“Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
- Luke 5:21a
Have you ever had something really exciting happen that you couldn’t wait to share with your family and friends … and when you did, someone was a naysayer? Well, you’re not alone. History is filled with naysayers.
In 1878, many people said, “Electric lights are unworthy of any serious consideration.” While in acting school, Lucille Ball was told she couldn’t act. Charles Schultz was told he couldn’t draw. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. And in the early 1960s, a prominent recording company told the Beatles that they didn’t like their sound, and besides, guitar groups were “on the way out.”
Just about everyone who has accomplished anything significant has run into naysayers—and Jesus Christ is the ultimate example. For a little while, his supporters were many and his naysayers were few. But we see that change in the second half of Luke 5, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law come onto the scene for the first time in
Jesus was teaching in a home that was packed with people, both inside and out. So, the friends of a paralyzed man had an ingenious idea: They dug through the roof of the home and lowered their friend through the makeshift skylight into the crowded house to be healed. Jesus was impressed: “When [he] saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:20).
Now, at that point the Pharisees and teachers of the law who’d shown up that day had a legitimate concern. A rabbi, no matter how good a teacher he was, did not have the authority to forgive human sin. Only God can do that. They thought to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v.21). And although they didn’t say a word, they didn’t have to. The Son of God knew what they were thinking. And he knew that this would be a marvelous teachable moment for them and for everyone who would ever hear this story—including you and me.
Jesus asked in verse 23, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’” Well, when you think about it, it’s obviously much easier to say “Your sins are forgiven.” Anyone can say that, and it’s impossible to prove whether or not the person was actually able to do it. But “Get up and walk”—that’s tough, because it can easily be verified. If the man can’t get up and walk, the so-called healer is full of bunk. But if the man does indeed get up and walk—well, the healer has just pulled off the impossible. And of course, that’s just what Jesus did. He said, “Get up, take your mat and go home,” and the paralytic stood up and went home with his mat, praising God all the way (vs. 24-25). The crowd was left amazed … and the naysayers were left with egg on their faces.
But here’s something that’s easy to miss: Right before Luke recounts this event, he tells us in verse 16, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” In his commentary on Luke, theologian William Barclay points out that this is likely no accident: “Before [Jesus] met the opposition, he withdrew to pray. The love in the eyes of God compensated him for the hate in the eyes of men. He drew strength for the battle of life from the peace of God—and it is enough for the disciple that he should be as his Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but I find Barclay’s words extremely insightful. It’s no accident that Jesus was in the regular habit of going off alone and spending quality time with God the Father. Jesus KNEW what was coming. Jesus KNEW that the days of having plenty of supporters and hardly any critics were not going to last much longer. And he knew that once the criticism from the religious leaders began, it would not stop until they crucified him. So, Jesus drew strength from getting away alone with God.
Think about it. Why do we so often become weary in doing good? Why do we get so discouraged by the criticism of the naysayers in this life? Well, for starters, it happens because we’re not spending serious time soaking in the love of God or embracing His strength and peace. If you’re doing anything significant for God, sooner or later you WILL be nay-sayed; you WILL be criticized; and you may even be slandered. If you’re not prayed up, you’re likely to get down in the dumps … fast.
Or maybe at times, you might be like the Pharisees. They didn't come to learn God's word or to grow closer to him. They came as naysayers and cold spectators. I wonder, do you ever do the same? Do you attend worship services with no expectancy that you’re going to meet God, no expectancy that your love for God and Jesus Christ is going to grow, no expectancy that your circumstances are going to change? You may not be a naysayer, but in our culture, it’s very easy to be like them and be a disengaged spectator.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.