Practicing Mercy

Intro: How can I practice mercy? That may like a strange question. But mercy is more than just a feeling, even a feeling of compassion or pity. Mercy involves activity. As Vines tells us mercy is the “outward manifestation of pity.”


Read Luke 10:25-37:  The lessons from the parable of the Good Samaritan. I think we could easily call this the parable of the merciful Samaritan. At the end of the story Jesus asks:So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke10:36-37)  The Samaritan was good because he was merciful.


I. Some preliminary thoughts on Jesus’ parable:

A.  The Lawyer vs. the Samaritan. These two individuals (one real, the other a character in the story) pose a real contrast. There is a lesson in the contrasts that Jesus draws for us.

1.  The Lawyer was a man who would have had much to recommend him (credentials).

  • He asks a good and relevant question – What must I do to inherit eternal life?
  • He was no doubt an intelligent person.
  • He knows the law and can quote it with accuracy. (vs. 27-28)

a.  But there is a deficiency. His orthodoxy is not accompanied by practical righteousness. By this we mean that he had the right information but not the right application. A person may know and approve the law and yet not keep it. He answered right but was not righteous.

2. The Samaritan was religiously wrong. He did not understand God’s revelation in the Law of Moses and could not give the right answers to some important questions about law. But Jesus is not commending his Samaritanism. What does Jesus recommend about him?

  • He is a person of true human compassion.
  • He acts mercifully in response to a person distress. In the context of the parable, he acts like a neighbor to the injured man.

B.  The question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?  The lawyer’s answer was right. He summarizes the whole law in the first two commandments (Love God; love my neighbor) and Jesus told him to do this and he would live (have eternal life) But rather than confess that he could not and had not done this, he sought to justify himself. Who is my neighbor? He assumed that there was a limitation to the law. He assumed that the law was restricted by the quality of the person who would receive the love.

1. Jesus tells the story to turn this perception around. The law of love was not conditional on the proximity or status of the recipient. Instead of answering the lawyers question about who qualified to be a neighbor, Jesus taught him was it meant to act as a neighbor to another. This is a lesson on love and mercy. John MacArthur says… Instead of talking about who qualifies to be your neighbor, let’s talk about the quality with which you love. If you’re even asking the question, “Who qualifies for me to love?” you can’t fulfill that commandment. It’s not about who qualifies, it’s about the character of your love. So Jesus has already turned this upside down and now He’s talking about the love of the individual toward someone in need, not whether the person in need qualifies to be loved.

2. True acts of mercy come from unlimited love for other people.


II.  The Story – there is not need to outline the story – it is simple and contains limited interpretations and application. But Jesus gives the story context.

A.  vs. 30“A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” You do go down. Jerusalem is about 3000 feet above sea level, Jericho about 1000. below. It’s a 4,000 foot drop in 17 miles. This is a severe road with cliffs and caves. It was a favorite place for robbers. The familiar thing happened to this man. He was robbed and beaten, left for dead. His condition, apart from aid, human and Divine, appears helpless and hopeless.

B.  vs. 31 – By chance a priest passes by. On the surface there seems to be hope. The priest (the best and most pious of men) He would have been familiar with the law. Leviticus 19:3434 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  We might assume that the beaten man was a Jew, but even if a stranger, the law was clear. The Jew was even required by law to lift an enemy’s ox out of the ditch. (Ex. 23:4-5) But he passes by on the other side. Why?

1.  There are many commentators who try to get into this man’s head and tell us what he was thinking (the man might be dead or dying – become unclean; afraid of the robbers, etc.) But Jesus doesn’t tell us these details. Bottom line, he has no compassion. The Levite that comes by later represents the lower end of the priestly scale. 

C.  vs. 33 – The Samaritan comes by. The injured man cannot expect any help here. Everything points against it because this man is his enemy and the hatred runs deep. The injured Jew does not qualify as his neighbor, does he?

1.  “When he saw him he had compassion” – notice that what he saw was enough to elicit compassion. He knew nothing of the circumstances of this man’s plight. His first inclination was to be merciful and help.

D. vs. 34-35 – The Samaritan then takes center stage in the story and here comes the main point. Notice how this man loves and expresses mercy.

1. verse 34 says, “He came to him.” It simply means he went up to where he was. This is the first thing he does. He evaluates, diagnosis, assesses his condition, his need, gives careful attention to what’s going to be required for his rescue and recovery. He cares enough to investigate, not dismiss.

a.  He discovered that the man had some wounds, the Greek word is trauma. bleeding, broken bones, etc. –  he bandaged up his wounds – tore from his own clothes.  

2.  Pouring oil and wine in the wounds. Wine was as an antiseptic and oil was used to lubricate, to soothe and to soften the tissue. This was part of the healing. These things were things he brought for himself.. to drink and cook with.

a. The word “pouring here has a…has a preposition on the front of it which intensifies it, literally he just generously washes over the man with this wine and oil. He’s not dabbing it in there. This is generous and lavish.  

3.  “He put him on his own beast.”  – that means he had to walk. This is amazing. This is not a minimal care, this is maximum. He is getting in deeper with each line.

4.  brought him to an inn and cared for him. At what point will this Samaritan conclude that he has met his obligation to this stranger?  What is Jesus telling us here?

5.  “And took care of him.” Having negotiated the place to stay, took the man in, put him down to rest, continued to work with him with his bandages, with his wounds, providing food, sleep, comfort, water, cleansing. And he did it all night.

a.  in verse 35, “And on the next day…”  You mean this man was still in the story?. He set his whole agenda aside. He gave up his own clothes, his own supplies, his own time. This is amazing for a stranger who was his worst enemy. And he stayed all night by his bed, making sure he was cared for.

b.  “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him.'”  His mercy compelled him to engage others in the care of this man.

c.  Some suggest that the common care of an innkeeper might cost one-twelfth of a denari. That is 24 day’s worth. That’s pretty amazing & generous. Never met the man, total stranger, doesn’t know how he got in the condition he got into, doesn’t ask how he got into that condition and Jesus doesn’t put that part into the story, it doesn’t matter. It is not a matter of qualification but love and mercy.

d.  He said to the innkeeper in verse 35, “Take care of him and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.” Now he has now exposed himself to serious extortion. He can certainly be taken advantage of. The picture here is impressive. It is shocking. How can he do this?

E.   vs.  36-37So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   The question comes back on the lawyer and he forced to see the implication – cannot bring himself to name the Samaritan, just the one who showed mercy- He did the nerighborly thing.

F.  This is the picture of mercy in action. The desire to help another is a powerful force that transcends racial and social barriers. It is single focused and does not attempt to justify or qualify the recipients.

1.  It is not legitimate to use Jesus’ story here to authorize unlimited benevolent activity by the church corporately or to activate the church to feed all the poor and oppressed of the world. But the Christian must be merciful, and this story gives me a pretty clear picture of what that involves. We must desire to help others without reservation. I desire mercy and not sacrifice.



. Conclusion:  This type of activity is the heart of our own salvation ands illustrates the etgeranl desire of God.

I like what W. Aitken wrote: What would have become of us if the Lord Jesus Christ had asked the question, “Who is My neighbour?” ….What daring intelligence of heaven or hell would ever have suggested that the Lord Jesus Christ could find His “neighbour” in a fallen world, amid the children of sorrow and the slaves of hell? Who would have ever thought that God would have chosen us to be His “neighbours?” that He should have come where we are, that He should bend over us with a heart glowing with love, and pour into our wounds the sweet solace of His own anointing oil, or breathe into our lifeless being the supernatural energy of His own eternal life — who would so much as have suggested this? Not less than this Divine love has actually effected.

  • The lavish activity of mercy has saved us from the wrath of God.   James 2:13For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
  • Barnes suggests that James statement speaks to the context and trial of the day of final judgment.
  • To some who have shown no mercy or judged others with partiality (context of James 2) there is only judgment without the presence of mercy.
  • To others there is a triumph (glorying over a victory) of mercy over judgment. For God’s people, mercy wins the day, and they are acquitted.

Justice demands, as what is her due, that the sinner should be condemned; mercy pleads that he may be saved-and mercy prevails. Mercy triumphs because Jesus has come to us and ministered to our needs. He has healed our wounds through the interposing of His blood.

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