Mercy: "Miracles of Mercy"
Pastor Terry Inman
Today we begin our 40 DAYS OF MERCY all church campaign. What is a campaign and what are we campaigning for. It’s not political,
it is a spiritual movement toward a goal.
As we celebrate this season of Lent culminating on Easter we want to give and receive the radical mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ in new ways. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matt.5.7 NIV) The more we give the more we receive. We all need mercy!
Lent is not something you pick off your sweater. It is the church’s way of celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time of preparation through prayer, fasting, repentance, giving, serving and showing compassion. We will celebrate together with 40DAYS of MERCY.
In our weekly small groups we will see a brief video from Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and participate in conversation and prayer. Also, we are providing weekly devotional guides, for individual and family devotions. Pick them up each week in the foyer or download it.
Jesus gave his life for us. Lent is giving something up for Him. Many of us do the 21-day Daniel fast which is basically a vegetarian diet. Daniel abstained from, “choice (pleasing) food; meat and wine. (Dan. 10.2-3)
He ate for energy and health, not to satisfy the appetite.
Don’t spend time searching vegan recipes and stressing over what you are going to eat. There are plenty of vegetarian menu items in our city. The point is to dial down our appetites and increase our hunger for God!
We don’t fast for approval. We fast to feast on the Lord’s presence. Don’t just abstain from chocolate, Facebook or lattes, pursue Jesus though prayer and spiritual thoughtfulness!
As I mentioned our theme for the next six weeks is Mercy. It is God’s number one trait. He revealed himself to Moses as;
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. (Exodus 34.6-7 MSG)
Mercy is gracious, tolerant, good, truthful and forgiving! Here’s a definition. Mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness. When someone forgives us, when we don’t deserve it, that’s mercy. When someone shows us kindness that we can’t pay back, that’s mercy.
God treats us with mercy every second of our life. Everything God does for us is merciful. Everything God does with us and through us is mercy. We haven’t earned it. We don’t deserve it. It’s just His mercy. The bible says, the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. (Lam. 3.22-23 NIV)
Matthew the author of the first gospel in the New Testament understood God’s Mercy. We talked about him a couple weeks ago in Luke 5. He was a despised tax collector who was shown much mercy. Jesus invited him to be one of his inner-circle of disciples. He became an apostle of mercy!
When the Pharisees complained that Jesus was at a party with Matthew and his “sinner” friends Jesus shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matt. 9.12-13 MSG) Go figure! Jesus is all about MERCY!
Today we will look at the rest of Matthew chapter nine were Jesus models mercy in the miraculous healing of several people marginalized by their culture. Jesus demonstrates undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness. Jesus puts God’s mercy on full display!
In the face of the growing opposition of the Religious leaders Jesus heals a desperate Synagogue Ruler’s young daughter. A woman defiled by a disease touches him. She is healed and restored to a place in society.
Two despairing beggars, discarded by their blindness, are healed. The stigma of their condition is removed and they re-enter useful life. A despondent man impaired by Demonic control is freed and forgiven.
These are people unmercifully rejected by the self-righteous but highly regarded by the merciful. Jesus makes a statement with every miracle. ‘I’m about mercy, not religion.’
Jesus couldn’t have picked a better subject to demonstrate his mercy than Matthew. Tax Collectors were among the most notorious of sinners. They were fellow Jews who consorted with the Roman government to collect property taxes, income taxes, customs tariffs and road tolls.
They deserved the distain they received. They made their money by advantage and extortion. Consequently their friends were limited to the cheating, carousing and conniving riff-raff from the bottom side of life.
Those who perceived themselves as more scrupulous labeled them “sinners”. According to the Pharisees Jesus was guilty by association.
Jesus answered their criticism. John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, He’s possessed by a demon. The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results. (Matt. 11.18-19 NLT)
Mercy goes beyond feelings it takes risky action. Jesus not only accepts this tax collector he enlists him. No one is too despicable to be a disciple.
Notice, Jesus didn't say, Matthew you swindler, straighten up and fly right or you're going to fry. He just walked up and affirmed him, by inviting him to discipleship. It probably took Matthew a quite while to change. The bible says, “God’s kindness to lead us to repentance?” (Rom. 2.4 NIV)
As we look at the Miracles of Mercy Matthew records here in chapter nine we will draw some conclusions with an acrostic for MERCY. First…
More people respond to our acceptance than our judgments. That's why Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful they will obtain mercy”
(slide 7) Jesus said remove the plank out of your eye before judging the speck in someone else. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7: 1-2 NIV)
James the brother of Jesus writes, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13 NIV)
Judgment causes us to distinguish ourselves as better, or more righteousness than others so we have a right to form an opinion about them and their behaviors. We isolate! This is not mercy it’s bigotry!
Mercy is tender compassion. In the O.T. it was the Hebrew word hehsed; loving-kindness. It is God's disposition toward all undeserving humanity.
Exclusivity is the greatest deterrent to reaching lost people.
Two miracles of mercy here in Matthew 9 are a case in point. Jesus was on His way to respond to a synagogue leader's desperate cry for healing. A funeral for his adolescent daughter was already in process by the time Jesus got there. Can you imagine this Father’s despair? Our racial and religious bias goes out the window when we are desperate for help.
Along the way, Jesus was detoured by a woman socially and ritually defiled by chronic hemorrhaging. Twelve years of expensive medical treatments had left her penniless and hopeless.
In addition to the inconvenience, embarrassment and physical distress she was excluded from public life and could not enter the temple for worship. According to the law, anyone touching her would be defiled.
Perceiving Jesus to be compassionate and capable of cures, in sheer desperation she had enough courage to push though the throngs and secretly touch the tassels of Jesus traditional garb.
Immediately Jesus felt healing energy leave his body. She was afraid but He didn’t expose her he encouraged her. In (v.22) He said, "Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you." She was healed from that moment.
“Take heart” literally means take courage or cheer up. You’re no longer excluded from people and from worship. You’re not just healed you're now included! “Healed”is the translation of the greek term (Gr: sode'-zo) It comes from a root word for safe, saved, made whole! It is holistic. She was not just physically cured she was emotionally and spiritually restored. Now back at the house were mourning has already begun for a father's only daughter. Desperation brought this religious leader to his knees. Hurt is humbling. The flutes were playing the morbid dirge of death. Paid mourners were wailing out in earsplitting grief.
The crowded room ridiculed Jesus suggestion that she was temporarily asleep. He cleared the room of doubters and raised her to her feet! After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up! (v. 25) Can you imagine the hug fest with her Father!
Relationship, not religion relieves human heartache.
Desperation drove an excluded woman and a grieving religious leader to Jesus. He offered acceptance and not religious rejection. 'I desire mercy, not religion.' I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (v.13)
There are plenty of people in our culture that we can’t agree with. We struggle with their alternative life-styles. Are we reaching them with religion? The only thing that will give as any kind of hearing, is listening.
My son Jason sent me a text this week. He’s a staff writer for Life Church, the creators of the You Version Bible App. “God is moving at Life Church. People are being saved slowly over time. People are transitioning into salvation in the midst of their sin—people belonging before they believe—people believing before they behave. It's a gentile revival! It’s mercy!
Jesus invited his followers on a spiritual journey. He began with “Come and See” Just check me out. Then he raised the bar. “Come and follow me” Finally he asked for commitment. “Come and give your life” The most important invitation was the final one. Come and be filled with my Spirit. His Spirit in us, transforms us! It’s a mercy filled journey!
Compassion opens more eyes than condemnation.
In (v. 26) Matthew says the news of these Miracles of Mercy was spreading throughout the entire region. It was normal for people to flock to miracle workers out of a need for cures or curiosity. (v 27)says, As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
Blindness was another social stigma. It was perceived as a judgment. Some superstitiously thought looking into the dark eyes of the blind could demonize them. The blind were banned to begging outside of town. They covered their eyes and warned the approaching of their dreaded disorder.
These blind men did just the opposite. They followed Jesus shouting,
"Son of David have mercy on us". They could see spiritual reality. They believed he was the promised Messianic King who would open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears and cause the lame to leap for joy.
Perceiving their incredible faith, Jesus asked, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored. (V 28)
After these excited men left the house with their eyes even more wide open, friends brought a despondent man demonized and speechless. Jesus expelled the demon, healing his impediment and freeing his tongue.
While the astonished crowds marveled the Pharisees attributed the miracle to witchcraft. Religious critics resort to demonizing ridicule when their power is threatened. Mathew wraps it up in chapter nine with a call to share His mercy.
You and I are invited to share God’s miracle of mercy. Let me repeat our definition. “Mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness.” We don’t have to do miracles we just have to show mercy.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Good news alleviates human suffering!
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matt. 9:35-38 NIV)
I call this a Harvest of the Hurting--shepherd-less, harassed and helpless people needing mercy.Mercy moved him. Let mercy move us!