Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father: You are merciful, and through Christ promised us that You will neither judge nor condemn us, but graciously forgive us all our sins, and abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul: We pray that by Your Holy Spirit You would establish in our hearts a confident faith in Your mercy, and teach us also to be merciful to our neighbor, that we may not judge or condemn others, but willingly forgive all, and, judging only ourselves, lead blessed lives in Your fear; through Your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
36 “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?
40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.
41 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?
42 “Or how can you say to your brother,`Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
Kyrie Eleison. “Lord, have mercy.” The blind man, the lepers, the Syrophoenician woman, and others cried these words to Jesus, seeking His mercy, His compassion, His help.
And we sing these same words in the liturgy. In the Divine Service, Rite 1, it comes after the confession of sins. There, we’re asking that in mercy God would forgive us our sins. In Rite 2, it comes after the pronouncement of absolution. There, having our sins already forgiven by God, we ask that God also show mercy to us in regard to our Christian lives on this earth. In this Matin’s service, we are asking God for His merciful help again for our lives on earth. Psalm 116 (:5) says, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful.” He is merciful, and He has shown Himself in history to be merciful, and so we pray, desiring His mercy. In fact, ἐλέησόν, is an imperative. It’s more than a wish. We’re crying to God, expecting Him to show mercy upon us, because He has so promised to be merciful.
The word in our text for mercy is οἰκτίρμονες. It is an adjective expressing the character or quality of having mercy. It is showing compassion and kindness, especially to those who are indebted to you, or who are under your authority.
We are under the authority of God, and rely upon Him since He is our Creator and we are His creation. And we are indebted to God because of our sin. According to His justice, He could rightfully condemn us. But He is merciful to us.
It should go without saying, we should also be merciful. Jesus says, “Be merciful, as your your Father is merciful.” It would be foolish not to show mercy, and Jesus in the text explains that for us.
First of all, the foolishness of not being merciful is that it would be against God’s own command that we be merciful. To not fear God and disobey Him is the height of foolishness.
But also, we have no right to withhold mercy from our neighbor. It would be immoral of us to withhold mercy by judging and condemning our neighbor. It is foolish in two ways, first, because of who we are in relation to our neighbor. It can be explained by an example of a situation that sometimes happens in a home with multiple children. It happens that one child likes to be take some authority for himself, and be a bit bossy toward the other children, threatening them with punishment. To the son acting this way, we say, “You’re not the dad.” And to the daughter, “You’re not the mom.” You don’t have the authority to act in such a way.
In the same way, we do not in our personal relationships have the authority to be judge over others, to execute justice, to hold grudges, or to hold the debt of sins that others have against you. Now, we may make them aware of their sins and the danger of their sins, like a caring child can lovingly warn a disobedient sibling, “you’re going get hurt,” or “you’re going to get in trouble with dad.” In fact, it is loving to warn them of the danger of their sins, but it is not for us to hold on to the sins of others. That is an authority we do not have.
It would be wicked of us to let the sins of others prevent us from showing mercy and love toward them. In fact, Jesus tells us how far this mercy must go, He says, in a few verses preceding our text, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28). And if this is said about those who are your enemies, what love and mercy is expected of you towards those who are your brothers and sisters in the faith. This mercy is quite the opposite of having a resentful disposition towards your neighbor, speaking lies or gossip about your neighbor, ignoring the needs of your neighbor, or assuming poor motives in your neighbor’s words or actions.
Now, I just want to touch on one more point about judging using the illustration of the siblings. Sometimes the parent does give the oldest child authority when the kids are left home alone. That child speaks on behalf of the parent. When the child says to his siblings, “You need to pick up the toys you played with,” or “it’s time to go to bed,” he speaks with the authority of the parent. When he threatens, he threatens with the authority of the parent. So also, the Church is given the authority of the keys, to say with the authority of God the Judge, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or “You remain condemned in your sin, as long as you do not repent.” For Jesus has said, “Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Again, this is done out of love.
Now, another reason that withholding mercy is foolish is that in order to withhold mercy, you must first be blinded by pride from seeing your own log of sins. It is easy to look to the sins of others and say, “I will not be kind, nor will I be compassionate, because they have sinned in such a way. They have offended me. Thus I will exalt myself over them, hold their sin against them, and treat them accordingly.” But have you forgotten your own sin? Consider yourself the greater sinner. That sin in your neighbor is a speck, and yes it ought to be dealt with, but first recognize, not the little speck, but that wretched log of sin in your own eyes. Consider yourself unworthy of mercy.
I will be of no help to my neighbor who sins, if I do not first recognize my own sins. I would merely be a blind person leading the blind. How foolish it is then to withhold mercy from our neighbor?
Oh, how we have been fools, exalting our own sinful selves in self-righteous judgment over other sinners. How we have been blind to our own stack of sins in pride, and held the speck of sins against our neighbor? We certainly are not deserving of mercy.
But thanks be to God for His foolish mercy! This is the foolishness of the gospel that Paul talks about. Man’s wisdom says that we must make up for our sins. Man’s wisdom demands justice from our neighbor, yet it believes that we can justify ourselves before the demands of God, which include that we ought to be as merciful as He is.
But the mercy of God puts to shame the wisdom of man. God is the authority, He is our Creator, and we His creation. He is the judge. He could rightfully condemn us. Instead, what does He do? He is merciful! He sends His Son into the world to suffer and die for us sinners. While we were still sinners, while we were being unmerciful, being self-righteous, prideful, and withholding forgiveness and kindness, while we were murderers in thought, word, and deed, Christ died for us, to take away our sins, and reconcile us to the Father. His blood has washed away every speck and plank of sin from our eyes. You are cleansed! That’s the only way it goes away. His life has redeemed ours!
It seems so foolish! It seems so wasteful that He would show such mercy to sinners! The brother of the prodigal son remained at home with his Father, while his brother squandered his inheritance and lived so disgracefully. And when the prodigal returned, the brother who stayed at home thought it was foolish and wasteful that his Father, would slaughter the fatted calf, and prepare such a great feast for this son who has returned. Yet, this is the great mercy of our God. There is nothing better in the world than this mercy of God.
In mercy, He grants us baptism by which we are made God’s own. In mercy, He prepares table in this wilderness, giving us a lavish feast of His eternal life giving body and blood. In mercy, He gathers us here to share with us the news of His mercy, and His bountiful forgiveness for you!
In mercy, He grants you His Holy Spirit, so that you may also be as foolish and lavish in granting mercy and forgiveness towards others as God has done to you. This is the fruit of faith, the faith created and preserved in us by the Holy Spirit. This is the faith that receives God’s forgiveness and mercy.
May God, by His mercy, preserve us in this faith, and produce us such beautiful fruit. May He, who gave His Son up for our eternal salvation, keep our lives, body and soul, in His merciful care. With the promise of His merciful kindness, we pray this with full confidence that He will do it. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.