Matthew 25:37-40 - [Jesus said] "Then the righteous will answer Him saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, My brothers, you did it to Me.'"
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at LHM.org.
Visitors to the Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are greeted at the entrance by Terry Jones' moving bronze sculpture, Moment of Mercy. The sculpture commemorates the heroic acts of mercy of 19-year-old Confederate Sergeant Richard R. Kirkland of the Second South Carolina Infantry in the bloody battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. On December 13, 1862, Union forces made repeated assaults against Confederate positions behind the stone walls along the Sunken Road at Mary's Heights. In five hours, 6,300 Union soldiers laid dead or wounded on the battlefield.
Throughout the cold and snowy night, soldiers on both sides could hear the cries of the wounded Union soldiers for mercy and for water. By the afternoon of the next day, Sergeant Kirkland couldn't handle it any longer. He asked and was granted permission by his commander to fill canteens and run to the aid of the wounded Union soldiers. He hurdled over the wall and ran toward his wounded enemies, who were pleading for mercy. Union soldiers at first shot at him but were ordered by the commander, "Don't shoot at that man. He's too brave to die." For 90 minutes, the battlefield was silent as soldiers watched a rebel soldier bring water to the wounded and dying Union soldiers. Jones' sculpture shows Sergeant Kirkland cradling his enemy, giving water from his canteen.
Such moments of mercy happen every day. Perhaps not as heroic as this one, but still rich with mercy. In Jesus' story of the Last Judgment, He gives such acts of mercy an eternal dimension. It turns out that moments of showing mercy are critical expressions of true faith. He singles out six opportunities for showing mercy that are available to almost everyone: giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, welcoming the homeless and clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. Jesus says that when we help the helpless in these simple ways, we are actually helping Him. In other words, He's there hidden among the suffering, crying out for a moment of mercy.
Micah, the prophet, writes that the Lord requires that we love mercy. Loving mercy does not come easy to us. We're busy. We have other commitments. Like Sergeant Kirkland, we have walls to hurdle. Sometimes, a moment of mercy comes easily. Other times, it asks a lot of us. Our motivation must not be a calculated show of mercy to rack up points in the final Judgment. Rather, we find our motivation to mercy in the fact that mercy is what has saved us, the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Hidden up there in the Suffering Servant on the cross is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Clearly, this One loves mercy. His mercy extends to every single one of us. We see Him there on the cross, and in that single moment of mercy, our eternal destiny changes.
He saves those who cannot save themselves. He satisfies our deep hunger and thirst for righteousness and sets us free from the prison of sin. How shall we love showing mercy to others, especially when it costs us something? Answer: By loving Him who died for us and now comes to us incognito in those who cry for mercy or suffer silently alone.
WE PRAY: Lord, give me courage to show mercy to those who are in need and cannot help themselves. Help me to see You in the hungry and the thirsty, the homeless and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. By Your Spirit, may my love for You motivate my mercy toward them. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy.
1. Who's the most heroic person you know and why?
2. Sgt. Kirkland's action was truly brave and selfless. What would prompt someone to act like that?
3. How is it that we extend mercy to Jesus when we show mercy to others?
To Download Devotion MP3 to your computer, right click here and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" or "Download Linked File As"