My church has been recently doing a study on the life of Jesus Christ. A few weeks ago, the text was on some healings early in His ministry, recorded in Luke 5:12-26. Confronted by a paralytic, Jesus responds by declaring that the man’s sins are forgiven (v.20). Immediately the religious leaders denounce Him as a blasphemer since God is the only one with the power to forgive sins (v.21). Before healing the man, Jesus replies to His critics, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (v. 23). Although the claim to forgive sins is greater than the claim to heal the suffering, He seems to have made a good point: that someone’s ability or inability to forgive sins is not easily proven or refuted whereas the powers to heal are more so. In short, it is easier to falsely claim to be God than to actually substantiate that claim with miracles. Yet, as Jesus’ opponents knew, the former false claim would be a serious affront to our Heavenly Father, hence their reaction in this story.
Thinking more about this made me realize how often attention is paid to those whose claims are like the ability to heal rather than like the claim of being a deity. For example, many Christians are eager to dismiss faith healers and modern-day miracle workers as quacks. Those charlatans, especially if they were on television decades ago, are a favorite conversation topic, especially among those who regret being duped once. Yet, what is the claim of God-given healing powers compared to the claim to being God? The likes of Marjoe Gortner* are more likely to come up in conversation than the Shakers’ Ann Lee, the NOI’s Wallace Fard, or members of “I’m a goddess” movements. It’s almost as if Christians ignore false claims of divinity, despite the vast numbers who are often led astray. Are we just not taking them seriously? Or is it just more fun to speculate the one-hundred-and-one ways a mega-church preacher might be faking miracles?
*By the way, language and adult subjects notwithstanding, I really enjoyed watching Marjoe, a documentary available on Netflix that was recommended awhile ago by a friend.