“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And 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 of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:6-8 (context, vv. 1-8)
Do we honestly want to see mercy? To give it is much harder than making a sacrifice. Mercy often entails forgiving or helping someone, and that’s usually difficult. We do better by making a religious offering, than having to reach out in love and touch someone we really don’t like. To let someone “off-the-hook” grates us.
Mercy is commonly defined “as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”
Wow. Isn’t this hard sometimes? We really do excel when we try to “punish” those who hurt us, we are experts at this. We ‘automatically’ lash out at those who we feel defy or somehow cross us. I find that I can get quite defensive very fast. And usually that thing is very trivial.
Jesus said to him,
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
On our own, it seems we just can’t be as compassionate or forgiving like Jesus. We vastly prefer religious duties over forgiveness. Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 x 7, whenever a ‘sinning’ brother asks for leniency, we have to give it. If we forgive, then we’ll be forgiven!
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.“
He wants to see our mercy. That outweighs any spiritual sacrifice we might make. One of Jesus’ own beatitudes hits the nail on the head,
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
We can’t evade this. We may try but He will keep bringing us back to it until we can pass this test, and even then we can anticipate “surprise” tests. That typically kicks us out of a false sense of maturity, and our ‘spiritual’ arrival.
We think we’ve got mercy down pat, and yet He wants to take it deeper still. Mercy for us will always be a spiritual action to a physical situation. And He brings these situations to us, to see what we do, and to reveal what is truly in our hearts at the time.
Sacrifice was a critical definition in the Pharisee’s dictionary, and Jesus more or less destroyed that entire religious concept. Sacrificing without real love, can never be part of a believer’s vocabulary. Jesus wants every disciple to show an outrageous mercy to everyone they meet.
The most miserable prison in the world is the prison we make for ourselves when we refuse to show mercy.