Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 20, 2007

Blessed Are The Merciful (Part I)

With my latest paper still fresh in my mind, I can’t seem to get all that I learned and immersed myself into through all of the textual study and outside research to shut off in my head. Maybe the Lord doesn’t want it to. Without a doubt, this was one paper where the text has really started to grow me spiritually in areas that have laid dormant for quite some time. I once heard someone quote John MacArthur saying that in his sermons he only tells about 10% of what he knows about that text. This is due, of course, to the nature of the sermon and its many restraints whether beneficial or not. However, I believe this to be the case at any moment when someone is having to share what he has prepared to teach, at least if that person expects to do so with some level of authority and command. In my preparation, I spend a large amount of time anticipating questions, beyond what I have asked on my own part, and traversing the many halls of the the deep places of the text that others may want to explore. Still, sometimes the regret is that the roads less traveled often are passed by and perhaps altogether never journeyed.

Yet, while I was serving with a friend, Jason Snider, this weekend at his church in Cresson, Texas, I couldn’t help but make logical connections from the main idea of his sermon to the closing points of my paper, “The Law of Liberty in James“. He preached from Luke 18:9-19:10, recollecting the various accounts of people who came to Jesus “to inherit eternal life.” The recurring theme to me was centered on a biblical understanding of mercy. This, most obviously, rang a clear bell in my head in conncetion to the predominant concept of mercy in the letter of James as well as the “love command” quoted from Lev 19:18 (or perphaps from Jesus himself, this is an interesting study to do!) in James 2:8.

Three times in Lk 18:9-19:10, mercy functions as the personal cry of desperation and humility from those whom receive Christ’s healing and saving power. And, accordingly, each time when mercy is the honest plea of the individual, Jesus shows mercy. In the case of the tax collector in Lk 18:13, who beats his chest and exclaims, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!“, Jesus reveals that this man went home that day justified. In other words, in contrast to his counterpart in Lk 18:11-12, who put on display his status, religiosity, works, and high-repute of himself, Christ showed that the one who recognizes his sinfulness and unworthiness and in humility cries out to God in utter dependency for salvation, God will bestow forgiveness on him, and he will be exalted (note the passive voice) rather than being forced to exalt himself (Lk 18:14).

The other two instances of the term mercy appear back to back in Lk 18:38-39. The blind man shouts out twice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Was this simply a cry for physical sight? I doubt it. For the man names Jesus as the “Son of David,” clearly a messianic title, while on the other hand people in the crowd told the blind man that “Jesus of Nazareth” was coming along the road to Jericho. The man’s faith is exposed in his choice of words in reference to Jesus. This point is further substantiated in the following verses when Jesus affirms him stating, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” Well, you say that his “faith” ought to be identified as having faith in Christ’s physical healing power. At some level, yes, but his faith did not stop there.

If you remember, did not ten lepers (Lk 17:11-19) become disease-free, but only one of them returned back Jesus to praise and glorify God? But all of them cried out to the Messiah, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us (Lk 17:13).” Aren’t they in the same boat as the blind beggar? Well, all of them were shown mercy insofar as they were physically healed, but only one of them does the Scripture testify to Jesus declaring, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well (Lk 17:19).” This is almost identical to the words of Jesus to the blind man in Lk 18:42. However, as we have already seen, the cry of mercy must represent the one who is fully aware of his “leprous” image before the holiness of God due to the fact that he or she is a sinner, just as the tax collector bellowed.

We all have the same testimony don’t we? Well, you say that’s absurd, how can we all have the same tesimony of salvation? What I mean is this: No matter whether you were saved after a life of drugs, sex, and alchol, or if you were brought up in church and have never smoke, drank, or cussed, (inside Baptist jokes; note sarcasm), we all share the same testimony that we were in need of great mercy due to our sinfulness, and God showed mercy upon us by forgiving us of our sin and cleansing us with the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7).

If you aren’t a Christian, and you are aware of your unworthiness before the Holy God, but you desire to know forgiveness of your sins and desire to worship him and ascribe to him the glory due to his name, then cry out to him in absolute humility, “God, be merciful to me a sinner! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus will save you, and you will go home tonight justified. Feel free to click on “Contact Billy” and send me an email with any questions, I would love to talk with you!

The other stories such as Jesus and the little children, the Rich young ruler, and Zacchaeus point towards other aspects of mercy which are contrasted to the saving mercy of God in Christ Jesus. I will address these in “Parts 2 and 3” of this series. I may write more than three posts on mercy, but probably no less than that.

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