The Love and Mercy of God Conclusion
The previous article cited examples of Jesus administering God’s mercy in various ways during His ministry on Earth. He administered mercy to the unsaved and guiltless and healed the blind, demon-possessed, and leprous.
Now we will observe other examples of how He administered God’s mercy and demonstrated that God requires people to be merciful to one another.
God’s Mercy for the Multitudes
Jesus expressed His mercy for people on more than one occasion. As a result of His traveling to many cities and villages, teaching in synagogues, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of illness and disease, great multitudes were drawn to Him (Mt. 9:35). “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (v. 36).
After John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus traveled to a deserted area alone. But when people heard about it, a large crowd followed Him out of cities (14:10–13). When He saw the “great multitude,” He “was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (v. 14).
When evening came, His disciples suggested that, since they were in a deserted area and it was late, He should send the crowd to villages to buy food for themselves (v. 15). Jesus said His disciples should give them food. They asserted that all they had were five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus told the disciples to bring the crowd to Him (vv. 16–18).
When the people came, Jesus told them to sit on the grass:
And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children (vv. 19–21).
Later Jesus went up to a mountain near the Sea of Galilee and sat down. “Great multitudes” brought to Him people with many types of deformities and illnesses, “and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them” (15:29–30). “The multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel” (v. 31).
Jesus told His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (v. 32).
The disciples asked, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?” All that was available were seven loaves of bread and a few small fish (vv. 33–34).
Jesus commanded the people to sit on the ground. Then He “took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude” (vv. 35–36). After all the people had eaten and were filled, it took seven large baskets to hold what was left of the food (v. 37).
Four thousand men plus women and children ate that day (v. 38).
God’s Mercy for a Widow
Jesus, many of His disciples, and a large crowd of people came near the city gate of Nain when a dead man was being carried out of the city. He was the only son of his widowed mother. She and a large crowd were leaving with her son’s body (Lk. 7:11–12).
When Jesus saw the woman, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (v. 13). Those carrying the body stopped when Jesus came to the open coffin and touched it. Then He said to the corpse, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” The young man sat up and spoke, and Jesus delivered him to his mother (vv. 14–15).
God’s Mercy in Time of Need
Believers are exhorted to come boldly to God’s throne to obtain His mercy in time of need (Heb. 4:16). We have this access because Jesus, our High Priest, is constantly located at that throne; and He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because, during His life on Earth, He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (vv. 14–15).
God’s Mercy Unto Eternal Life
Jude 21 refers to believers “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Eternal life is obtained for believers, not through their human works, but as a result of Christ’s mercy. The word translated “looking” is present tense in the Greek text and communicates the concept of “expectation.”1 This fact implies believers should continually be expecting Christ’s mercy to bring them to eternal life, not eternal judgment.
God’s Requirement of Human Mercy
Jesus declared, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7).
In response to a man’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story concerning a traveler attacked by thieves who took his clothes, wounded him, and left him for dead. Later a priest and then a Levite passed by the wounded man, but neither helped him (Lk. 10:29–32).
Then a Samaritan saw him and had compassion for him. He bandaged the man’s wounds, set him on his own animal, took him to an inn, and paid for his keep (vv. 33–35).
When Jesus finished the story, He asked, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (v. 36).
The man answered, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (v. 37).
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone (Mt. 23:23).
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Lk. 6:36).
The apostle Paul exhorted the Philippian believers, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded” (Phil. 2:1–2).
To the Colossian Christians he wrote, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12).
Jesus told the story of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed the king 10,000 talents and was unable to pay. So the king commanded that the servant, his wife, children, and possessions be sold to pay off the debt. The servant fell at the king’s feet, begged for patience, and promised to pay in full. The king was so moved with compassion he mercifully released the servant and forgave his debt.
Then the servant went to find a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. Grabbing him by the throat, he demanded payment. The fellow servant fell at the forgiven servant’s feet, begged for patience, and promised to pay in full. But instead of doing for the fellow servant what the king had done for him, he had the man put in prison until he could pay the debt. He had no merciful compassion for his debtor.
When other servants saw what had been done, they were grieved and told the king everything.
The king was so disturbed he required the forgiven servant to come to him. “You wicked servant!” declared the king. “I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” The king was so angry he turned the man over to torturers until the servant could pay what he owed the king (Mt. 18:23–34).
After telling this story, Jesus delivered the following application: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (v. 35).
Jesus’ story is an excellent illustration of the principle in James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” The word translated “triumphs” expresses “comparative superiority.”2 Thus the expression “mercy triumphs over judgment” communicates the concept that showing mercy to a person is superior to administering judgment on him.
The apostle Paul indicated that people who do “not like to retain God in their knowledge” become “haters of God” and are “unmerciful” toward others (Rom. 1:28, 30–31).
He also said mercy is to be shown “with cheerfulness” (12:8). The word translated “cheerfulness” refers to an outward countenance that “reflects a kind heart” characterized by “generosity.”3 In other words, acts of mercy are not to be done grudgingly. Thus Paul also wrote, “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
In line with this, the apostle John wrote,
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:17–18).
- Walter Grundmann, “prosdexomai,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 2:58.
- Rudolf Bultmann, ”katakauxaomai,” TDNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 3:653.
- Bultmann, “hilaros,” ibid., 3:298–299.