Mercy looks like Joseph. Joseph was hated by his brothers, stripped of his robe, cast into a pit, sold into slavery, and – because he wouldn’t sleep with another man’s wife – locked in an Egyptian dungeon. After many years, Joseph looked at his brothers as the second-most powerful man in Egypt. He was able to do anything he wanted to them. He could take his revenge, but he pardoned them, shed tears of joy, and embraced them as long-lost family.
Mercy looks like King David, hunted and hounded by his father-in-law, King Saul, over every hill and valley of Israel; playing the harp to soothe Saul’s suffering and to be repaid by having a spear hurled at you; to have both foreigner and countryman betray you because of the king. David was so close to Saul to be able to cut off a corner of his garment with his knife, but held back the blade from his flesh. David stood over Saul while he slept in his camp, able to pin him to the ground with his own spear, ready to do away with Saul, yet pardoned him, spared him, and even rebuked others who told him to take revenge.
Joseph and David were merciful, but their mercy was not a perfect mercy compared to the mercy Jesus preaches in Luke chapter six. He says, be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. The mercy Jesus preaches is not like Joseph or David, but like God, your Father is merciful. God’s mercy looks like embracing and kissing your beloved children, only to have them shove you away and spit in your face. It looks like healing the sick, only to have them mock your prescriptions. It looks like feeding the starving and to have them complain that this food isn’t tasty enough. God’s mercy looks like clothing the naked while they bellyache about you not giving them Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, or Gucci.
God’s mercy is opening your hands to a world and offering them the very best you can give, and to have them pierce those hands with nails, raise you in the air, and watch with laughter and smiles as you slowly bleed to death. Enduring all this in love, embracing this world with open arms and open eyes, doing it all without complaint, prompted solely by love – that is mercy. That is perfect mercy. There is nothing greater than this mercy.
Jesus says, be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. You can’t. You love yourself too much. You think you have to defend your honor. You think you have to protect your future. You think people will take advantage of you. You think only of yourself. While you expect others to be kind to you, to be understanding of your shortcoming, and to be thankful when you do something for them, you don’t require these same things of yourself. You are merciful…to yourself.
Repentance of this mercy sounds like, “I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most.” This is the truth. Ugly, yes. Painful, certainly. Nevertheless, it is true.
You are far from showing mercy as God demands. What is more is that God is still merciful to you. It is in response to your very lack of mercy that leads Him to be superabundantly merciful to you. Jesus, the New and Greater David, pardons you who are like King Saul. Jesus, our New and Greater Joseph, pardons you who are like Joseph’s brothers. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endures being stripped of His skin by whips and cast into the pit of the tomb. He does this in order that He might go to prepare a place for you at the right hand of the Father. Your sin is no match for Christ’s mercy. No matter how hot and high the flames of your sin rise, His fountain of grace contains more than enough water to douse the fire.
God’s love is nothing like your love. God’s love does not seek the loveable, the likeable, and the one who will love Him back. God loves you, as it were, even before He finds you, even before He created you, from the very foundation of the world. His love creates you, forms you in your mother’s womb, re-creates you in the womb of the church, and continues to love you even when you are mean, spiteful, and unmerciful.
Men in search of a wife look for a woman who is attractive, who will love them back. Not God. He finds an ugly, deformed, disease-infested prostitute whose life is littered with impurity, infidelity, and every manner of wickedness. God makes this woman His bride. He washes her clean of every filth, forgives her past, clothes her in His own righteousness, and pronounces her beautiful. You are the woman. You are the bride. God does this for you.
Don’t ask why. Just say Amen. For what else can one say to the love of God except Amen. Yes, yes, it shall be so. God takes the planks in your eyes and the specks in the eyes of your neighbor and attaches them to the bloody wood of His cross. They are gone, forgiven. Your failures, your infidelities, your greed, and your selfishness – they melt like ice in the heat of your Father’s compassion. You are clean and pure. You are beloved of God. Nothing and no one means more to Him than you. Nothing and no one can change that. Jesus is judged. You are acquitted. Jesus is condemned. You are justified.
The Grain that came down from heaven in good measure was pressed down by your sins and shaken together in His Passion. This Grain runs over into your lap, or, rather, your mouth, as the Grain that has become Bread and the Bread that has become Body, that you might be filled the very flesh of God.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Blessed are you, for your refuge is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is merciful – perfectly, eternally, and superabundantly merciful to you.