I once read an article that asked what came to mind when I thought of mercy. Of course I knew that Jesus extended the ultimate mercy to me when He forgave my sins. But I also knew that my life wasn’t a reflection of Christ’s words in the way I wanted them to be.
Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” But if I am not watchful, I can easily disregard these words, seeing my brother or sister’s misfortune as only a means to getting ahead.
The story Jesus told about the good Samaritan took on new meaning for me, and therefore I would like to reenact this tale in the way I imagine it would have been told in this age. So travel with me back to Jerusalem, and simply observe.
You are an expert lawyer, and you’ve been growing more and more fed up as your mind whirls. You have just come from a board meeting in the temple, where you were hardly able to sit still. The pharisees and sadducees had discussed an emergency, as they saw their power and prestige waning.
The meeting had opened like any other with roll call, and then the high priest stood up and cleared his throat. He was usually meticulous, but today, as your eyes fell on his long and flowing robes, you noticed that they hadn’t been ironed in weeks.
“Let’s get to the real issue here,” the high priest began. “It is apparent that something needs to be done immediately concerning this Jesus of Nazareth. It is no secret that all the people love listening to Him teach. And those signs–oy vey! If we allow this to continue, all the people will follow Him instead of us and the great Caesar.”
You stood up and smugly shouted, “I’ll trap Him in His own words!”
The high priest hardly noticed your outburst, which would normally be a sign of disrespect. Instead he snarled, “Okay, man. What are you waiting for? He’s teaching on the road to Jericho. Get over there!”
“Okay,” you said, putting your chair back in place. “I’ll put it on my expense account.”
Getting in your chariot, you broke the speed limit, hoping you wouldn’t be stopped. Now you are standing before Jesus Christ.
“Teacher,” you scoff, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replies calmly. “How do you read it?”
“That’s a piece of cake,” you say, with a sarcastic laugh. “Anybody knows that. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Becoming defensive, you respond, “I’m a good person. Anyway, just who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus says, “Pay attention!” Then he begins his parable.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.”
You snarl under your breath, “The half-breed! He got what was coming to him if he traveled down there alone.”
Overhearing this, Jesus sighs. “Let me finish, please.
“A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. Then a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
“But a samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he said to himself, ‘That could be me!’
“Going to the beaten man, the samaritan bandaged his wounds, pouring on costly medicine. Then he put the man in his car, and drove away.
“The samaritan took him to a motel where his friend worked. He told his friend, ‘I have a favor to ask you.’
“‘Just name it,’ the clerk smiled.
“‘Thanks. Would you look after this guy?’
“The samaritan handed the clerk his key card. The clerk nodded and pointed to the elevator.
“The next morning, the samaritan took out his credit card and gave it to the man at the front desk.
“‘Did you sleep okay?’ he asked.
“‘Yes, and your prices are great! I’ll give everyone your card if they’re traveling this way. When I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you incur from taking care of this beaten man.'”
As Jesus finishes His story, you can’t help but whistle in awe. “I’ve got to admit that was a great story.”
Jesus overheard the comment, and he replied, “My friend, you are missing the point. Which of the three men in this story do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
“That puts a different spin on it,” you spit disdainfully. “That’s easy–the one who had mercy on him.”
Nodding, Jesus responded, “Okay, now go and do the same thing.”
Now I would like to contrast Jesus’ story with an example of God’s work in my life. It was a tumultuous season for me, so please bear with me, as I need to set the stage for you.
It was one of those curveballs that came my way when I least expected it. But this curveball was a doozy that hit me right between the eyes.
I was involved in nursing homes and other forms of ministry, so I thought I was doing pretty well, and I hoped no one would notice the double-life I lived.
Even though things seemed to be going along pretty smoothly, there was a problem. I knew the issues in my life couldn’t stay hidden forever. I knew that according to scripture they weren’t right, but I thought I could suppress them and they’d go away.
Trying not to give them much thought, I swept them under the rug if they came up at all. But one day everything came to a head, and I discovered once again how God lovingly deals with His children who have strayed.
I reluctantly went to what I was sure would be a routine doctor’s visit. It just seemed like an unnecessary rubber stamp, but I had to get this done. So stepping inside, I checked in at the desk, and then sat down.
When they finally called me into my doctor’s office, I tried to wear a nonchalant mask, and I whistled as I went in. But I was really fed up, feeling that I had waited long enough, and that the afternoon was slipping away.
The nurse started playing 20 Questions, and the clock ticked away as I tried to convince myself this would be over soon.
But what I hoped would be nothing but a mildly bad dream turned out to be a nightmare. At first nothing seemed to be wrong, and I was feeling pretty smug. But then the doctor finally got down to business. The doctor listened to my heart, and the atmospere changed in a split second.
With a grim sigh, she stated, “The blood in your heart is flowing backwards.”
Then the seemingly trivial appointment took on life-and-death significance.
Trying to regroup, I stuttered, “I know that can’t be good, but what exactly does it mean?”
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she told me, “but it means your death is imminent, unless an opperation is performed right away.”
As you can guess, I ended up in the hospital, where I underwent an operation the next day. I lay there all alone, without any friends or relatives to comfort me.
Scared and consumed by thoughts that I could die on the table, my life flashed before me. Then I began to seriously think about life’s transitory nature, and I contrasted this with my fleeting dreams. I realized more and more that all the dreams I thought were under my control, actually controlled me. Gradually, I came to a further realization: While I was doing good things for Jesus, I wasn’t entirely being the person He wanted me to be.
Once I confessed this, it was almost like Jesus spoke to me. My chaotic thoughts began to calm down, and like a magnet, they were drawn to part of a well-known verse. Jesus seemed to whisper, “Let not your heart be troubled, Tim.”
While it is true that God lovingly took me through some major changes in my life, it is also true that just as His Word states, all those changes worked out for good.
That day, I learned that what I do needs to proceed from who I am. Like the blood-flow in my heart, I had everything backwards in my mind. So please don’t forget the lesson that I had to learn the hard way, and put character before anything else.
In His Word, Jesus shows us how this needs to play out, both in word and deed, for God’s character is that of mercy. Since we all stumble when trying to follow His example, however, we need to develop a moment-by-moment dependence upon Him.
This is best done by grabbing onto what I call the two hands of mercy. These hands are God’s Word and prayer, which are both essentials as we attempt to reflect Him, and be His lights in a dark world. Jesus is saying to you and me that rather than just living in a mercy moment when we feel like it, we need to be mercy-motivated.
In other words, we need to show a passion for compassion. Pastor Rick Warren calls this pre-meditated mercy. This means moving your feet instead of your mouth, and intentionally reaching out to those in need.
But this won’t happen until–or unless–we seek God’s heart above all else. If we take this step, we cannot help but become people who are continually catching a glimpse of His vision.
In his devotional book called My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, “My vision of God depends upon the state of my character. Character determines revelation. Before I can say I saw also the Lord, there must be something corresponding to God in my character.”
The by-product of vision is that God calls us to be people who are transformed by His love, while allowing that love to overflow to others in need. It is my prayer that just as He did for the men on the road to Emmaus, the Lord will open our eyes to His son in a new way. I invite you to join me on the greatest adventure life offers, as we touch others in His name.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.