Mercy is a characteristic of God’s nature which seeks to withhold judgment although it is deserved. God sees the condition of mankind and feels compassion towards us, not wrath. It is only after a very long period of continually offering mercy that God will allow His wrath to begin.
Man lives in a world that has remained under His wrath since Adam. When Jesus came into the world, John wrote that He did not come to bring condemnation, but mercy and forgiveness. The reason that Jesus does not condemn us in our sins ins because we are all already under the condemnation of God for our sins.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ~John 3:17-18
- Verse 17: Jesus does not come to bring condemnation, but salvation.
- Verse 18: Tells us why Jesus did not come to condemn us; we are already under condemnation because we have not believed in the name of Jesus for our salvation.
We see the mercy of God most vividly demonstrated by the manner in which Jesus treated people who were in sin, caught in sin, suffering in sin, and condemned for sin. We meet a woman at a well, a woman caught in sin, a father with a broken heart, and a layer who is confused of who to show mercy to. Jesus takes these three situations and demonstrated the Mercy of in the practical needs of people.
A Woman At A Well
There are a multitudes of issues in life that people often use to make their excuses for why they will not come to God and seek the forgiveness of their sins. For this woman of Samaria, life has not been very kind to her. Married five times, it appears that even to the present day, she is suffering guilt and shame. Coming to the well at noon, during the heat of the day, there would be very few other women drawing water. In this way, she would not have to bear further shame for the way that she has lived her life.
Jesus, being more concerned for this woman, than He is for His own need for food, makes this journey to the well to meet someone insignificant to the world. To the majority of Jews in this area, a Samaritan woman was worth nothing. The Jews hated the Samaritans, as they were a mixture of Jew and their former Babylonian captors.
As the conversation begins, Jesus cuts through the woman’s religious objections and tells her to just believe in the Messiah whom God has sent. When Jesus begins to describe her life down to the finest detail, she realizes that He is not only a wise counselor: He is the Messiah whom God has promised.
Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour (12 noon). 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” 27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” ~John 4:6-29
This amazing exchange between Jesus and this woman, results in her salvation and her quick return to the village where she lives; to encourage all of her family and friends to Come see a Man who told me all I ever did. This example of Jesus’ incredible ability to look right into our hearts and show us precisely what we need, is a true fulfillment of this prophecy from Isaiah 9:6e. Jesus is—a Wonderful Counselor.
A Woman Caught In Sin:
The only thing worse than living a life filled with the shame of sin is having people know what you have done. The Pharisees were always more interested in finding people guilty of breaking the laws of Moses than they were in trying to help them find salvation.
Seeking to test Jesus in what judgment He would pronounce against this woman, caught in the act of adultery, they forget half of the law: “Where is the man who has also committing adultery with this woman?” According to the law of Moses, both people should be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10). Perhaps it was one of the Pharisees who participated in this sin, who had been given a pass from judgement.
Jesus knows how to trap the guilty in their own hypocrisy. All of the men who stood before this woman with rocks in their hands, were also guilty of their own sins. Jesus counsels them to throw their rocks at the woman only if their own record of sin is clean. One by one, from the oldest to the youngest, each man dropped the stone he was carrying and walked away. The older men had a lifetime to observe their own failures. It took them only a moment to realize that they were just as guilty as this woman. The younger men, feeling much more self-righteous, were harder to convince that they were also sinners. Eventually, all of those who came to condemn her are gone, leaving the only one who is truly qualified to judge—Jesus—who is perfect and without sin.
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” ~John 8:3-11
In the end, Jesus shows that it is not the desire of God to condemn us and dispatch anyone to hell. If this was His goal, God would never have allowed His Son to die for us. Instead, God is full of mercy and love and asks only that we agree with Him that we are sinners and that His way of salvation is the only way. Just so that this woman, and all other sinners are clear what God requires; Jesus adds one more word of counsel: Go and sin no more. If we are truly repentant over our sins, we will seek to never repeat those sins again.
A Father’s Broken Heart
I have suffered the great misfortune of standing beside the bed of dying loved ones. There is no greater hurt than to watch someone whom you love deeply, pass away and leave you. Even though we might be certain that they were ready to meet the Lord, it is never easy to let go and be left without their love and presence in our life.
Jesus came into the world to end the sting of death. Whenever He watched people die, those near Him could hear the anguish within His soul as He watched what death does to our lives. No father should have to watch his child die; yet, here is a ruler in the Synagogue who is not immune to suffering simply because he serves God. His own dear daughter has died, and he is inconsolable.
How do we counsel and comfort a parent who has lost a child? We cannot. As Jesus comes to this grieving father, He gives him the best gift that he has ever received.
While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” 50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.”53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. Luke 8:49-55
In this incredible example of Jesus’ ability to command life and death, we see that even when all hope is gone, Jesus is able to counsel and comfort us in our greatest times of need.
A Lawyer Asks, Who Is My Neighbor?
When we hear Jesus speak of God’s love, all we can think is; “how much I need that kind of love.” On the other hand, when someone whom we see as undeserving of love needs us to love them, we are reluctant to give our affection and compassion. Attorneys see people at their very worst. They defend the guilty and the innocent with the power of argument for justice. Very often, when the Attorney and his client are in the midst of preparations for a trial, the attorney will discover that the person he is expected to defend, is not really worthy of a defense, though the law demands it.
With this in mind, when Jesus tells the attorney who is the subject of this story, to love his neighbor, he asks Jesus a jaded question, Who is my neighbor? In the estimation of the attorney, most people are not worth loving once you get to know them. Jesus informs this man that those whom the world considers the most undesirable, God loves. If we truly love God with all our heart, then we must love those that He loves.
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
The example that Jesus uses to illustrate the type of Love that God expects from us, is the behavior of a Samaritan; a person that no Jew could ever love.
After the capture of certain citizens of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, which resulted in their captivity at Babylon for 70 years, many of these Jewish captives chose to remain in Babylon after they were released to go back home to Judah. Some intermarried with the Babylonians, giving birth to children who were considered only half Jew. These children of the captives of Babylon, returned later to Judah and formed a community referred to as: The Samaritans. They were hated and despised by those who saw themselves as the true Jews of Israel.
If one of the “true Jews” would approach a Samaritan on the street, they would cross to the other side, just to avoid coming into contact with them. In this example described by Jesus, a man (Jew) is beaten, robbed, and left for dead by thieves. A Samaritan happened to pass by and observes this man laying beside the road. He stops and bandages his wounds, and carries him to a local hotel where he pays for a night’s stay. The Samaritan stays with the injured man throughout the night, caring for his injuries. On the following morning, the Samaritan pays the innkeeper—in advance for any needs that this man may have while recuperating from his injuries. The Samaritan also promised to return in the future to settle any amounts which might be owed.
Although a Jew would never do this for a Samaritan; this Samaritan has shown great love and compassion for a Jew. Jesus uses this illustration for obvious reasons. We are not likely to help someone that we don’t like, nor a person whom we consider unworthy of our time and attention.
Jesus’ counsel to us is that we had better learn to love people. If we find that our heart is hardened towards any particular person or group of people, we must change ourselves. We cannot continue to follow Jesus and hate anyone. We must forgive and accept every person who comes to God in repentance of their sins and seeks eternal life by Jesus’ sacrifice. Even those who are yet to be saved, we must love and do good-to, in the hope that they will turn to Jesus and be saved.
These few examples give us a small sampling of the mercy of Jesus—the likes of which no one has equalled before. Jesus is the embodiment of what Mercy is all about and the clearest example for the world of what God is like in His desire to show mercy to all those who are in need.
God: His Character