By Dezil Holman
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalm 85:1 0).
The scene on top of Golgotha was a mixture of many emotions that eventful day. Three crosses stretched skyward as Jesus Christ and the two thieves suffered during the last hours before their deaths. One of the thieves railed angrily and spewed words at his fate that justice had finally brought to its conclusion. The other thief, realizing eternity was going to envelop him in its embrace that day, asked the Lord to remember him. He didn’t want to leave this world unprepared, and his cross was his altar as he sought for mercy from the Savior.
The Roman soldiers had completed the grisly task of driving huge nails into the hands and feet of the three, and the crosses had been planted in the soil of the barren hill that resembled a skull. The men’s assignment included staying as guards to oversee the next few hours as they were forced to listen to the sighs and cries of dying men. Their cold hearts that had been conditioned from previous assignments made them calloused to the moaning and pain of the final throes of the men on the crosses. They occupied themselves with gambling over the robe of Jesus as they cast lots for it. Mockers and scoffers stood nearby and cast taunts and verbal sarcasm at Jesus for not coming down from the cross. They saw the sign that was attached to the cross above His head concerning the King of the Jews, and it gave them new ammunition for making light of Him. Mary, the mother of Jesus; her sister Mary; and Mary Magdalene stood by the cross along with John, one of the disciples. In a tender moment, Jesus spoke to His mother and to John. He placed Mary into the care of John, and the disciple took her to his own home from that day.
He was thirsty from the extreme dehydration and said, “I thirst.”
Now there was set a vessel lull of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth (John 19:29).
The Artist was placing the finishing touches on a masterpiece of mercy that was about to reach a climactic moment in the history of man. During the Old Testament, many prophets and writers of Scripture had penned on the canvas of time words of prophecy concerning the Messiah. Their words had added hues of color even though the painting was not easily discernible with the various brush strokes that were added to the developing masterpiece. As the Spirit of God moved upon them, holy men of God wrote, and the closer the fullness of time came, the clearer the picture became. liven when Jesus was born, the general populace didn’t realize what had taken place in a stable in Bethlehem. He slipped in the back door of the world that He had created. Now, at last, the redemption story was near completion. The price to ransom and redeem fallen man was the precious blood of the Lamb of God, and He had freely given His life. The crimson stream of blood from the cross still flows to save fallen humanity.
Behind the veil in the temple was the Holy of Holies. The ark of the covenant contained the law, but on top of the ark was the mercy seat, on which blood had been sprinkled many times on the Day of Atonement to roll sins ahead like a gigantic tidal wave toward Calvary. Jesus Christ, God manifested in the flesh and truth personified, hung on a cross on Golgotha while mercy was behind the veil where it had been trapped until this hour. Mercy was crying, “Release me, and let me out of here!” When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” and died, the veil was rent in two by the invisible finger of God, and mercy burst out of the Temple and went to the cross. There at the cross, mercy wrapped its arms around the cross, and mercy and truth met together. The portrait of mercy was complete.
The old song says, “Mercy there was great, and grace was free; pardon there was multiplied to me; there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.”
Some might ask the question, “Why is mercy so important to us?” It is because we need mercy. God is holy and perfect, and we are imperfect and need to be saved from sin. Man cannot lift himself out of the pit of sin. We needed a Savior to redeem us from the enslaving chains of sinful bondage. The need for mercy is universal because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The simple definition of mercy is: kindness, forbearance, and compassion. “Mercy” is mentioned in the Scriptures 276 times, and “mercies” 44 times. The apostle Paul, who realized that he was a recipient of God’s mercies, mentioned mercy 31 times and mercies 4 times in his writings. David, who also leaned heavily upon the mercies of God because of his own failures, wrote about mercy and mercies 117 times. In Psalm 136, every one of the twenty-six verses states this powerful truth, “for his mercy endureth for ever.”
God’s mercies are abundant (I Peter 1:3) and tender (James 5:11). The earth is filled with His mercy (Psalm 119:64). His mercy is great (Psalm 108:4); He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). It is obtained at the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Mercy preserves us (Lamentations 3:22), and mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).
David said, Surely . . . mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).
He was confident that mercy was always on the trail behind him, bringing up the flank. Each time he turned to look behind him, mercy was close by, following him. Whenever he needed mercy, it wasn’t out of reach.
We don’t come to God on the basis of our merits or good works. Our own righteousness is not good enough, because in our flesh dwells no good thing. Mercy is beyond human understanding and comprehension. Mercy doesn’t know any limits and is a testimony to the fathomless love of God. We don’t ask God for justice but for mercy. Since He inspired writers in His Word to write about mercy 276 times, it is a vital subject to God. If God is interested in mercy that much, I also want to be concerned about mercy.
Under the law, God met mankind at the mercy seat when the blood of sacrifices was sprinkled on it. It was a type and shadow of the perfect Lamb of God who would come to bear our sins in His sinless body. He, who knew no sin, tasted of sin for every man. He drank the cup to the dregs, and all of the horrible corruption that we can imagine of the human element was borne by Him, who knew no sin neither was guile found in His mouth.
Throughout His earthly ministry, we read of various accounts when individuals sought mercy from Him. The woman at Sychar, the multitudes, blind Bartimaeus, Zaccheus, and the Canaanite woman, to name just a few of many, were touched by Him.
Mercy does not excuse us to trample His mercies and love. Sin is a serious business and must be sincerely repented of to find forgiveness and mercy. To obtain mercy for ourselves, we must also be merciful individuals and be compassionate to others. Even though mercy is an act of God and He alone can forgive sins, as members of the body of Christ, we can show mercy to others. One of the roles of an intercessor is to have a concern for those in need and to stand in the gap by praying for them. We want to pray for God to extend mercy to the lost and not to pray for judgment upon their heads.
The longer I am in the ministry, the more I have become aware of the great lengths to which God will go to extend mercy to sinners and backsliders. We cannot predict in any situation how far the mercy of God will stretch, extend, and expand to reach a soul. I have witnessed those who went too far and the fabric of mercy was torn, but at other times, I have been amazed at the extreme benevolence of God. He looks on the hearts of men, and His criteria for mercy is because He is a sovereign God. We know it is not His will that people be lost, and He is longsuffering beyond our comprehension.
Several years ago, I received anew revelation and understanding of this subject called mercy. I saw before my own eyes a masterpiece of mercy that was lived out in the life of a sinner who came to seek God.
It was a Sunday morning in the church where I serve as Senior Assistant Pastor; I was called upon to preach on Pentecost Sunday. A lady was visiting that morning for the first time, and I preached about this glorious salvation experience. After service she came to me and thanked me profusely with great enthusiasm for the sermon that morning. She returned that evening for service and went to the altar at the conclusion of the sermon. In a few moments, she lifted her hands in worship and received the glorious gift of the Holy Ghost. When she was baptized that evening, she stayed in the baptismal tank for a long time, rejoicing and blowing kisses to Jesus. Her exuberance was contagious, and there was much rejoicing that evening.
That lady had spent much of her adult life in deep sin and had worked as a barmaid in a tavern. She was unfamiliar with the atmosphere that we live in because her world was filled with the tavern scene. She was not accustomed to the holy presence of God in the sanctuary but tinkling glasses and honky-tonk music blaring from jukeboxes.
A couple of weeks later I stood in a mortuary and helped preach her funeral. She came to God while suffering from a terminal disease and was just days from death when she obtained mercy and salvation. Instead of God turning her away after her living and wasting her life in sin, she found mercy and eternal life.
The place where we meet God and obtain mercy is at an altar of prayer. It is a meeting place between humanity and divinity. We humbly approach Him in repentance, seeking forgiveness and mercy. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins if we follow the principles of His Word.
I was preaching on the subject of mercy in a small town in the Midwest one Tuesday evening when I once again witnessed a living display of this masterpiece of mercy. It was a special service on an off-night for that local church, and the crowd was small. While I was preaching, a woman walked in off the street who had just been released from prison after nearly eighteen years for armed robbery. She had no clothing except the sweat suit from the prison with her personal information imprinted upon it. I had no way of knowing that she would be there that night, and while I ministered about mercy, faith in the providence of God touched her. She came to the front at the altar call and knelt at a chair. When she finished praying, a large puddle of tears was on the fabric of the chair. She had been introduced to the masterpiece of mercy.
The gallery of the ages was open for all to walk through the doors to gaze upon a priceless work of art. It had been on display for twenty centuries, and time had deepened the influence of the emotions and colors of the work of the Master. This painting showed an adulterous woman of Israel whose weakness for a certain sin should have ended outside the city amidst a pile of rocks and stones strewn about her lifeless body as a mute tes timony of the wages of sin. The accusers and the prosecuting attorney had been painted into the canvas with brush strokes of angry hues that matched their strident and self-righteous attitudes and hypocrisy.
The scarlet red that revealed her shame and humiliation from her inherent weaknesses was predominant. The reality and truth of the depths of her sin said that her transgressions were like crimson and scarlet. Sin is so ugly, and the blackness of the evil mingled with the deep maroon added vivid touches to that part of the masterpiece.
However, we must stop and look again at this work because the Lord has painted Himself into this picture. He is her advocate and intercessor. He doesn’t ignore her sin, because sin must be punished, but the master Artist has colors that eradicate the effects of the transgressions. Through washing of His precious blood, the red crimson becomes white like snow and wool. Who is this advocate and intercessor who changes the entire landscape of this real-life drama that happened so long ago? The colors speak loud with their brush strokes of compassion, and mercy says, “No!”
We who visualize this masterpiece are awestruck by the influence of mercy and forgiveness. The colors of the rainbow in the masterpiece are living and vibrant rays of hope and promise instead of judgment. Mercy is like the golden rays of the sun that are overtaking the blackness of the night, and the entire canvas of time is glowing with the promise of a new day.
The above article, “A Masterpiece of Mercy” is written by Denzil Holman. The article was excerpted from the third chapter of Holman’s book Hot Coals From the Altar.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.