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Episode 39 of 52

9/25/16 Laaveg: Mercy!

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Matthew 5:1-9 (

Grace and mercy and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

One of the most hauntingly eloquent words of Jesus comes from the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” When the world knows that we by faith are the followers of Jesus Christ and we have shown mercy to others, it will cause us to stand out as distinctly different from the rest of the culture. We will be radically countercultural, and we will never more accurately reflect God’s heart than when we show mercy to others as God has been merciful to us.

Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi party during World War II, was a spy for the allies and is credited with saving over 1200 Jewish lives during the atrocities of that war by employing them in his manufacturing plants. In a movie depicting his life in that point of history, Schindler goes to visit Amon Goeth, a prison camp commandant. Just before he arrives, Goeth is sitting on the deck outside his house overlooking the prison camp. He’s been shooting a high-powered rifle, picking off those helpless Jewish people who are prisoners of war, killing them for sport. When Schindler arrives, Goeth says, “Control is power.”

Schindler says, “Is that why they fear us?”

“We have the power to kill,” Goeth says.

Schindler says, “Power to kill arbitrarily. Revenge is power to kill is better. But really that’s not power; that’s justice. It’s different than power. Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.”

“Power?” says Goeth.

“That’s what the Emperor said. A man stole and was brought before the Emperor. The man threw himself down and begged for mercy. He knew he was going to die. He knew he deserved to die, but the Emperor pardoned him. This worthless man, he let him go. That’s power. Pardon, forgiveness, and mercy – that’s power.”

The power of an act of mercy has the ability to change the world, and that’s what Jesus calls us to offer in His name. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said this: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

If we were going to define mercy, we might point to a person who deserves judgment, but it’s withheld, and compassion and kindness are shown instead. Yet mercy can also be broader. Psalm 145 says, “The Lord is good to all; his mercies are poured out over all his works.”

When we look at the life of Jesus, it’s interesting that in three separate stories those who are broken and in need beg for Jesus to show them mercy. The first is about Bartimaeus, the blind man sitting by the road outside Jericho. He knows Jesus is coming by, so he cries out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus, despite the opposition of the crowd, calls the blind man to Him and heals him miraculously. The blind man whose sight is restored, having received mercy, follows Jesus.

We see the Canaanite woman beg for Jesus’ mercy in Matt. 15:22-28. Her daughter was demon possessed, and she even overrides Jesus’ initial reluctance and begs again. Even the dogs under the table eat the scraps that are thrown. Have mercy. The man who had a demon-possessed son said, “Have mercy on me, o Lord.”

So from the life of Jesus, we see this pattern:

Mercy sees the distress, helplessness, and suffering.

It responds with inner compassion.

Compassion then propels us to relieve the suffering or reverse the distress. We show mercy.

That’s how we would follow the pattern of Jesus. Mercy is linked to forgiveness. In Titus 3 we read this: “According to God’s great mercy, he saved us.” So mercy was behind forgiveness. Forgiveness is the fruit of mercy. When God looked at our broken condition with compassion, affection, and sympathy, He sent Jesus Incarnate on a mission of mercy, and