activity, deed occupation. Aramaic – abad:  Work product, result of an activity.  A works ultimate impact.
I remember when I was a pastor in a liberal denomination, one that really did not concern itself with the divinity of Jesus or the inspiration of Scripture.  I received a promotional filmstrip (remember filmstrips in Sunday School?) from the denominational headquarters with the latest propaganda showing the amazing achievements of our denomination.  I remember watching this presentation thinking like Grover of Sesame Street: “I am so poud.” That was until they got to the part about their medical missions program and they showed a picture of Jesus healing a lame man with the caption: “Jesus said: ‘Greater things than these shall you do.”  The next picture showed a missionary doctor and nurse in an operating room.  My spirit was quickened as I thought: “This is greater works? Cutting someone open, leaving a scar and possibly some permanent minor disability in favor of a major one?”  Until then I never really thought about that verse.  I mean Jesus raised the dead, how are you going to top that?
As a teacher I am always hoping and praying for a student who will surpass me in my studies.  A student who will go on to follow the latest finds in Archeology and in the studies of Ancient languages.  One hundred years ago, no one knew anything about the Hittites except they were mentioned in the Bible.  Since then they not only discovered their cities, but their language as well, which shed new light on the Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, knowledge that Christianity did not have for 2,000 years.   With the explosion of technology and Biblical research, questions about the Bible which seemingly had no answers 15 years ago have very simple solutions.  I will not live to see what the next 50 years will hold in Biblical studies, but I long to see this next generation pick up the mantel and teacher greater insights into God’s Word.
We tend to view John 14:12 as reference to the healing ministry of Jesus.  Yet that was the most visible part of His ministry.  The passage says “works” not healing.   The word “works” in the Greek is erga which has the idea of an occupation or employment.   Jesus’s occupation was to do the will of the Father, be a teacher and spokesman for the Father.  His occupation was not as a healer that was just one of the tools he used in His occupation.  The Aramaic word is even more telling what this “work” is.  The Aramaic Peshitta New Testament gives the word for “work” as nava from the root word abad.  Oddly, the more common word for work is palah which means an occupation and labor.  Abad has more of the idea of the work product, or its results.
At the end of the day, Jesus had only twelve disciples, his abad was not that great.  But the disciple’s went out and evangelized the world, their abad was much greater.   Jesus’s work or abad only touched a small geographical area and a handful of people.  Billy Graham and other evangelist or teachers of God have touched millions, far “greater” than what Jesus accomplish or I should say intended to accomplish.  His only mission was to get the ball rolling; He left it up to His disciples to do the greater “work” or “abad.”
The abad has little to do with healing but everything to do with the impact of the message of Jesus.  In His preaching and debates, Jesus silenced the religious teachers of in the Judean area.  We are called to silence the teachers who oppose Jesus in a far greater geographical area.  His disciples stood before governors, kings and even the high priest and silenced them.  Jesus planted the seeds, His disciples carried His message to powerful religious centers in the whole Mesopotamia area and today His followers carry His message to the world, a much greater “work” or “abad.”