Dr. Albert Mohler introduced this special chapel session as part of Heritage Week by reminding us that we did not build what we now have. Dr. Russell Moore’s sermon title is: ‘Why Jesus is More and Less Violent than Allah, Planned Parenthood, and Me: Mercy Ministry and the Kingdom of Christ’. As Mohler pointed out, this is a title desperately in search of a sermon. You can listen to the audio here.
Most of us view mercy as reconciling miscommunication. If we can just explain it away, then all will be forgiven. Mercy is something radically different than that. Mercy means refusing to seek justice whenever you have been personally wronged.
Mercy is counter to our culture of lawsuits, sarcasm and bitterness. But it is consistent with Christ who repeatedly teaches that blessed are merciful for they shall receive mercy. The call to mercy is not just for the good Christians but for all God’s children. In Matthew 26:40-58, Jesus shows mercy through the healing of a severed ear. What this passage demonstrates is that mercy is not just the way to be a good Christian, but is the means of understanding the kingdom.
The Merciful Trust in the Justice of the Kingdom
Peter does what seems natural in seeking to protect Jesus. In response to a physical threat, he defends with physical violence. This is the kind of passage that the inner liberal in me wants to edit. But instead of affirming Peter (as my inner liberal would have the passage do), Jesus rebukes him. The one who takes the sword will perish by the sword.
Jesus shows that Peter is acting like a Darwinist. His violent act betrays a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. Jesus responds by appealing to God’s justice. He basically says that Peter does not have to do this because at any time ‘I could call down the shock and awe of God’s power.’
The problem is that Peter wants justice but doesn’t trust God to bring it about. The reason we are unwilling to forgive is that we have the same mind as Peter. We think that if we forgive someone, it implies that we approve of what happened and that no justice will be done. But when we show mercy, we are demonstrating that sin is judged on the cross. There will be justice even if we forgive.
The Merciful Trust in the Promises of the Kingdom
Peter is not just a Darwinist, he is a Satanist. In a previous passage, Jesus has already told him to ‘get behind me Satan’ because he was not acting in accordance with God’s will. The same type of thing happens in this passage.
The arrest and death of Jesus are evil things. But God fulfills his promise by using these evil things to bring about His purposes. God uses even the evil things of the world to conform us to Christ. Some of you don’t trust the promises of God, and instead you look at the evil things in your life and try to control them. This betrays a lack of understanding of the cross.
The Merciful Trust the Mercy of the Kingdom
Peter is not just a Darwinist and a Satanist. He is also a Jihadist. He thinks that, by fighting for the kingdom, he can gain entrance into the kingdom. Though Peter is seen here fighting for the kingdom, we see him denying Jesus very quickly after this. What Judas did for profit, Peter does for free.
It is easier to keep lists than to show mercy. It is easier to take joy in the demise of ministries that have hurt us than to show mercy.
Peter wanted to fight the enemy, but he didn’t realize that he also was the enemy—a rebel against the kingdom apart from Christ. Jesus is not just saying ‘give peace a chance.’ He is saying ‘I am less violent than Allah and Darwin.’ Jesus does not seek personal justice because He understands that ultimate justice is coming.
When we desire to lash back at someone, it betrays that we are doing it because we don’t trust the judgment of God. But when Jesus comes again, he will tell violent people like Peter and me, ‘there is no need for the sword boys, I will take it from here.’