#21 What the Gospels Teach – Mercy – Matthew 5:7

Before I begin to write about Matthew 5:7, I would like to clarify a little misunderstanding I had, or at least a piece of information I did not know about Jesus sitting down and the disciples coming to Him.  My premise was that this could not be a sermon, because Jesus sat, and it was only the disciples that came to Him.  That is correct (that Jesus sat), but I have been informed by a retired pastor (who is correct in this), that Rabbis would sit down to teach as a sign of authority.  Jesus may have sat down as a sign of authority while the disciples may have stood to hear the teaching, or He could have just sat down as you or I would to have a discussion, the text does not indicate if he sat to show authority, or if they had gathered informally for His teaching.  In other words, the Sermon on the Mount may very well be a seated sermon, to a small group, and my assertion in prior posts that it was no sermon at all could be faulty.  Nonetheless, I do not see a need to revise previous posts, because the case that I have built is primarily on the fact that it is a small group of disciples only that are being taught, it is not built so much on the way they are being taught.  Have mercy on me!

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  (Matthew 5:7 NASB)

The word translated merciful is eleēmōn which simply means to have compassion on or to have pity towards.  Now if you go back to the first post in this series you will see in Matthew 1:19 that Joseph sought compassion on Mary when he had found out that she was with Child outside of the marriage covenant, and that it was his righteousness that drove him towards compassion.

The fact that Jesus even had to utter this teaching is very sad.  If there is anything in scripture that should go without saying it is ‘blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.’  Why should there ever need to be a reminder, or motivation given towards being merciful?  Have we not been showered consistently with mercy and compassion from God, and shouldn’t gratitude and mercy flow from us without thought?  Unfortunately, this is not the case, for whatever reason this is a reminder we constantly need to receive.  Think of the parable which Jesus taught concerning the man who had his very large debt forgiven, and then turned around and tried to extract a smaller debt from someone who owed him.  It seems asinine, yet somehow forgiveness and compassion comes so difficult to us, even though the depths of forgiveness and compassion shown to us are unfathomable.  There is a reason you have difficulty with being merciful... and the reason is that you have avoided your sin.  Presumption upon forgiveness without ever considering the vileness of sin produces a lack of mercifulness.  The simple fact that sin is rarely preached upon, and forgiveness is always preached upon, produces a mentality that forgiveness is cheap, and sin is meaningless.  So when pondering one’s own sinfulness, rarely does someone come to the point of recognition that they should be merciful and compassionate to others, because there is a failure to recognize how compassionate and merciful God has been to them.

Now with all of that said, realize that this teaching, along with the rest of the beatitudes, is not a commandment.  It is a statement of fact.  The merciful will receive mercy... period.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit... period.  The mournful will be comforted... period, and so on.  The question you must ask yourself is this “Am I withholding mercy to anyone?” and if the answer is yes, you must ask yourself “What does that say about the state of my soul and the reality of my relationship with Christ?”  The beatitudes are all about discernment, and about self examination.  Later in the Sermon on the Mount we will see the principle of self judgment arise, and the beatitudes are a great place to go to examine yourself.  Recall also that you are commanded to do this self-examination in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

That is all.  I have the privilege today to go ride mountain bikes up in Michigan with one of the youth from our congregation, what an amazing job I have, really, it is a great blessing to me to get the occasional chance to do things like this.

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