Once upon a time some theologians asked an eccentric rabbi to do a miracle. The eccentric rabbi claimed to be God, so it’s understandable that the theologians wanted to see some kind of confirmation. But the thing is, the eccentric rabbi had already done lots of miracles, and the theologians had proved to be unsatisfiable. It wasn’t that the miracles were unimpressive, the theologians were simply ill-tempered and chronically discontent. So the eccentric rabbi said to the theologians, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
There was a bystander who wondered what the rabbi meant by, “the sign of Jonah.” So the he went and read the story of Jonah. He was astounded by the fact that God appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was preserved in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. But he was even more astounded by the fact that when God asked Jonah, “Are you right to be angry with Me for showing mercy to evil people?” Jonah’s answer was, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” THE SIGN OF JONAH isn’t simply about a giant rescue fish; THE SIGN OF JONAH is God’s mercy on a man flagrantly defiant of God’s mercy. Apparently God greatly desires mercy (see Matthew 9:13), and Jonah is a staggering SIGN of that fact!
The bystander decided to go listen to the eccentric rabbi some more. And the next time he saw him, he heard the rabbi say, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” This confused the bystander, because the Pharisees and Sadducees were the top-tier religious educators, and people pretty much accepted what they taught, no questions asked. It was exceedingly strange, that this eccentric rabbi would warn people about the most influential, expert, theologians. After doing some digging the bystander discovered that the eccentric rabbi had, on other occasions, referred to the elite theologians as “sons of the devil,” and he had chastised them about “making people twice the sons of hell as they themselves were.” The bystander pondered this and eventually realized that the eccentric rabbi warned people about the elite theologians because they marketed the lie of self-sufficiency and merit; while God’s emphatic desire was for mercy. The difference between merit and mercy was the difference between heaven and hell. The eccentric rabbi was making sons of God; while the expert theologians were making sons of hell. The path of the eccentric rabbi was the way of God; but the path of the theologians was the way of Satan.
Years later, the bystander was reading a piece of writing called “The Gospel According to Matthew.” And he was taken aback when he read an account of the most outspoken advocate amongst the rabbi’s leadership team (a guy the rabbi had given the nickname “Rock!”) was called “Satan” for attempting to dissuade the rabbi from fulfilling the most manifest moment of God’s mission to have mercy on all. The bystander assumed that “The Rock” would be stripped of his apostolic authority and fired from his leadership position, but that wasn’t the case. As it turns out, God’s desire for mercy was so scandalously serious – it necessitated the intimate embracing and embodiment of mercy in the leaders and living stones of the eccentric rabbi’s community! The eccentric rabbi promised to build an everlasting, hell-proof, community on the intimate embracing, experiencing, embodying, and expressing of God’s desire for mercy (not merit).
As the years went by, the bystander discovered layer upon layer of mercy rebar in the foundation of the eccentric rabbi’s new world order. Here are some substantial examples:
- “I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’” [Hosea 2:23]
- “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” [Hosea 6:6]
- “The Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” [Isaiah 30:18]
- “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” [Habakkuk 3:2]
- “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Matthew 9:13]
- “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” [Matthew 12:7]
- “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” [Romans 9:16]
- “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” [Romans 11:32]