The Ashrei of Messiah 3

The third of five meditations on the Beatitudes based on my book DIVINE REVERSAL, given at the Hashivenu Forum, 2/1/10.

 

Happy are the merciful,  for they will receive mercy.

Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The reward of mercy is mercy. The one who treats others with compassion they do not deserve will get compassion he does not deserve himself. And who will give this mercy? Coupling this line with the next—the pure in heart will see God—suggests that the merciful one will receive mercy from God. Doubtless there is a human dynamic in which those who harbor resentment and unforgiveness tend to receive the same from others. But here Yeshua points us to the ultimate source of mercy—the Lord himself.

At the same time, though, it’s clear that we need to show mercy not to God but to other human beings. So Yeshua dwells among us to show how to give mercy to others—not from afar, but close up. Mercy doesn’t mean grudgingly dropping our charges against the offender, but welcoming the offender to sit down at our feast and dig in with us. Indeed, throughout the gospels, the metaphor of mercy is the feast.

Accordingly, Yeshua spends much time feasting with sinners and rejects—and being criticized for it. He tells his critics, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” As it is the merciful who get mercy, so it is those who need mercy and know it that are the merciful. Those who fear mercy because it might erode their religious standards have no idea how badly they need it themselves. When we expand the feast to include the outcasts, we gain a seat ourselves.

Yeshua draws criticism, however, not just for inviting sinners to the table, but for sitting down to eat and drink with them, and probably enjoying it. Yeshua demonstrates that mercy cannot be given from afar. When he eats and drinks with sinners, he is reversing their social rejection into social inclusion, throwing over them the mantle of honor. He displays a radical hospitality that welcomes both the pious and the polluted. Indeed, Yeshua’s hospitality is the defining essence of mercy. He does not just forgive sinners, but he sits down and eats with them—with us.

And so we are at a feast right now. As it is mercy that brings us to the Lord’s table, so let it be mercy that we take with us as we rise up from the table, mercy that we activate toward others. “So reach out and welcome one another[1], even as Messiah reached out and welcomed you to the glory of God.” 

 © 2010, Russell Resnik


[1] This phrase is from The Message, Romans 15:7.

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