The Good Samaritan is a good example of mercy (Luke 10:30-37). Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” The Good Samaritan was a blessed man. Mercy is compassion in action. While grace deals with sin, mercy deals with the consequences of sin and pity for the sinner to relieve their suffering. Thomas Watson said, “Love is the friend who visits all and mercy is the doctor who visits the sick.” Grace offers pardon while mercy offers relief from the sorrow.
Jesus told the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. They beat him, robbed him blind, then left him half dead on the side of the road. A priest, whose job was to have compassion (Hebrews 5:2) crossed the road to avoid him. Next, another religious man did the same. Later, a Samaritan comes to the scene.
Samaritans and Jews were not on the best terms. The forefathers of the Samaritans didn’t follow God’s commands of remaining separate from the Gentiles, married into pagan families then adopted some of their practices. The bad blood goes back centuries and the Samaritan man was the enemy of the priest, the Levite, and the beaten man – what would he do?
As this man laid dying, there was no 911, no ambulances, no expert to call. The first responder was the first person to have mercy and respond. The Samaritan stopped, mended the man’s wounds, set him on his own animal to ride and led the suffering man to an inn to care for him. The next morning, the Samaritan still had his business to take care of, so he told the inn keeper to keep on taking care of him and put it on his tab. This is mercy. He saw the pitiful condition, recognized the hurt, the harm, the suffering, and went out of his way to relive the misery of someone else at great cost to himself. Empathy is good, but is not enough to have compassion. Feeling sorry about the situation wasn’t going to help the man dying in the ditch. Compassion feels bad for someone. Mercy goes to help. Compassion feels sorry, mercy then steps to action to alleviate the pain and hurt.
Jesus is the perfect example of mercy. He came to us, dead in our sins and showed mercy to His enemy. He drew us to Himself, loved us, and cared for us. The Lord Jesus clothes believers in robes of His righteousness and binds our spiritual wounds and healing us through the stripes He bore. The Saviour took all we owed and put it on his account, paying our sin debt.
It’s terrible that someone who receives mercy can be so slow to show it to others. Christians have received mountains of mercy from Jesus and we should follow the Lord’s example and be merciful as our Father is merciful (Luke 6:36; Ephesians 2:4) and who delights in mercy (Micah 7:18-20).