Pastor, do you realize that there’s only one holiday we celebrate at the break of dawn?
It’s the day when, at dawn of a brand-new day, the world first heard the news that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Easter morning changed everything.
Because of the events of Easter, the people you’re trying to reach this weekend can have a brand-new start in their lives. It’s all because of God’s mercy.
Zechariah said in Luke 1:78, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us” (NLT).
The problem is, most people don’t understand the mercy of God. They are afraid of God and avoid him as a result. Yet they desperately need his mercy.
This Easter, as you minister in your context, reflect on the following reasons people come to your church looking for God’s mercy—and what God’s mercy can do in their lives.
1. We need God’s mercy when we’ve messed up.
No one is perfect. Romans 3:23 says, “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard” (NCV). I don’t measure up to God’s standard much less my own standard. Neither do you. Neither do the people you’re trying to reach each week.
This Easter, people desperately need to hear how the Lord responds when they mess up.
Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery? The Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and were trying to trap Jesus into saying something they could use against him.
But Jesus didn’t condemn her, and he didn’t condone her actions. He protected the woman’s dignity. He showed her mercy.
The people you’re trying to reach need to see Jesus in this light. They need to know that Jesus not only shows them mercy when they’ve messed up, but he treats them with dignity—no matter what they’ve done.
How does God respond when we ask him for mercy after messing up?
God’s mercy forgives and frees us.
God’s forgiveness takes care of our past guilt. The freedom he provides gives us the power to change our future.
So many of the people you’re trying to reach this weekend are stuck in the past. They can’t move on with the future because they can’t let the past go.
Isaiah 61:1, which Jesus later quoted, says: “The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his Spirit . . . To announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison” (GNT).
Pastor, this weekend you’ll preach to people who are held captive to resentment, envy, worry, and more. They long to hear that Jesus can release them.
2. We need God’s mercy when we don’t have what we need.
None of us has everything we need. We’re all finite and broken. God did that intentionally to help us realize that we need other people and we need him.
But sometimes, instead of drawing us toward one another and toward God, our weaknesses make us angry and lead to disappointment.
It’s not much different from the paralyzed man Jesus healed in John 5. The paralyzed man had waited 38 years for a miracle. He wanted to walk. When Jesus asked him whether he wanted to be healed, the man responded: “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7 NIV).
You can read the frustration and the anger in his words. He was blaming other people for his pain.
Many of the people you minister to feel the same way. Some have also waited as long as 38 years for God to meet a need in their life. They’re angry and they’re blaming others.
In their pain, Jesus doesn’t dismiss them. He reaches out with mercy just like he did with the paralyzed man.
How does God respond when we come to him with our needs?
God’s mercy makes the impossible possible.
Jesus simply told the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8 NIV). After 38 years of waiting, that’s exactly what the man does.
Only Jesus makes “the lame walk” (Luke 7:22 NIV). He has power we don’t have.
Peter writes, “Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God” (2 Peter 1:3 NCV).
The people you’re trying to reach are hungry for the only power that meets the real—and often long-lasting—needs in their lives.
3. We need God’s mercy when facing death.
Only fools go all the way through life unprepared for what they know is inevitable. Death is universal and unpredictable. But it’s also scary for people who haven’t yet accepted the mercy of God.
In the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in Luke 23, we read about two different responses to the fear of death from the criminals hanging beside Jesus. You know the story. You’ve likely taught it.
One criminal ridiculed Jesus, saying: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39 NIV). But the other criminal defended Jesus and asked for his mercy.
You may have people with both attitudes in your church this weekend.
Some want to scoff at the work of Christ. Often, it’s because they have heavy hearts when they think about death. They won’t admit it, but their fear of death clouds how they view God today.
Yet others, like the thief who asked for God’s mercy, are ready to bet everything on Jesus.
For them, there’s good news.
God’s mercy will save us for eternity.
That’s what Jesus promised the thief on the cross. “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 CEV).
All who receive the mercy of God will spend forever with Jesus. That’s the Good News we proclaim on Easter—and every other day of the year.
God’s mercy changes everything.