Masterpiece or Mud
In our new series in Matthew 5, we are finding that the Beatitudes are a little different to study than ordinary passages. Each saying is proverb-like. Cryptic, precise, and full of life-changing meaning for those believers that want an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. This teaching was part of Jesus Christ’s intensive discipleship training program. Those listening were living under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. They were experiencing excessive taxation, denied freedoms, and persecution. Sounds a lot like where we are going today.
In the fifth beatitude, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall inherit mercy.” Here we get a glimpse into Christ’s heart for people. To be “merciful” is to have a heart that is moved for those in need. It's showing kindness or compassion where it’s not expected.
We see this mercy in action in the account of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50. Here, Simon, the pharisee has a dinner party where a “sinful woman” unexpectantly shows up and empties her perfume on Jesus’ feet. Please notice what Jesus didn't do. He didn't pull away in embarrassment to save his reputation. He didn't rebuke her for the life she'd been living, even though He knew all about it. He didn't correct her awkward expression of worship. That was what the Pharisees in the room expected a prophet to do.
Instead, he graciously received her extravagant and unorthodox display of affection. He rose to her defense when those around the table wanted to pass judgment on her. He dignified her behavior by describing it as worship of the highest order. Then, He pronounced her forgiven of all her offenses. That's mercy. That's unexpected kindness. That's what it means to have a tender heart. Mercy looks beyond a person’s fault and sees their need.
Think of it this way. If you went to a garage sale and found a Rembrandt painting covered with mud, would you focus on the Rembrandt, or would you focus on the mud?
Hopefully, you'd focus on the painting; you'd recognize it as a masterpiece, something of great worth. Eventually, you would have to do something about the mud. You'd have to find an expert who could clean it up for you without damaging the painting. But your initial response, your heart's response, would be enthusiasm for the Rembrandt.
When that sinful woman walked into the room, Jesus saw a masterpiece, but all Simon saw was mud. Jesus saw a woman, created in God's image for eternal glory. All Simon saw was her inappropriate dress and her embarrassing behavior. Jesus saw her potential as a human being. All Simon saw was her sinful past.
We find it easy to condemn Simon and the Pharisees' reaction. How could they be so clueless, so hard-hearted? The sad truth is, this kind of thing happens in church all the time. Purpose to see people like Jesus sees people and share His love and forgiveness to someone today!