THE GOSPELS 27
BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL
Our language, as diverse as it is, fails to indicate the intensity often found in other languages, especially the Greek. I mention this because we have a tendency to read each of these “beatitudes” as good principles, and desirable for the Christian, without realizing the desperate intensity that Jesus gave to each of them by the very words He used.
The first one, “poor in spirit”, uses the strongest Greek word for “poor”. It is a word that means someone who has absolutely nothing. The word for “mourn” in the second beatitude is not just a word that means being sorry. It is the word that is used to mean someone who is devastated by grief, such as the loss of a loved one, and leaves the person in tears and irreconcilable sorrow. The concept of meek is the complete surrender of oneself to a cause and purpose which divests him of all other interest. And the fourth beatitude speaks of hunger and thirst, not for a snack and a drink to relieve a desire, but the hunger of the starving and the thirst of one who is dying for want of water. Thus we see the extreme importance Jesus placed on each of these principles. They should so occupy the heart and soul of a person as to make everything else in life incidental.
We have already pointed out that these four principles serve to remove my own personal will and concerns from me, and prepare me to be filled with the characteristics of the Father, so necessary if I am to dwell with Him in eternity .
Jesus begins these last three beatitudes with, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”. Again, the word used here, and translated “mercy”, is something quite other than a feeling of pity for those who are in trouble, pain or misfortune. Barclay points out that the Hebrew word for “mercy”, which the Greek goes back to, is a word that is untranslatable, but it means the ability to get into another person’s skin and see the world through his eyes…feel what he feels…understand as he understands.
Mercy is the ultimate connection of the heart with another person. Rather than just judging the other person’s failure, and feeling sorry for him, it means reaching out to him so completely that I feel his hurt.
I would like for you to realize that this is a characteristic of real love. Only if I really care about others can I allow my feelings to merge with theirs and feel what they feel. You will note in these last three beatitudes that each of them is motivated by, and is a real requirement of love. Naturally so, for they are characteristics of love, and “God is love”. Only by loving us could God have come down, in the person of His Son, to feel what we feel, and show us the undeserved mercy, without which we would have no hope.
In our next essay, we want to look closely at the sometimes uncomfortable
condition stipulated in the last of this beatitude. Only those who show this kind of mercy can expect to receive the mercy we all desperately need.