The sermon on the mount changed the world. It changed how people think. I understand that we still live in a sin cursed world and nothing here is perfect but when Jesus came, the world view was much different from now. In our Judaeo-Christian culture, we value humility, meekness and mercy. In the Hellenistic world of the first century, humility, meekness and showing mercy were considered weakness. Jesus teaching on mount was radical and revolutionary. His teaching was also organized. We sometimes assume that it was random thought but that is not the case. The Beattitudes are sequential. You begin with poverty of spirit or humility. It is first base in the Kingdom of God. Humility is foundational to everything we do in the Kingdom.
What I am saying is: a person doesn’t jump in on Beattitude five, “Blessed are the merciful.” Self-centered people do not have the ability to show mercy. Jesus started with humility because it is basic: He moved to mercy because it is essential. In this brief message: I want to say FOUR THINGS ABOUT MERCY.
FIRST: MERCY IS SOMETHING THAT EVERYONE NEEDS. All have sinned and come short of the perfection we see in Christ. No one is perfect. Solomon said, “ Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” [Eccl.7:20] David said, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” [Psalm 51:5] Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to his own way.” [Isaiah 53:6] This is the verse I use with children to help them see that they are sinners. The essence of sin is that we “turn to our own way”. This is what Eve did and it is what we do. We are selfish to the core. If God gave me what I deserved, it would be death and hell. Mercy is God not giving me what I deserve [Hell]. Grace is Him giving me what I don’t deserve [Heaven]. I don’t want justice. I don’t pray for justice. I need mercy and so do you and so does everyone else. In that same Psalm 51, David prayed, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.” David understood that he was at God’s mercy and so are we. I like the simple prayer of the Tax Collector in Luke 18–“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” The Reform crowd says there is no “Sinner’s Prayer” in scripture. The tax collectors prayer sounds like a sinner’s prayer to me. Everyone need mercy past, present and future. We have always been at God’s mercy and we will always be at His mercy. This is not a bad thing because He is good, infinitely good.
SECOND: MERCY IS SOMETHING THAT GOD HAS IN ABUNDANCE. I love the passage in Micah…Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people. You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing mercy [unfailing love]. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. [Micah 7:18-20] God delights in showing mercy. When I think of this, I picture the Prodigal’s father. Here was a man who delighted in showing mercy. When Jesus told this story, He had His Father in mind. His Father is our heavenly Father and He gets a thrill out of showing mercy. It is His nature. He is a merciful God.
I am also talking about God’s attributes being infinite. God is never diminished when He gives something away. The more God gives, the more He has to give: this is why we cannot out give God. In other words, God is not running short on mercy. You may be thinking: He ran out of mercy with the Israelites. He was grieved with certain generations but he is not running out of mercy. If I go to the bank to borrow money and the banker refuses to lend to me: it does not mean that the bank is out of money. It simply means that the banker does not trust me. God is not out of mercy: if that were true, hell would consume us.
THIRD: MERCY IS SOMETHING THAT GOD DEMANDS. God not only shows mercy to us but he demands that we show mercy to others. Jesus told a story that illustrates this point. “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[l] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” God expects, yea demands that we forgive and that we show mercy. How do I reconcile this with grace? I not sure that I can but it doesn’t matter whether I can or cannot. I believe that a Christian, a true believer will eventually yield to the convicting power of the Spirit. We will not be able to harbor unforgiveness for a long period of time. We may struggle with it from time to time but we are going to show mercy when all is said and done. If you are unmerciful: I doubt that you understand anything about grace. The first by-product of grace is thanksgiving and right close behind is showing mercy.
LAST: MERCY IS SOMETHING THAT IS BENEFICIAL. It will bless you to show mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful”. Some people translate this word blessed as happy. Happy are the merciful. David Augsburger is a Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and a certified counselor. In his counseling with Missionaries, he came to the conclusion that “Happy people don’t think about their won happiness…Happy people are people are are focused on Christ and serving others.” This is why you do not see many unhappy missionaries. In other words, if you aim for happiness, you will not get it. Happiness cannot be your goal. Happiness is not the way to Christ–Christ is the way to happiness. God will not give you happiness a part from His Son. Merciful people will be happy whereas the unmerciful are very unhappy. Put the sermon on the mount into practice and you will become happy as a by-product but if you aim for happiness simply to pacify your lust, you will end up unhappy.
Jesus the master story teller has a story that illustrates this point. It is found in Luke 10 and we generally call it the story of the GOOD SAMARITAN. “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Did you notice? “We feel compassion” but we “Show mercy”. Who do you need to show mercy to today?