When thinking about the ministry of Jesus, our thoughts often immediately focus upon His mighty miracles, His powerful teaching, His incredible wisdom, and His total obedience to the will of His Father. It is easy to overlook one of the greatest of His attributes; His mercy. It may be helpful to firstly define the meaning of the word mercy:
‘A compassionate treatment of, or attitude towards, an offender or enemy who is in one’ s power’ .
This is a very clear statement in that it reminds us that prior to our salvation, we were an ‘enemy’ of Christ and that we were an ‘offence’ to Father God. The cross of Calvary is the greatest act of mercy ever shown in the history of humanity. Here we have Father God reaching out to a sinful race in an act of supreme mercy.
This mercy knows no bounds:
Psalm 103 v 17: but the mercy of the lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him!
Psalm 108 v 4: for your mercy is great above the heavens…
These two verses powerfully illustrate the scope of God’ s mercy and of His willingness to show it to all who call upon Him. The Old Testament Prophet Micah reminds us that God is a God who ‘delights in mercy’ .
To really see mercy in action, we need to examine the ministry of Jesus and see how He showed mercy to those whose lives had been blighted by the power of sin. In the gospel of John, chapter eight, we have the story of the woman who was dragged before Jesus by a group of hypocritical Pharisees who had supposedly caught her ‘In the act of adultery’ ! The Pharisees were seeking to trap Jesus into making a hasty decision and condemning her. Jesus did not immediately respond, but continued to write on the ground with His finger. Eventually Jesus responded by challenging these bigoted religious leaders:
‘He who is without sin, let him throw a stone at her first’ !
Jesus was exposing the rank hypocrisy of these men by causing them to examine their own consciences. One by one they walked away. Jesus was left alone with the poor woman:
John 8 v 10: Woman, where are your accusers, has no one condemned you? No one Lord. Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more!
Jesus here was exercising mercy, but at the same time exhorting the woman to forsake her sinful lifestyle. Truth, mercy, and righteousness go hand in hand! The mercy of God lies at the very foundation of our salvation and is the ground upon which we have the assurance of sins forgiven and peace with God. We know that our salvation cannot be earned by mere religious observance or practise, no, it is extended to us by the grace and mercy of a loving Father God. The following verse is a powerful reminder of the ground upon which our salvation is built:
Titus 3 v 5: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.
Having received of this great mercy, we need to extend mercy to others who have wronged us, and to follow the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ. Freely we have received, freely give! Mercy is also powerfully expressed when reaching out to others in need and making provision in cases where there is hurt and deprivation. Thank you, Lord that your great mercy is extended toward us on a daily basis and that You long to extend the same to those who have not as yet embraced your great love and grace.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!
Alistair Cole is the Director of the Watchman Ministry.