John 5:13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
How many people’s lives have been changed by Jesus and they don’t know it? I wonder how often Jesus has stepped into someone’s life with an act of unrecognized mercy that was attributed to luck or fortune? Why did healing happen to someone who had no apparent knowledge of Jesus? This is such an unusual story to me. A body had been physically healed but it was only later that Jesus “found” the healed man to wake up his mind to the source and the purpose of what had happened to him. That’s the message of this one verse. The mercy of Jesus doesn’t come with strings attached but it’s an incomplete blessing until it becomes the wake-up call for our mind to recognize Jesus as the source of all mercy.
Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. [ESV]
3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [ESV]
James 2:5-7 & 12-14. [NIV]
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?…12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
It’s only a few days until the celebration of our nation’s freedom. We’re in another time of turmoil about freedom now, but this time it’s not our own. This time we’re confronted by the object lesson of current events demanding we consider who deserves to be free, what freedom demands of them and how much we’re willing to invest of what God has given us so they can be free? We are dependent on the mercy of God triumphing over the judgment of men as we struggle to find answers to those questions. Many others fought in 1776 for the freedom we celebrate this week but here’s God’s challenge for us to consider now.
“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
Our challenge is to have mercy for the reality of physical need not judge the integrity of their desire to be free of tyranny and oppression. Our nation was built by many other people who were judged ineligible and exiled from their home, but by the mercy of God’s grace they were given a second chance to invest their lives and resources “in order to form a more perfect Union.” Were they perfect? Of course not!
This is the truth of freedom then…and it’s still the truth of freedom now. God will hold us accountable for our actions “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” It makes no earthly sense that “mercy triumphs over judgment” but it makes no heavenly sense that we have exploited the poor and honored “the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong.”
Lord help us! Help us this July 4th of 2019 to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.” Lord make us so “rich in faith” that we can honestly promise we’ll invest our blessings in others seeking freedom and in your truth that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
You probably know the story in Mark 5:1 – 20
Jesus is confronted by a demon possessed man of great strength. This man lived in the tombs, and had broken free of his chains and irons. Night and day he wandered among the tombs and in the hills crying out and cutting himself with stones. The demons begged Jesus to let them come out and go into the pigs and they all rushed into the lake and drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported to the town’s people who went out to see what had happened. They saw the healed man sitting there, dressed and in his right mind and they were afraid. They pleaded with Jesus to leave but the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus tells him “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.
Jesus knows when evil is present and evil is clever enough to try to use God’s name in an effort to play on Jesus’s sympathy. Jesus is interested in more than just confronting evil – he must destroy it in order to save a man from the demons that bedevil him and give him the courage to speak of how much the Lord has done and the he has shown.