A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 5:7
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Our journey through the Beatitudes of Jesus is like climbing a ladder. Each statement is dependent on and rises out of the one before it. They rely on one another and build upon each other. If we were to consider these apart from their context, then we could come away with a very distorted idea of what Jesus has for us. For example, we might think that the verse we are looking at together—blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy—teaches that we show others mercy in order to earn mercy. But this is a distortion of truth and we see this clearly when we take all of the Beatitudes in context.
In the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically in the Beatitudes, Jesus is not describing how we can be saved, but rather he is describing those who are saved. He is saying, “Those who belong to my kingdom live this way.” Jesus is presenting a picture of the flourishing and blessed life of those who belong to him. In other words, he is inviting his disciples into a certain blessed way of living, saying, “Now that you are my disciples, live in the good life I have for you.”
Jesus begins his Sermon by telling his listeners that those who are poor in spirit are blessed. He describes this position—being poor in spirit—as precisely the position of divine happiness—“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is only from this position, this vantage point, that one can receive the saving grace and goodness of God for salvation.
The next verse climbs up the next rung of the ladder. Jesus begins with the same word, “Blessed,” which means divinely and truly happy or flourishing, “Blessed are those who mourn . . .” Those who are poor in spirit recognize that they have nothing to claim for their own but sin, and so they grieve over the damage that the curse of sin has unleashed on the world. They are those who mourn.
And those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who recognize that their only hope lies outside of themselves and in the grace of God, they are meek. Their lives are marked by a humility and a lowliness that reflects the humility of Jesus Christ, the one who’s very heart is gentle and lowly.
From this meekness, the disciples of Christ hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. They long for it in their own lives, but they also long to see his righteousness put on display in the world around them. They look to God and his righteousness as they navigate life in this world.
The Beatitude that we give our attention to now is a natural outworking of these first four. Aware of our own destitution and hopelessness in ourselves, we are driven out of ourselves to look to Jesus Christ. He alone can meet our needs and the needs of those around us. God intends that life in his kingdom is one that flows out to others by extending to others the same mercy we have received in Jesus Christ. In other words, God shows us mercy that we might show mercy to others.
The initial question we need to address is this: “What does it mean to be merciful?” If we answer this question incorrectly then we really have no idea what the point of Jesus’s declaration is at all. So, we must begin here by understanding mercy.
I’ve often heard grace and mercy described together. I’ve been told that grace is receiving what we don’t deserve and mercy is not receiving what we do deserve. While there is some truth to this, this casts mercy in a somewhat negative light. This isn’t the whole story.
Mercy is a response to the misery we see in others. But it’s more than just a response. It’s a generous response to those who are unwell. I heard one author compare mercy to kindness in this way: “Kindness is a friend calling when you are well; mercy is a friend calling when you are sick.”
Those that are merciful are not only willing to forgive those who have wronged them, they are ready to take on the troubles that others face. They help those in distress. They enter into the trials of others. And then they give of themselves to meet their needs. The merciful are not stingy with their time. They are not tight-fisted with their resources. They have a generous heart that works to alleviate the pain and troubles of others.
Jesus provides a wonderful picture of mercy in Luke 10:30-37. It is a story you are likely familiar with.
[Read Luke 10:30-37]
The point of Jesus in telling this story is to articulate what it looks like to be a neighbor—to love your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus’s answer is that the loving neighbor is the one who shows mercy to those in need. Notice what this story teaches us about mercy.
First, the Good Samaritan was willing to go out of his way when he saw someone in trouble. Look at Luke 10:33. Jesus says that as the Samaritan journeyed—he had a destination and a planned route to get there—he turned away from his journey and “came to where [the beaten man] was.”
Second, the Good Samaritan, when he saw someone in trouble, responded with compassion. Luke 10:33 says that “when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” He entered into the suffering of this stranger and took pity on him. He didn’t ignore him or see him and chalk the man’s beating up to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead, he looked with compassion on him.
Third, out of his compassion the Good Samaritan was willing to meet this stranger’s needs. He didn’t just come to fix a problem. He came to care for the needy. What I mean by this is that instead of going after the robbers—seeking justice—or declaring society’s failure in protecting its people—lodging a protest—the Good Samaritan sought to address the need that was right in front of him. He cared for the man and brought him relief by meeting his needs. Sinclair Ferguson comments, “Mercy is getting down on your hands and knees and doing what you can to restore dignity to someone whose life has been broken by sin (whether his own or that of someone else).” He was not hesitant, but generous when he saw someone in trouble.
Fourth, the Good Samaritan did not make excuses in order to avoid extending mercy. Notice who Jesus uses as the examples opposite to mercy—religious and seemingly righteous individuals. These men hid behind what they viewed as a higher call than helping those in need. Because of their tasks they were not willing to be inconvenienced, nor were they willing to let go of their plans in order to adjust to what God had literally brought across their path.
The fifth thing to notice about the Good Samaritan’s mercy is that he was willing to do all this for an enemy. This beaten was a man who the Samaritan would have never associated with. They both would have looked down on each other. But mercy meant love for the Samaritan’s enemy.
This is what it means to be merciful. You see those in pain, those in misery, those suffering —your heart aches for them. Their pain becomes your pain. And so, you enter into it with the aim of bringing relief and restoration.
Now that we have a better understanding of mercy, the next question we need to ask is this: “Why should I be merciful?”
We should be merciful because God has called us to be merciful and he has shown us his mercy.
This is something we see testified throughout Scripture. For example, in Micah 6:8, the prophet writes,
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness [mercy], and to walk humbly with your God.
This is what God calls his people to do. It’s interesting how this verse overlaps so much with what we have already covered of the Sermon on the Mount. God says, “Do justice—blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; love mercy—blessed are the merciful; walk humbly—blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek.”
But this call of God to love mercy goes far beyond what we may be comfortable with.
[Read Luke 6:27-36]
Why should I be merciful? Because God tells us to be merciful.
Considering these questions might prick us. It’s not comfortable. It hurts to consider our mercy-lessness and to think about our failures and sin. But take heart dear Christian.
The Lord has “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5) The key to being a merciful person is to become a broken person.
When we realize that all the good that we have comes from the mercy of God, we want to become merciful people. And we see his mercy put on display in the coming of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came in mercy to seek and to save the lost. That is who we are as sinners: the sick, the lost. And we have a Great Physician in Jesus who heals us through his body broken and blood shed. In Jesus there is a concentration of God’s mercy that shines bright against the darkness of this world tainted by sin.
When we recognize our desperate state before God—we can do nothing to save ourselves, when we mourn and are broken by our sin, when we are meek and know that our only hope must come from outside of us, when we hunger and thirst for the righteousness that will make us right with God, we have only to look to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith who is ready to shower us with mercy. And this we receive as a free gift of God.
If this is what we see and experience, then how we think about and view everyone else must change and must be shaped by this tremendous mercy we find in Jesus. May he give us grace to live in the good of his mercy as we extend the same mercy to those around us. Amen.
Song of Response
Sermon Audio from Recent Sundays