This week’s Gospel is about the character of our Lord, and how this character leaves its imprint on us. It’s the “family way” so to speak. And that “way” is mercy.
First lets look at the cool Christology going on, Jesus’ subtle teaching that He and the Father are of one divine substance. Jesus first teaches that the Father is merciful, and that this is how we should be as well. Be merciful as the Father is merciful. Then Jesus gets into specifics about what this looks like. Don’t judge or condemn, but forgive; give abundantly from the overflow of our hearts.
Then Jesus explains the principle with parable, that is, the principle that we should be merciful as the Father is merciful. He says, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Here, He explains that, just as each of us should be like our Father in His mercy, so also will we be “like [our] teacher,” which is Jesus. The word “as” in “as your Father is merciful” is similar to the “like” here in “like his teacher.” The teacher (Jesus) is of one substance with the Father! (In the Greek the two words are similar as well, the one kathos, and the other hos.)
The Father is merciful; the Son teaches this mercy and lives it out, thus making it something to emulate. Jesus is God’s mercy in action.
And this explains each of the five verbs we see in the Gospel. Jesus acts out each of these verbs.
Jesus was merciful. No one in the Gospel who ever prayed “Lord, have mercy” was every denied. In fact their faith was praised. Why does Jesus have mercy? Because He knows our frailty. As the Psalm says, “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.”
In Christ we are not judged as our sins deserve, as Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
In Christ we are spared condemnation on the day of judgment, for as it says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” And again, “He who believes in Him is not condemned.”
Jesus teaches forgiveness and lives it out. “Whatever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” Or think when Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
In Christ God gave us everything. For “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.”
Now, as it is for our, so it is for us who should be “as” our Father and “like” our teacher.
We should be merciful. Where we are tempted to say, “They get what they deserve.” Mercy says, “I myself know how frail and weak I am. How can I not have mercy on you?”
We should not judge. Judging not is not the same thing as “Let me remove the standard of judgment.” This is the world’s “non-judgmentalism.” So, for instance, if someone is fornicating with his girlfriend, he might say, “Don’t judge me.” And what they mean is not, “Yeah, I know I’m sinning, but go work on your own sins first, and then come back and talk to me.” No, what they mean is, “That’s an old fashioned idea of sexual ethics, based on the bible, that should no longer apply.” This is clearly not what Jesus means when He says, “Judge not.” He means we should have mercy in the application of God’s eternal standard, knowing how frail we ourselves are before it. “Judge not” means, don’t go around looking for specks, looking to apply God’s law harshly to satisfy some personal lack of mercy. Rather look out for people’s good. Live your life in such a way so that you can help others as they try to live according to God’s standard.
We should not condemn. God is the final judge. This is why the “GD” curse is so very wrong. This is why the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine.” It is not ours to condemn, but to have mercy. The Lord will be the final judge. Here’s an interesting question for a later meditation, but does our media/internet culture foster judgmentalism or mercy? I think we all know the answer to that.
Finally, we should give. When your heart is anchored in heaven, where you possess all things, there is nothing you can lose. This is why Jesus focuses on the heart. Hearts filled with God’s mercy and grace overflow. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.” Hearts are what we “lift up” during communion, so as to fill with that heavenly vision, where our treasure is. When we have all the treasures of heaven, it is impossible to lose anything by what we give on earth. The Father gave in this way. Jesus gave in this way. And those whose hearts are in Christ give this way as well.