The Love and Mercy of God Part Six
The New Testament reveals that Jesus defended and administered God’s mercy in various ways during His ministry on Earth.
Mercy for the Unsaved
On one occasion Jesus and His disciples went to a house and ate a meal with publicans and sinners whom the Pharisees considered evil and defiling in God’s sight. Offended, they asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mt. 9:11; cf. Mk. 2:16; Lk. 5:30). They were convinced eating with such corrupt people corrupted the holiness of God.
When Jesus heard their question, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mt. 9:12–13).
Jesus’ point was that God’s mercy for the unsaved prompted His Son to come into the world to save sinners. The only way they could become saved was through personal contact with Him.
Mercy for the Guiltless
On another occasion Jesus and His disciples walked through grain fields on the Sabbath. Being hungry, His disciples plucked and ate heads of grain. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to Jesus, “Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” (Mt. 12:2; cf. Mk. 2:23–24; Lk. 6:1–2).
Jesus asked them if they had not heard that, when King David and his men were hungry, he entered the House of God and ate the showbread, which was lawful only for priests to eat. In addition, had they not read in the Law that, on the Sabbath, the Temple priests profaned the Sabbath and were blameless (Mt. 12:3–5)?
Then He said, “In this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (vv. 6–8). He asserted that it was He who determined what may or may not be done on the Sabbath. Therefore, when dire circumstances made it necessary to violate established Sabbath rules, He had authority to be merciful and permit blameless violation.
Mercy for Healing
While on Earth, Jesus mercifully healed people from various illnesses:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people (9:35). And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick (14:14).
Healing the Blind. Two blind men followed Jesus, begging for His mercy, and came to Him while He was in a house:
Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it” (9:28–30).
When Jesus left Jericho, two blind men sitting by the wayside heard He was passing by. They cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”(20:30). The great multitude following Him told the blind men to be quiet. But instead, they cried out to Him all the more. When Jesus asked what they wanted Him to do, they requested their eyesight. “Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (20:34; cf. Lk. 18:35–43). (The word translated “compassion” is related to the concept of mercy.)
Healing the Demon-Possessed. A man brought his son who was possessed by an unclean, deaf, and dumb spirit that would seize the son and violently throw him to the ground. The son would foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become stiff. The father said Jesus’ disciples were not able to cast out the spirit. Jesus told the father to bring his son to Him. When the son was brought, the spirit immediately threw him to the ground, making him roll and foam at the mouth.
Jesus asked the father how long this had been happening. The father replied, “From childhood” (Mk. 9:21). He also told Jesus the spirit often threw his son into fire and water, trying to destroy him. Then the father asked Jesus to have compassion on them and help them if He could.
Jesus answered, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23). Immediately the father “cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (v. 24).
The cry prompted the crowd to run to where Jesus and the father and son were located. Jesus “rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’” (v. 25). The spirit cried out, convulsed the son severely, and came out of him. The son appeared lifeless; many claimed he was dead. “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose” (v. 27).
On another occasion a Canaanite woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon came to Jesus and cried out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” She was desperate because her daughter was severely tormented by a demon (Mt. 15:22).
At first Jesus did not respond. His disciples urged Him to send her away because she had been pursuing them with her cries. But Jesus explained to them why He had not responded to her: He had been sent to minister exclusively to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” not to Gentiles (v. 24).
Nevertheless, the woman prostrated herself before Him in humility and adoration, pleading with Him, “Lord, help me!” (v. 25).
Jesus responded, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (v. 26).
The woman’s persistent response was, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (v. 27).
Jesus was so impressed by her persistence that He exclaimed, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (v. 28). As a result, the woman’s daughter “was healed from that very hour” (v. 28).
Jesus and His disciples also met a man possessed by an unclean spirit after they had crossed the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes. Because of his condition, the man lived among the tombs in caves. No one could tame or bind him, though many had tried. He would pull apart chains and break shackles into pieces. Twenty-four hours a day he would be in the mountains and tombs, crying and cutting himself with sharp stones (Mk. 5:4–5).
When he saw Jesus in the distance, he ran and prostrated himself before Him, screaming, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me” (v. 7). He did so because Jesus had said, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” (v. 8).
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” The man replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (v. 9). The demons urgently implored Him not to send them out of the country but, rather, into a herd of about 2,000 pigs that were feeding at the nearby mountains. Jesus acquiesced. The unclean spirits left the man and entered the pigs; and the pigs rushed headlong down the steep slope into the Sea of Galilee and drowned.
The herdsmen fled to a nearby city and countryside to report primarily to the owners of the pigs. When people came to the Gadarenes to understand exactly what took place, they found the formerly wild, demon-possessed man sitting calmly. He was fully dressed and in his right mind.
As the herdsmen recounted what they had witnessed—including Jesus’ transforming power to free the demon-possessed man and allow the demons to possess the pigs—the people became fearful of having such a powerful person in their midst. So they asked Jesus to leave their region.
When Jesus boarded the boat to leave, He rejected the formerly demon-possessed man’s request to go with Him. Instead, He ordered him to return to his home and people and tell them “what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (v. 19). The man returned home to Decapolis and began to relate everything Jesus had done for him. And all who heard his report were astonished (v. 20).
Healing Lepers. A leper came to Jesus, entreated Him, knelt down before Him, and said to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean” (1:40). Filled with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him and said, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed (vv. 41–42).
When Jesus entered a certain village, 10 men who were lepers and stood far off came toward Him. They lifted their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk. 17:13). When Jesus saw them He replied, “‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And…as they went, they were cleansed” (v. 14).