Open Your Heart to Mercy
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God’s mercy is endless, from everlasting to everlasting! His love and mercy and forgiveness and salvation never end! He never stops loving us, no matter what we do. He never rejects us or withdraws His love. He always has hope for us, no matter how far we’ve strayed.1
In spite of our sins and shortcomings and misdeeds and crimes, whatever they may be, the blood of Jesus covers all our sins, past, present, and future. If we will forsake our sin and turn to the Lord, our God will abundantly pardon.2 The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.”3 No matter what we have done! The only “unpardonable sin” is a refusal to believe in Jesus, rejection of Him as your Savior.
We have a God big enough to forgive not only our mistakes but our sins! He always has and always does and always will, forever and ever and ever! Like a stream, like a river, His love and mercy just keep flowing no matter what!—David Brandt Berg
Have you ever heard about Jesus’ encounter with a certain wealthy businessman of Jericho?4
Zacchaeus, the man in our story, was quite an infamous character, especially when contrasted with the many devoutly religious figures who walked the streets of Jericho, “the city of priests.”
He was the wealthy head of a large office of government tax collectors, and to the Jews, tax collectors (or publicans, as they were called) were the absolute lowest of the low, only to be compared with common prostitutes. Well known for being cheaters, extortionists, and robbers of the poor, these men were also considered traitors to their brethren, since, though they themselves were Jews, they worked for the much-hated government of Rome.
Here was a man with governmental authority to bleed from the people as much tribute as possible, and anything he could gouge from them above that went straight into his own pocket.
But one day something happened that completely changed all this for Zacchaeus. He had already heard all about Jesus and the many miracles which He’d performed, yet even more fascinating was the fact that, like himself, Jesus also had a bad reputation and was known to be a friend of publicans and sinners. In fact, one of Jesus’ own disciples, Matthew, had one time been a tax collector in Capernaum!
For some time Zacchaeus had wanted to meet the “carpenter-turned-prophet.” Would Jesus be my friend too?” he wondered. He had no real friends outside of his immediate family, and recently he’d begun to feel quite dissatisfied. He’d begun to realize that it took much more than wealth to bring true warmth and satisfaction. After all, he had practically everything money could buy, but something was missing. Exactly what, he wasn’t sure.
Then one day Jesus passed through Jericho. When Zacchaeus heard that He was in town, he dropped everything, closed up his office, and hurried off to see for himself. A large crowd, with Jesus in their midst, was already moving slowly down the road, but poor Zacchaeus was so short he couldn’t see a thing. Quickly he spotted a large sycamore tree up ahead of the crowd. As Jesus passed by, maybe he could see him from that tree. Zacchaeus ran past the crowd and scurried up into the tree.
When Jesus finally reached the tree where Zacchaeus was, Jesus called, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. I must stay at your house today!”
“Wha … what did He say?” Zacchaeus was shocked! “He called me by my name! He wants to stay at my house?” He answered, “Why, this is an honor! Please do come to my house! You’re so very welcome!” And Zacchaeus joyfully escorted Jesus to his home.
By the time they arrived, the crowd that followed stood outside murmuring indignantly, “How could He, Jesus, come to our fair city, a center for religious training, and yet choose to lodge with such a scoundrel as that?”
Then Jesus exclaimed, within earshot of the grumbling crowd outside, “Today salvation has come to this house! For truly the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost!” It didn’t matter how bad Zacchaeus had been before; the Lord’s love was more than enough to forgive.—Adapted from an article in Treasures5
The people of Jericho were very annoyed with Jesus when he visited Zacchaeus in his own home, “They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,’ they said.”6 But the attitudes of others never prevented Jesus from welcoming sinners. So no matter what people think of you, remember that Jesus is always waiting for you to turn to him. He is full of mercy and compassion and never refuses anyone, no matter what their past. … Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”7 On another occasion Jesus said he did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.8 Jesus spent so much time with sinners during his ministry that a rhyme was made up about him: “Behold a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners.”9
The leaders of the Jewish religion, the scribes and Pharisees, complained about Jesus because of his ministry to sinners. So he told parables about God’s mercy, the parable of the shepherd searching for the lost sheep,10 the parable of the woman sweeping the house to find the lost coin,11 and the parable of the prodigal son being welcomed back by his father.12 Jesus said there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous who have no need of repentance.13 … [Let us also] talk of God’s mercy, “You are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent. Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence.”14 Our Psalm also assured us of God’s mercy, “The Lord is kind and full of compassion.”15
Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. Will you, like Zacchaeus, open the door and welcome Jesus in? There is a most beautiful verse in Revelation 3. Jesus says, “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side.”16 It is up to you to open the door to Jesus; he will not force his way in. If you open the door of your heart to Jesus, it will be worth it.
When you meet Jesus, you will not remain the same afterwards. You will want to give up sin and live a new life of grace. … If you really meet Jesus, you will be different. That is what happened to Zacchaeus. He would no longer cheat in the taxes. He promised, “I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.”17 When we receive the forgiveness of Jesus we are transformed. Let us turn to the mercy of Jesus and be healed of our sins and renewed and transformed.—Fr. Tommy Lane18
O Jesus, You’re so patient and loving with us all. You have dealt with us in great love. We are as a brand snatched from the burning and lifted up from the dust and nothing. We thank You for Your love, Lord, how much You loved us. You didn’t fail us. You didn’t give up on us, even though we looked like a hopeless case.
“For a little while I have forsaken thee, but with loving kindness and tender mercies have I gathered thee.”19 “For My mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, and so will I have mercy upon thee.” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”20 “For though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, and though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool!”21
“Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow!” God’s mercy seems to be unlimited. His love is boundless. Praise God!—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor August 2015. Read by Debra Lee.
1 Psalm 103:3–14.
2 Isaiah 55:7.
3 1 John 1:9.
4 See Luke 19:1–10.
5 Published by The Family International in 1987.
6 Luke 19:7
7 Luke 19:10.
8 Luke 5:32.
9 Luke 7:34.
10 Luke 15:3–7.
11 Luke 15:8–10.
12 Luke 15:11–32.
13 Luke 15:7.
14 From the New American Bible.
15 Psalm 145:8.
16 Revelation 3:20.
17 Luke 19:8.
19 Isaiah 54:7–8.
20 Isaiah 55:7.
21 Isaiah 1:18.