The difference between law and mercy is Jesus. God gave the law, and the people followed it and, as we are wont to do, we added more laws to “keep people honest.” It wasn’t until God sent His son, Jesus, to live amongst us that the true nature of His mercy was explained in the common tongue for all humanity to understand.
As a teacher, I’ve often found that the best way toward understanding is to use analogies. I usually provide multiple parallels to my students when explaining new concepts or situations in texts that may be outdated or misunderstood. I make it modern – relatable. In Matthew 12, Jesus was dealing with haters. The Pharisees were desperate to find a way to get Him out of their hair. They tried entrapment. The opportunity presented itself when Jesus came across a man with a twisted hand. Seeking to have Jesus admit to working on the Sabbath, they asked him if it was lawful to heal the man with a twisted hand that day. Jesus took the ailing man’s hand in His and answered them by making an analogy they could all understand. If they owned a sheep that had fallen into a deep pit on the Sabbath would they not get it out? Since people are far more valuable than sheep shouldn’t healing warrant such a break with Sabbath decorum? He then answered directly, yes; it was acceptable to heal on the Sabbath. The Pharisees became so enraged when Jesus gave them an analogy that hit close to home, that they plotted his death.
As a child, the end of that scripture didn’t move me the way the beginning did. It wasn’t the haters I cared about. I knew people would always have haters. The critical part of this verse for me was how Jesus had come to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. Matthew 12:20 & 21 “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”
The scripture says, “A bruised reed he will not break…” Have you ever seen a flower or a plant with a bruised stem? It flops over, most times it is the beginning of the end for that plant. The bruised part has now compromised the flower, and it tears off easily and dies. But not here. So many times in the New Testament, Jesus takes the bruised reeds, and instead of tearing them off and casting them out, he heals them, supports them, saves them from their lives. Healing people who were lame, sick, possessed, eating with “sinners” like the despised tax collectors, ministering to Samaritans and refusing to condemn a woman who was caught in adultery, were all examples of His refusal to break the bruised reed.
I’m thankful Jesus wasn’t sent for the well, the perfect, the sinless. His love for us is so intense that he came to forgive the bruised apples instead of throwing away the bunch. This verse has given me hope. Regardless of my bruises, I am not cast out; He will not finish the world’s job by breaking me off as the law commands but, died to give me the grace I didn’t deserve. Instead of sealing my fate, He freed me from it by propping me up, strengthening me when I’ve been weak, and healing me to make me strong enough to follow Him.