Dear Baptized of God, baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Your God is the God of mercy, the Triune God. The Father sent His Son, Jesus, to show that mercy, and to show the heart of God.
After the soldiers put Jesus on the cross, 2000 years ago, with their role in the Passion History being already complete, why didn’t Jesus strike them down with a bolt of lightning? He surely could have by simply speaking the Word. But He did not because that’s not God’s heart. He withheld judgment. That is God’s heart. That’s the very reason He went to the cross, to forgive them, as He said, “Father forgive them”.
Jesus showed the heart of God: “The LORD is...slow to anger, and of great mercy.” That’s who you have, children of God, in your Baptism. You have His mercy, as you continue in your Baptism and the Word.
So we must confess that God has been merciful to us. By merciful, we mean, He has not given us what we have deserved. We have broken every single one of His commandments. Which one of us hasn’t looked to the things of this world for comfort, peace, and joy, before going to God? We’ve had other gods before Him. Who of us hasn’t taken His name in vain?, which happens not only when using His name in the wrong way, but also by not using it in our every time of trouble. Who of us hasn’t neglected the Sabbath day, and God’s Word? Who of us hasn’t lusted after someone we’re not supposed to have, or lied to hide our sin?
Yet, the Lord continues to remain so merciful, so forgiving, not giving us what we have deserved. Instead, He gave His Son, what we deserved. The Lord laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. That’s mercy. Mercy is the withholding of judgment, the witholding of condemnation. And there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Because He took upon Himself the punishment that our sins deserved.
Quite an exchange. The just for the unjust. During Lent and the reading of the Passion History, we review the story of Barrabas, the guilty man, how he goes free, and how Jesus, the innocent Man, gets condemned. We are Barrabas, we get to go free, as Jesus steps into our shoes, and as our perfect Substitute, He takes our blame.
That’s why your salvation is so certain, and so complete. It is based upon the rock of Christ, on His suffering and death for you and me. His resurrection proves the Father accepted His sacrifice for us. Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
We must confess, God has been merciful to us. Yet what happens when someone sins against us? “Come on, he deserves to be punished. Look at what he did to me. He deserves to see my anger, and I’m just making sure he gets what he deserves.” We must all confess, especially in a fit of rage, we’ve all felt that way, yes, even the most faithful Christians have felt that way. “He deserves what he has coming to him.”
Yet, this is at the very heart and core of the Christian faith. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That is what our faith is built upon, Christ crucified and risen, for sinners.
And He is not here to condemn us when we try and fail to be merciful. He is here to continue to be patient with us, as long as it takes, as He promises, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
If we were perfect at showing mercy already, why would we need Christ, why would we need to be baptized? Why would we need His Word and Spirit? Why would we need the true body and blood of our Savior, if we were perfect at showing mercy already?
Do you love your enemies, all of them, all the time? Do you always show mercy? Are you always more ready to forgive than to hold a grudge? So often we are not. So often we fail. Yet, this is another day filled with God’s mercy, another day to remember our Baptism, when Father, Son, and Holy Spirit came to us to wash our sin away. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;.”
So Jesus says, “Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” By His strength, by His mercy, by His Spirit working in us, we can and we do show mercy.
Yet, we still have that old man of sin within us, and he loves to point out the faults of others. “Look at what you have done. Look at how bad you have been.”
But here’s the question…Does pointing out evil somehow make us good? Does constantly sitting in judgment of others, somehow justify us before God?
Scripture says, we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
When Jesus says, be merciful as your Father is merciful, He is calling on us to remember how the Father chose to show us mercy, and chose to give His Son what we deserved, in order that we might live.
So when someone sins against us, we remember these words: “As your Father is merciful.” That’s exactly where we receive the strength to do so, by His mercy, not by our own reason or strength. For “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
We don’t do it alone. We don’t roll up our sleves, and somehow find the strength within ourselves. We remember our Baptism, we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we turn to the Lords’ forgiveness in His Word. “On Jesus Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” And “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
He calls on us to be merciful, and that call is not in vain. His mercy enables us. Be merciful, as your Father is merciful. “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
And as He says, it is a contagious thing, showing mercy. It multiplies. Instead of the blind leading the blind, it is the merciful leading the merciful, as Christ works in and through us.
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you.”
So we give what we have already received from God: mercy, forgiveness, compassion.
God the Father already sent His Son to save us from our sins. He will continue to help us in our endeavor to forgive, to withold judgment, to show mercy. He will continue to be with us to help us.
And when we fail, He will continue to forgive. “For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” Therefore, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Amen.