Sermon Title: “A Community of Mercy and Compassion: We are called to be Merciful”
Date: Sunday, September 16, 2018
Text: Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”
Speaker: Pastor Joseph
This morning, we are in the fifth beatitude, which acknowledges a state of being and ends with a promise. Hence, I would like to share a few thoughts about “The Gospel and Mercy” and the urgent call of Jesus to his followers to be a community of mercy and compassion.”
Three Important Questions
- What is mercy?
- To whom shall we show or extend mercy?
- How Shall We Practice mercy in our community and in our city?
What is mercy?
- “Mercy sets aside society’s assumption that is honorable to demand revenge” (R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NIT Commentary on the New Testament, page 168)
- “Mercy is also to be shown in our attitudes. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbor resentment, capitalize on another’s failure or weakness, or publicize another’s sin” (John MacArthur, Commentary on Matthew 1-7, 195)
- “Mercy has a great deal to say about the virtue of mercy, which is typically the external manifestation of an internal feeling of compassion for the unfortunate. It is a fundamental demand, on par in importance with love and faith” (Allison, Sermon on the Mount, 50)
- “Here he seems to me to speak not of those only who show mercy in giving of money, but those likewise who are merciful in their actions. For the way of showing mercy is manifold, and this commandment is broad (Quoted in Allison, page 50, Chrysostom, Commentary on Matthew 15:6).
- “Merciful” embraces the characteristics of being generous, forgiving others (Matthew 6:12, 14-15), having compassion for the suffering, and proving healing of every kind” (Craig Blomberg, The Gospel of Matthew: NIT Commentary, p. 100)
- Definition: mercy basically means compassion, graciousness, kindness (Exodus 32-34).
- It the Hebrew word hesed, the most central or fundamental attribute of Yahweh, our God. It could be translated as steadfast love, kindness, lovingkindness, mercy. The idea is that God extends his assistance to the afflicted, the helpless, and shows abundant compassion to the needy.
- Mercy as an essential attribute of God
- “Mercy” (hesed) is God’s most central or fundamental attribute (Exodus 34:6)
- God’s mercy is described as being great, abundant, and is connected to his plan to save us in Christ and make us in Him. God’s mercy is also linked to God’s action to forgive us of our sins and to give us a new identity, making us a new creation, in Christ Jesus. In Scripture, this characteristic of God is linked with other attributes of his:
God’s mercy and God’s love; God’s mercy and grace; God’s mercy and covenant faithfulness; God’s mercy and forgiveness; and God’s mercy and justice.
- Moses in Exodus exalts God for his hesed,
“Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”—Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)
“5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (ESV)
- The Psalmist, for example, celebrates God’s hesed in a prayer, which he calls “great love” or (steadfast love), Psalm 17:7, “Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand” (ESV)/”Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.” (NIV)
- Isaiah proclaims God’s hesed, “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.”—Isaiah 63:7
- Jeremiah sings God’s hesed, “
“ but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” —Jeremiah 9:24 (ESV)
“but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.”—Jeremiah 9:24 (NIV)
- Ephesians 2:4-6, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us a live together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
- In the same way in Titus 3:5, Paul states that God’s mercy is God’s central motif to save us and make us new in the power of the Holy Spirit. The verse reads, “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
- God’s mercy is inseparable to God’s mission as a Redeemer and Savior, 1 Peter 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
- God’s mercy is inclusive and indiscriminate: Psalm 145:9 “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
- God promises to provide mercy and grace to those who come to Him in prayer with confidence and humility; particularly, the author of Hebrews states that God will give mercy to us in difficulty moments and in situations when it is most needed.
Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
- 2 Samuel 24:14 (mercy and forgiveness), “David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
- The mercy of God is promised to those who pray to him
Psalm 86:5, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.”
God’s Acts of Mercy or Examples in the Old Testament of God’s showing mercy to people
- To Joseph: Genesis 39:21, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love (mercy, kindness”) and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
2. God requires his people to have mercy or to be merciful
- Followers of Christ are called to imitate God in mercy: Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
- Micah 6:8 “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 (or mercy), and to walk humbly with your God?”
- Matthew 9:13; 12:7 (1-7); 23:23: “Mercy” in the Gospel of Matthew: God’s call to be merciful:
- Mercy is a virtue Jesus’ followers must show: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (9:13)
- Jesus’ call of Matthew to follow him: Teaching on Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath: “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath’” (12:7).
- Jesus pronounces woes to the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (23:23)
- Mercy relates to forgiveness (6:14-15; 18:21-35)
3. Jesus as the Great Demonstrator of God’s mercy and compassion: 3 remarkable stories of mercy
***Jesus was merciful to everyone he met and anyone who wanted to meet him. He showed mercy and compassion to the sick, those mentally troubled, the prostitutes, thieves, drunkers; his acts of mercy include healing the sick, raising the dead, comforting the disturbed, freeing the demon possessed, giving sight to the blind, restoring the hearing of the deaf. Because of his great acts of mercy, the Pharisees and the Scribes called him a friend of prostitutes, sinners, and tax collectors.
- The central attitude of Jesus toward the people: compassion, mercy, and grace
- Matthew 9:35-36, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
- Mark 6:33-34, “Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
- Jesus shows unexpected mercy to the blind beggar: Luke 18:35-43
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Location: near Jericho, the Jericho that is mentioned in the New Testament is about twenty or so miles southwest of Jerusalem. Jesus passes through Jerico, Bethphage and Bethany, to get to his ultimate destination: Jerusalem; there, he will be wholeheartedly welcomed by the people (The triumphal entry) with the messianic overtone, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9)
- The person who meets Jesus: he was a man, blind, and a beggar. As customarily, he was sitting by the roadside asking for money from those who were passing by.
- The crowd: when he heard a loud noise from the crow, he wanted to know what was going on; hence, he inquired to know.
- Some people in the crowd told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by, in his way to Jericho, where he would meet Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), a very sinful and corrupt tax collector, a traitor of his people; yet, Zacchaeus would surrender his life to following Christ. According to Mark’s account (11:46-51), the name of the blind man was Bartimaeus (Bar= son), meaning the son of Timaeus.
- Bartimaeus’s initiative: his desire is to receive mercy from Jesus. What is Bartimaeus’s conception of mercy? Simply, he wanted Jesus to restore his sight. For him, Jesus’ acts of mercy toward him would mean Jesus’ act of mercy in giving his vision back. That is what he wants from Jesus. He wanted Doctor Jesus to show mercy, compassion, kindness through healing. Hence, he cried out loud, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38= Mark 10:47). He also understands that Jesus the Messiah who is also Son of David has come to restore all things, including his lost eyesight.
- The crowd: some people in the crowd attempted to silence Bartimaeus and push him away from Jesus, the man who will show him mercy by restoring his sight.
- Bartimaeus: he musters up his courage and cries out with more rigor and resilience, so Jesus wouldn’t say he did not hear him pleading for mercy: “But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!” (18:39). Bartimaeus pursues mercy from God. For him, Jesus would understand his need and what that means. He has no doubt that the Son of God speaks his language. Although Bartimaeus never states initially, “Jesus, Son of David, restore my sight,” he knew that Jesus, by hearing just his voice, would move in a redemptive way to restore him completely. Only he wanted was grace and mercy, not status or privilege. Bartimaeus connects God’s mercy with God’s grace and compassion in Jesus.
- Generous and merciful action of Jesus the Merciful Savior and Healer:
Acts of Mercy:
- Act of mercy # 1(the stop): according to the text, the first merciful action of Jesus is this: Jesus stops walking completely, that is, he ceases moving so he could attend to the need of Bartimaeus, the bling beggar (18:38). God is not too busy to show us love and compassion. He is never in a hurry to stop in our way.
- Act of mercy # 2 (the command): The next compassionate action of Jesus is that he orders his disciples and perhaps the people in the crowd to bring Bartimaeus to him (18:40). Jesus invites Bartimaeus to himself, so he could show him what love is, what compassion in action looks like. Interestingly, according to Mark’s report, “Jesus stopped and said, “Call him” (Mark 17:49)
- Act of mercy # 3 (the question and the call): when Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41), the text implies that the Lord Jesus was already ready to move redemptively in the beggar’s life. The question fundamentally affirms God’s merciful character always leads him to act savingly and to set people free from their troubles. It is God’s very disposition to show mercy and compassion. Notice, it was until Jesus asked the bling beggar what he desires from him that the beggar informs Jesus his real need, “Lord, let me recover my sight” (18:41)
- Act of mercy # 4 (the healing word of Jesus): Jesus speaks words of “mercy” and “grace” to Bartimaeus, leading forcefully to his holistic healing of his sight. This divine command brings a new beginning, a new creation to the bling beggar. Notice the order of the healing as mercy and mercy as healing, in both Mark and Luke:
“Recover your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:42)
“Go your way; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52).
- Act of mercy # 5 (final act of mercy): “And Immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52)/ “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:43). Bartimaeus follows Jesus, that is, he becomes his disciple because he received mercy and grace from the Savior. Mercy and grace are linked to discipleship and commitment to Jesus.
Conclusion: Five lessons to learn from this passage
- God’s disposition is always to show mercy and compassion toward the needy, the poor, and to those who believe that He is indeed merciful.
- God is never too busy to show another act of compassion. God’s merciful acts do not have an expiration date. Because mercy is intrinsic to God’s character, his acts of compassion and mercy overflow from his character. In other words, God shows mercy as his nature compels him to do so. He can’t do otherwise. He is the most Gracious One and most Merciful One.
- Human response to God’s mercy and compassion is praise and the public acknowledgement of God’s glory (Luke 18:43). This is an expectation from God to show our gratitude toward his hesed.
- Jesus as the Word of God not only embodied the Gospel to Bartimaeus, he demonstrated this saving gospel in action: mercy, compassion, and grace.
- The power of the Gospel is not only transformative power to salvation; the message of the Gospel is also about alleviating human suffering, caring for the needy and brokenhearted, and responding urgently to the pressing needs in our community and city.
- Jesus shows compassion to a sick man at the pool: John 5:1-9
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
- Occasion/setting: Jesus went to Jerusalem after he attended a feast in Cana in Galilee (John 4:46), the place where he made the water wine. It was also the occasion after he just healed an official’s son who was very sick (John 4:46-54)
- Place: Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called “Bethesda,” which means ‘house of mercy’ (5:2).
- Audience or objects of God’s mercy: a multitude of invalids: blind, lame, and paralyzed. Bethesda was the place to find a substantial number of disabled people waiting to receive God’s mercy and kindness.
- Object of Jesus’ special mercy: a man who has been disabled for 38 years.
Ways Jesus shows mercy
- Divine Movement of Mercy # 1 (the necessity of Jesus’ physical presence): why did Jesus go there? Was his presence necessary? Jesus intentionally passes there at the Sheep Gate, so he could show mercy and compassion toward this invalid gentleman. Jesus makes his visible presence an act of compassion and miracle.
- Divine Movement of Mercy # 2 (Jesus’ gracious intention): “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time…” (5:6). Jesus pursues people to show God’s mercy towards them. Jesus was there to heal this kind through a simple act of kindness.
- Divine Movement of Mercy # 3 (Jesus’ word of mercy): “He said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?” Isn’t that the greatest indication of God’s grace and mercy? Jesus could offer healing to this guy who has been physically impaired for 38 years, not 3 years or 8 years. 38 eight full years.
- The disabled man: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (5:7). In this way of speaking to Jesus, the sick man shows humility and helplessness to Jesus, as well as demonstrates that he is earnestly seeking from Jesus, grace, intervention, and healing.
***According to a tradition as reported by John, God’s mercy is particularly shown or manifested at Bethesda when an angel of the Lord comes down and stirs the water to effect healing and restoring the physically-handicapped people. John 5:4, “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.”
- Divine Movement of Mercy # 4 (Jesus’ great gesture of mercy): “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (5:8). This is another example of Jesus’ words simply means mercy and grace, and that the power of his threefold divine command leads to new creation, in the case of the sick man, a physically restored humanity.
The Threefold divine commands (John 5:8
Each one of these commands from Jesus intends to accomplish something supernatural; the ultimate demonstration of the great merciful God in action for the restoration of the helpless.
- Divine Command # 1: Get up: an affirmation that God has granted healing to the sick man and concurrently Jesus the Healer has taken his sickness away.
- Divine Command # 2: Take up your bed: another affirmation that the wait is over, and that the sick man can throw away his bed that symbolizes 38 years of pain, suffering, shame, and fighting with disability. Jesus has taken away his shame and restore his honor as one created in the Image of God.
- Divine Command # 3: Walk: another affirmation that he is totally restored, bodily and physically. Now, he can walk because Jesus has imputed strength and coherence into his body. Jesus restores the man’s dignity and give him a new identity and creation. Oh, what a Savior we have in Jesus. Hallelujah! Praise his holy and majestic name!
*** “And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked” (5:9)
In this context, “But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17). Jesus is simply affirming that when God works, it means the overflowing of his mercy, kindness, and compassion toward the blind, lame, paralyzed, the poor, the sick, those who are humble in spirit, the meek, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the mentally-disturbed, the physically impaired folk, the prostitute, the robber, the adultery, the fornicator, the felon, the convict, the brokenhearted. etc. God never ceases to show mercy and love toward those folks who live in the margins of society.
- Peter: A Vessel of Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness: Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus did not hinder Jesus to show him grace and forgive him. Jesus shows Peter abundant mercy and kindness and restores his soul.
Step 1. Peter was Jesus’s very good friend, and one of the Lord’s beloved disciples.
Step 2. Peter denies having personally known Jesus. Mark 14: 66-72; Luke 22:54-62
- He denied it three times that Jesus was his Master and that he used to walk with him.
- 1st denial: “but he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor understand what you mean” (Mark 14:68)
- 2nd denial: “But again he denied it” (14:70)
- 3rd denial: “But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak’” (14:71)
***Luke tells us, “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remember the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times” (22:60-62). The Bible tells us that, Peter was remorseful of his against Jesus, and that he exited the place and couldn’t hold tears in his eyes (22:62).
This was the most crucial moment in Peter’s life that he needed mercy and grace from the Lord Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, Jesus would do exactly three days later and after he rose from the dead.
Step 3. After resurrection, Jesus, following God’s footsteps, will show to Peter a great act of mercy, grace, and compassion:
- First, according to John, at the breakfast table, Jesus seeks a way to show Peter mercy by initiating this conversation, in the form of a pivotal question that will challenge Peter’s commitment to Christ: “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (21:15). Three times, Jesus asked him “do you love me” (21:15, 16, 17)
- Secondly, Jesus pursues Peter to teach him about mercy and forgiveness. Peter desperately needed Jesus’ Peter in order he could be restored and ground his identity in Christ as the next Apostle who would shake the world for Jesus:
- “He said to him, ‘feed my lambs” (21:15)
- “He said to him, ‘tend my sheep” (21:16)
- “Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” (21:27)
***“Mercy sets aside society’s assumption that is honorable to demand revenge” (R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NIT Commentary on the New Testament, page 168)
4. How (Steps) to be a merciful and compassionate Christian/church community or a follower of mercy and compassion
- Pray for mercy; seek and pursue mercy from God
- Be familiar with bible stories about God’s/Jesus’ mercy and compassion. Meditate and reflect upon them, write about them, and listen to these stories through audio Bible. Tell people about them.
Jesus told several parables of mercy:
Parables of mercy: These parables are given to us, so we can learn how to have and cultivate a “mercy character” and live as a community of mercy and compassion. These stories show that God is actively involved in the lives. They are stories of hope and redemption, and of God’s grace and love.
- The Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37
- The Lost Sheep, Luke 15:1-7
- The Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32,
- The Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31
- The Judge and the Widow, Luke 18:1-8
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (mercy is connected with forgiveness), Matthew 18:21-35
Other examples of mercy
- God’s Mercy Upon His People, Hosea 2:14-20
- Jesus, and the Adulterer Woman, John 8:7-11
- Seek opportunities to practice mercy and to point people to the way of mercy and compassion
- Mercy is a virtue that could be cultivated when we are intentional about it and sensitive to people’s needs around us.
- Mercy is to be shown to those who expect it least from you. You should extend mercy to those who do not like or can’t stand you. You should also show kindness to those who will not give it in return.Make “mercy” a visible mark of your walk as a disciple of Christ who is called to serve, love, and connect people to Jesus and to each other.
- Mercy should be a moral virtue every follower of Christ possesses. It should be the basis of their relationship with people, alter their attitude toward the world and their environment, and transform them as a person. Mercy is a catalyst of transformation.
- Teach Your Children and others how to be merciful, kind, and compassionate.
In other words, be a model of God’s compassion and mercy, mercy and love, mercy and forgiveness, mercy and faithfulness
- Becoming a church that practices compassion and mercy in the city.
- The church should engage the people in the city with mercy, compassion, and kindness
- The underlying mark of Christian ministry is mercy and compassion.
- The hallmark of Christian evangelism is mercy.
- A missional church is a merciful church that is aware of the needs of the people in the community
- An evangelistic church is a community of faith that relates to people in understanding by prioritizing the importance of practicing mercy and grace, mercy and love, mercy and compassion, mercy and forgiveness.