Beatitudes: “Blessed are the Merciful”

The Beatitudes: The Merciful
A Message on Matthew 5:7
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Feb. 6, 2022
By Doug Wintermute

Matthew 5:7 (NRSV)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

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When I was in junior high we used to play one of those games that junior high kids love and parents and teachers hated. We called the game “mercy.”

It was a very simple game. Two people would interlock fingers like this [show], and then attempt to bend the other person’s fingers back, creating pain until the person said, “Mercy.”

Here, I’ll demonstrate it. I need a junior high student to help me out, though. [Get junior high student, illustrate the game, and make sure they win.]

Yeah. It was junior high, remember? I didn’t say it was a brilliant game or intellectually stimulating. Junior high things often aren’t.

But it does illustrate a very important point that I want to explore today. As we continue our sermon series on the Beatitudes we come to the fifth one: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

Mercy is about power. One person has power over another person. In this game the stronger person, who can bend the other person’s fingers back, has power while the other person, whose fingers are being bent back does not. The person hurting has to rely on the other person to stop. In the game, saying the word “mercy” signals to the victor “I relinquish. You win.”

The person who asks for mercy is completely dependent on the person who is winning to give them mercy and to stop bending their fingers back. If the one winning doesn’t want to show mercy, then they are in a position to continue to cause pain.

One of the unwritten rules of the game, though, was that it wasn’t cool if somebody asked for mercy and you didn’t give it to them. Yeah, that was a big no-no that got you berated by your peers who loudly voiced how that was “uncool.” And in junior high nobody wants to be “uncool.”

As Christians we are to show mercy during those times we might have some power over others. Matthew tells us that if we show mercy to others, then we will receive mercy when those times come where we are in need of it.

I think one the best illustrations of how God wants us to be merciful happens in Matthew 18:23-35 with the parable of the unforgiving servant.

Jesus tells the parable of a king who calls in the people that owe him money. One of his servants owes him 10,000 talents, and a talent was about the working wage for a year. So we are talking about a big chunk of money!

Well the servant cannot pay the king, so the king plans to have the servant be sold, along with all his family and all of his possessions. The servant pleaded with the king, begging for mercy, saying that if the king would only have patience he would pay all the money back.

The king was merciful toward the servant, but he also forgave all his debt. Yep. All 10,000 talents, forgiven.

So the servant leaves the presence of the king, and on the way out of the building he runs into a fellow servant who owes him 100 denari, and a denari was about the amount of a day’s worth of labor. Well the servant who was forgiven 10,000 talents grabs his fellow servant by the throat and says, “Pay me what you owe me!” The fellow servant pleads to give him more time to repay him, but the first servant was having none of it. He had his fellow servant thrown in prison until he could pay his debt.

Well some other servants witnessed this and went and told the King, who was outraged, and justifiably so. He called the servant who had the debt forgiven back in front of him, and basically chewed him out and had him locked in prison.

The reason I think this is a good example of mercy is because I believe that Jesus is telling us that we, those who because of our sin owe a debt to God that we can never repay, having received great mercy, should show mercy to others.

Jesus forgave us the debt of our sins when he took them upon himself at the cross, and because of that our debts were forgiven. That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to remind ourselves in a very physical and real way just how great God’s love is for us, and how much mercy he has bestowed upon us.

So my challenge to you this week is to remember just how much mercy we have been given. And because we have received such mercy, we should also show mercy to others.

If we don’t do that, well… we would be “uncool,” wouldn’t we?

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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