Our church is in a series on the Beatitudes. Last Sunday, we engaged in the fifth statement by Jesus. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Interestingly, the first four have to do with our relationship with God, and the remaining ones deal with our relationship with others. Jesus certainly knew what he was doing when he put these in order. Poor in spirit, who mourn, the meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Our pastor defined mercy this way. ‘Pity followed by action.’ It’s one thing to simply be sorry for and pity someone else, but if you have the opportunity and ability to bring comfort and healing or aid, then that is the action that completes mercy. God has spoken over the ages to his people and all others in creation. He was merciful to Israel on many occasions. As Jesus entered Jerusalem, he looked out over the city and had compassion or pity. He completed his merciful ‘action’ on the cross. He gave his life for us. I guess the question for you and me is, are we willing to give our life or give up our comfort and pleasure to show mercy to others. If so, in doing this, we are actually doing it to Jesus.
One of the major takeaways from this message yesterday was this. Jesus taught the Beatitudes to the people, not as rules and regulations, but as a lifestyle to be embraced. If we are fully engaged in the first four, then it’ll be quite simple to fulfill the remainder. Then Jesus came down off the mountain and began traveling in the region. What happens next, as recorded by Matthew, is a fulfillment of mercy as taught by Jesus. I won’t go into depth, but I will list the people he encountered along the way. You should read the stories for each.
The scriptures record that great crowds followed him. He healed a leper, a centurion’s paralyzed servant, Peter’s sick mother-in-law, followed by many that night who were oppressed by demons and sick, then two demon-possessed men, and a paralytic. And in the middle of all this, being exhausted, he slept on the boat crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples who were fearful of the storms, and he had to wake up and still the storm and the waves. Not bad for a day’s work. Mercy upon mercy!!
Jesus taught, and when he encountered these along the way, he took action. Pity followed by action=mercy. The first man that Jesus met was the leper. All of us know that it was the worst social disease at that time. They were outcasts, and no one would touch them, much less offer help. Can you even imagine what those people following him thought when he reached out and touched the leper and healed him? Today, this might be compared to AIDS, or extremely homeless or sick with some deadly disease. Use your imagination.
Many times, as human beings, we wonder ‘what’s in it for me’. Well, you don’t have to look far for the answer. You are blessed and shall receive mercy! Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, but mercy is not getting what you deserve. I kinda love both! We have been saved by grace and the mercy demonstrated on the cross of Christ. Jesus is showing us how to lead a fulfilled life, showing mercy. The joy we will receive far outweighs the discomfort we might face. If God is tugging on your heart, and you know of others, even those you may meet along the way, demonstrate mercy. We’ve been shown mercy; let us go and do the same. I’m challenged, are you?