There’s a mercy shortage today. And you don’t have to look far to feel its affects. Rather than give mercy, people are more prone to give criticism or condemnation. People who have been hurt by the Church, now condemn the church. People who’ve been damaged by divorce, now put down marriage. In fact, it’s become common practice among people today, to put down almost everything, to find what is wrong with everything, and to openly criticize anyone who doesn’t agree with your way of thinking. Which has given rise to the phenomenon called “The Cancel culture” which is absolutely devoid of mercy. If you are part of that culture, if you don’t agree with their point of view, your view no longer matters. Instead, you’re shouted down, condemned and some cases, even beaten.
Now, Hollywood doesn’t help matters either. Almost every dramatic movie magnifies getting even over giving mercy. Think about it, when a bad person gets justice, what do we hear? “I hope they lock him up and throw away the key.” “He deserves what he’s got coming to him.” Have you ever heard yourself say something similar toward someone who’s wronged you? There’s no mercy in that way of thinking.
Of course, then there’s this pandemic – another example of our no mercy culture. Some who fear for their health in this pandemic now openly condemn others for not wearing their masks. Others who fear we are losing our civil rights are quick to condemn you as part of the problem when you comply to government restrictions. So we’re kind of stuck in a no win situation. And all of us feel the tension. So what are we to do? What does God’s Word have to say to us in a world that’s short on mercy?
Well, that’s what we’re going to look at today as we return to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5:7, where in the midst of teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, Jesus declares: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Now if you’ve been with us the past few weeks, we’ve been learning quite a bit about the gospel of the kingdom – about who God blesses with His grace. First, He blesses the poor in spirit – those who are consciously aware of their spiritual poverty. Those with a broken and contrite spirit, who know they need God’s mercy. God blesses them because it’s their poverty of spirit that opens the flood gates of God’s mercy.
Then there are those who mourn over their sin. These are the ones who are brutally honest about their sin. They’re broken over their sin. And they don’t hide or suppress their sin, but again they seek God’s mercy for their sin. To them, God blesses with comfort – not just the forgiveness of sin, but restoration of fellowship with God.
Then there are the meek. These are the ones the world ignores or walks over to get what they want. They’re the humble ones, who feel as though this world is not their home, and they long for a world where people are treated with kindness and respect. They long for a world where no one abuses power to get what they want. To them Jesus says, you will inherit the earth. He gives hope of better way of life with Him in the kingdom of heaven. For even now with Jesus’ arrival on the scene, the meek have an advocate who is for them in a world that’s often against them.
And finally, there are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. These are the ones who are not satisfied with the way they are, or with the way the world is. They want to be right with God and see things made right in our world. To those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, God blesses with a new kind of righteousness – His righteousness. He makes us Oaks of righteousness where we can begin to make our world right again – right where we are planted.
And now Jesus announces a fifth blessing. This time to those who are merciful, and he says, Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Who are the merciful? Jesus was speaking to those with caring and compassionate hearts. These were the meek ones who knew what it was like to not receive care. These were the ones who had compassion for the sick and imprisoned. These are the ones who brought food and clean clothing to those in the leper colonies. And these were the ones who care for others, even when others try to take advantage of them, all because their hearts are full of mercy. And these are the ones Jesus blesses, for they are the ones most needed in our world today. For everyone needs mercy.
So this morning, I want us to dig a little deeper into this attitude of mercy. For if we are going to be the kind of people who makes the world right, if we’re going to help the helpless and truly live like Jesus, we need to learn what it means to be a people who are led by mercy. What is mercy? The biblical definition is this: Mercy is compassion that acts to help someone in need. Mercy is compassion that acts to bring relief to pain, misery or distress. Mercy is compassion that acts to help those who can’t help themselves. Therefore mercy is a tangible expression of God’s love to help anyone who is in need.
To contrast this, think of those who are selfish. John MacArthur pens this contrasting image, saying, “The selfish, self-sustained, and self-righteous do not bother to help anyone – unless they think something is in it for them. Sometimes they even justify their lack of love and mercy under the guise of religious duty.” This is why Jesus gave us the parable of the good Samaritan. He gave us this parable to illustrate for us what true mercy looks like. Let me read this for us from Luke 10, On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Here was Jesus’ reply: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
That’s mercy! That’s seeing a person in need and being led to help: “When he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.” Mercy led him to be inconvenienced, to be interrupted from his normal routine. Mercy led him to get involved, get his hands dirty, and give care. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Mercy led him to use whatever means he had to help him. He used his SUV. He gave him a ride. He probably got blood on his new upholstery. And then mercy led him to get him a room and hire someone to help him. Mercy led him to give generously and sacrificially to love on a stranger who was in dire straights. That’s what mercy does. It doesn’t just care – mercy leads you to act.
Now, I don’t know about you. But I need this reminder. It’s easy to put off helping someone in need. It’s easy to make excuses. “I don’t have enough time.” “It’s not safe.” “It could cost me something.” “He might be diseased.” “He might be dangerous.” “This could get messy.” You, see, I know I can use my own ministry as an excuse to avoid giving mercy. And that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t ever want to be too busy to give mercy. I don’t want to have my life so well planned out that God can’t interrupt me with someone who needs mercy. And I don’t think you want that either.
And the reason why, is that mercy is a tangible expression of Christ’s love. Think about this: Jesus was the most merciful human being who ever lived. He reached out to heal the sick, restore the crippled, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and even give life to the dead. He touched lepers. He made prostitutes and tax collectors His friends. And the drunken and washed up, he included them in his circle. When the Scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress to Him to see if He would agree to her stoning, He confronted them with their merciless hypocrisy, saying, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” When no one stepped forward to condemn the woman, Jesus said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:7-11)… Jesus wept with the wounded. Jesus loved the unlovely. Jesus took children into His arms and blessed them. Jesus was merciful to everyone in need. Why? Because everyone needs mercy.
That’s why Jesus went to the cross. There’s no greater picture of mercy then when Jesus gave His life on the cross. Mercy led Jesus to pray for his executioners: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Mercy led Jesus to comfort the thief hanging beside him, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Mercy led Jesus to say to His mother, “Woman, here is your son” And to John, “Here is your mother.” Thus providing her a home in his dying moments. Then mercy led Jesus to say, “It is finished.” And at that moment, all the mercy of God was poured out through the blood of Jesus to meet our greatest need.
Old time preacher Donald Barnhouse describes this moment on the cross, saying, “All the mercy that God ever will have on man He has already had, when Christ died. That is the totality of mercy. There could not be any more… The fountain is now opened, and it is flowing, and it continues to flow freely.”
That’s MERCY! Mercy led Jesus to lay down His life, so that now, anyone who puts their trust in him will receive the mercy of God. They will be forgiven and set free from a life of sin and given life with God. It’s no wonder then, that Jesus blesses the merciful. For when you are merciful you are acting most like God, who is rich in mercy.
You see, in Jesus day, mercy was in short supply. Those who should have majored in mercy, the religious elite, were not inclined to show mercy, because mercy is not a characteristic of the proud, self-righteous, and judgmental. In fact, showing mercy was considered one of the least of virtues, if it was thought of as a virtue at all.
This is still true in our world today. We hear it expressed this way: “If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.” So giving mercy is one of the most counter-cultural things we can do. And when we give mercy to those who really need it, Jesus says, you will be blessed. God will give you mercy, He will show you mercy! And His mercy – His lovingkindness knows no end. God will always care for you, help you, forgive you, and rescue you! For mercy is at the core of God’s heart. In fact, as we move through the gospel of Matthew, this is the one characteristic of Jesus we will see over and over again. Jesus will be led mercy. He will heal, help, deliver, restore and give mercy to all who need mercy. But He will oppose those who refuse to give mercy. Mercy is everything to Jesus, because everyone needs mercy!
So let me ask you: Do you let mercy lead you?
- Do you let mercy lead you to be quick to forgive those who wrong you – or do you hold onto a grudge, harbor resentment toward the one who wronged you?
- Do you let mercy lead you to let your schedule be interrupted or your life be inconvenienced?
- Do you let mercy lead you to get involved, get uncomfortable and even risk your own safety? Or do you find yourself ignoring opportunites to help other because getting involved may just be too risky or difficult?
Years ago when we lived in British Columbia, we had a couple of college girls from Trinity Western University were boarding with us. One cold December evening, during finals week, we were surprised when Kailee showed up with an extra person to house for the night. She’d brought home a homeless lady. Now, she never asked us about bringing her into our home. She just assumed we’d would be glad to give this gal shelter for the night. But at that time, Kayla and Courtney were just little girls, and my first concern was for their safety. I still remember our dinner conversation. Kailee told me that God led her to bring this gal to our home. And I told her, that was God’s leading me to keep our girls safe. So if this gal was going to stay the night, she was Kailee’s responsibility. And I remember Kailee getting so upset with me that she left the table. But in looking back, I now see that it was Kailee who let mercy lead. Not me.
Here’s the point of this message: God favors the merciful, for the merciful are most like God, and everyone needs mercy.
In the days, weeks and months ahead – my guess is that our culture is still going to have a mercy shortage. And that’s sad, because everyone needs compassion, everyone needs kindness and everyone needs someone who will give them mercy. So my prayer for us today is simple: May Jesus give us a heart like His – so the next time we see someone who needs compassion, we would let mercy lead – just like Jesus. For as Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Let’s pray.