When Jesus Withheld His Mercy

Luke 4:23 And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.

Jesus illuminated the meaning of the idiom “Physician, heal thyself:” in the following part of the sentence: "whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." This phrase was used to remind Jesus to, as it is said in the southern United States, "take care of his own.” This was Jesus' hometown crowd, and they had heard of his powerful ministry in neighboring towns. They selfishly believed he was now obligated to them.

In the following verses, Luke 4:25-27, Jesus shocked them when He explained He would not do for them what He had done, and would do, for other people (even gentiles). He openly refused to serve their self-interests. So, they decided to kill him…

One troubling human characteristic is our sense of entitlement when it comes to God's mercy. We sometimes feel that if God does anything for someone else he must also do the same for us, as if God’s act of mercy to one creates a debt to all. This notion is not found in the Bible, and is upside down theology.

The Bible teaches we are all condemned sinners who deserve immediate, everlasting punishment. Anything we receive short of that comes from God's mercy, and is undeserved. God’s mercy becomes a useless abstraction the moment we see ourselves as entitled to it. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5 As I come to understand the depth of my condemnation, I will equally understand the depth of the mercy I have received.

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