Imagine being on the side of a mountain hearing this no-name, backwater preacher dropping this beautifully powerful poem. Think about the energy in that crowd. People often committed on how Jesus spoke with power and authority. He commanded the room (or mountain side). Love him or hate him, you listened to him. There was power in the words he spoke.
Jesus has now reach the point in his poem-sermon where he switches his focus from the inward man to the outward actions. First he identified the emptiness required to be filled with righteousness: poverty of spirit, mourning, and meekness. Now he is going to show us what being filled with righteousness looks like in action. He proclaims, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
This is part five of our Beatitudes series you can review and catch up here.
Think back to yesterday’s post, the poor in spirit are longing to be filled with mercy and Jesus has promised they will be filled with mercy. Now he commanded them to share it. In other words Jesus is saying, “To keep the mercy you have been given you must give mercy yourself. Let’s look at these questions: What is mercy? And who are the merciful?
Let’s dig in.
In order to understand mercy you have to first understand justice. There is a moral code built into the universe that we all know to be true. (Rom 1:19-20) Now, the fall and sin have skewed it but we all have this deep sense that Justice is real and we should pursue it. We want the world to be right. We want the evil gone. So we desire a world where all the wrongs have been righted. Which leads to a second desire. We want those who violate justice punished.
Mercy, however, is when someone forgives another person of a wrong done and doesn’t hold them to the penalty they deserve. This is what God has done for us. God has extended mercy to us by not holding our sin against us and offering forgiveness of our sins through Jesus. The Bible says much about mercy and forgiveness but let’s look at three verses.
Titus 3:5 read like this, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…” It wasn’t because we deserved mercy that God saved us. It was because God is merciful.
Peter 1:3 says it was, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Again, mercy is granted to us not because we did anything but because God is merciful.
Luke 6:36, Jesus is wrapping up a discourse on loving your enemies and says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Basically Jesus is saying God has been merciful to you now it’s your turn to be merciful to others. It’s your turn to forgive the wrongs done to you.
The merciful are those who follow God’s lead in forgiveness. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his disciples to pray and says this, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (vs.12) Then later in verse 14 Jesus expands on the idea of forgiveness and says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Now that is a weighty statement. And it sound similar to, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Let’s look at a parable that Jesus told about an unforgiving servant, to grasp a better understanding of this concept. Before you go on read Matthew 18:21-35.
The highlights of the story teach us the importance of extending mercy and the foolishness of withholding it.
- The first servant has a debt that would be impossible to repay and yet the master has mercy on him. This is our relationship with God. It would be impossible for us to atone for our sins yet God offers us mercy.
- The first servant, however, fails to extend the same mercy to the servant who owes him a debt. This is us when we fail to forgive those who have wronged us; when we don’t extend mercy.
- And what happened to the unforgiving servant when the master found out. Jesus says, “Then the master summoned him and said to him, you wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Mercy and forgiveness are gifts we have been given but they were never meant to be bottled up and put on a shelf. They were meant to be poured out to those around us. As we receive mercy and forgiveness from God we should extend them to those around us. Blessed are those who have received mercy, for they shall be merciful.