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Matthew 12:1-21

Thursday, 31 August 2023

“But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’….” -Matthew 12:7

To a group of religious radicals who gloried in following all the rules and regulations laid down, Jesus had a very different message that nullified every good work they claimed to have done. This was a message He had already taught the disciples on the Sermon on the Mount— the importance of being “Merciful.” The Pharisees having forgotten this virtue wanted to trap Jesus in His act of mercy. This enabled the Lord to expose them to their own hardness of heart and their wickedness.

Jesus quotes from Hosea 6:6, where we see God rebuke His people for being involved in works done not from a deep love for God, having no knowledge of Him and where they failed to show justice and mercy to their neighbor. Here Jesus once again reminds us that He desires to see those following Him, to be people of goodness and love: People who will reflect their religion in their practical life.

What causes us to become Pharisaical in our behavior?

1) An inability to recognize a poverty in our own spirit – Man is quite good at wanting to please God with a lot of outward expressions. They pride themselves at what they have rendered to God in public rather than see their emptiness in their secret lives. But God always looks deeper into our lives rather than the offerings we bring. Jesus beautifully explains this through the lives of two men in Luke 18: 9-12. We see how each of them presented themselves before God. One lauded his spiritual acts, justifying himself while the other saw the need for a deep transformation within. Jesus concludes that the second man went back justified before God.

Where do you and I stand? Only a broken person can be a merciful person.

2) An inability to understand the mercy we have received – In our reading, while the Pharisees were arguing with Jesus about breaking the law, Jesus reminded them of the time when David received mercy even after breaking the law. In fact the priests in the Temple work on a Sabbath! Mercy was more important that being judgmental.

If we look at ourselves, once we were sick, miserable and eternally sick sinners. It’s in such a state that we received the ‘unconditional mercy of God’— the medicine for spiritual life. But how often do we reflect on it and thank Him for this “Undeserved Gift”? The less thankful we are, the more judgmental we become! We fail to remember what God has saved us from and fail to offer others the mercy we have received. Jesus explains this very clearly in Matthew 18:21-35 in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant who received a great cancellation of debt but could not cancel a small debt owed to him by his fellow servant.

We likewise have received mercy from God in and through the work of Christ Jesus on the cross. What stops us from giving our fellow brethren what we have received freely?

Can we examine our lives today to see if we are always trying to justify ourselves before God and condemn others without being merciful? Let us take time to meditate on the mercy we have received from God through Christ Jesus and offer others the same mercy we have received.

Quote for the day – “An eye for distress, a heart of pity, an effort to help, in spite of enmity – that’s mercy.” -John Piper



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