March 30, 2018
“The Right Place”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)
I’ve noticed in some obituaries over the last few months the opening paragraph about the diseased says, “A life well lived.” Then the next few thousand dollars of words describe that life. That’s good. That is what life should be. It should be a life that has been well lived. Accomplishments in the world through family, through work, through society and in a church should be all about using the days that God gives us for much good. Paul in Ephesians says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Jesus told a parable condemning the man who was given a gift and promptly buried it. God expects us to use what we have been given in great ways. I saw this word about a few folks upon their death, “Heaven just got to be a better place” upon their arrival in glory. May that be said of each of us!!
But before we get to live there we have to live here. And this evening I want to talk about being in the right place. The right place for us to be is in the will of God. Jesus spoke about being in the right place, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Can you get to that right place? Can I get to that right place? It isn’t easy to be there. You’d tried. I’ve tried. But at times we resist it. The Lord’s Prayer has the petition about the total surrender to God, the ultimate obedience to Him when Jesus says that we should repeat after Him, in that prayer, “Thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10)
This is Good Friday and a whole bunch of people weren’t able to say, “Thy will be done.” A whole bunch of folks weren’t able to get to the right place and say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Peter didn’t. James and John couldn’t. Judas, well, he was too conflicted. Pilate was trying to do God’s will and he actually had a bunch of backbone for a while, but his opposition wouldn’t let up and eventually he washed his hands and declared his innocence. He didn’t end up in the right place.
Jesus’ enemies questioned if He was in the right place. “He saved others but he can’t save himself. He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.” (Matthew 27:42-43)
It is easier to be in the wrong place. The wrong place doesn’t take any courage. You can let others lead you. You can go along with what the latest change of culture and values are. The wrong place usually means that we got our way, we stepped in and made sure our needs were met.
But the right place, that is the best place. The right place is the place of faith and trust. The right place puts all needs now, and in the future, into God’s hands.
Jesus is within minutes of having His heart stop and all living breath leave His body. And He found Himself in the right place. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He turned His will over to God. He turned his life, and death, into the Father’s hands. There was no better place to be.
The previous day Peter was taking things into His hands. When the guards came to arrest Jesus he drew his sword and started to defend his Lord. He chopped off the right ear of a guard called Malchus. Jesus, though, told them all to put their weapons away. “Do you not think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) But Jesus didn’t ask for such a defense. He found the right place when He went to the cross for us. He found the right place when He found the hands of His Father. He found the right place when He took comfort in the arms of His God.
When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, blood dripping from His forehead while He prayed, He found the right place to be. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken away from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39b)
He was in the right place. He was in God’s hands, His arms. He died in that confidence. This is His night. It is all about Him and His heart and His sacrifice and His last words. But this day is really about us. In John’s epistle we hear, “This is love: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10) On Thursday, before the meal, He was the one who got out the basin and the towel and began to wash His disciples feet. Jesus is the one who said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He was always giving up His will for ours.
We, too, can be in the right place. That is what this night teaches us. We have to be in the right place. We have to be in the hands of our God. We have to say, and mean, “Thy will be done.”
Isn’t it good to say, “Father, into your hands I commit my life, my heart, my attitude, my living and my dying.” There is nothing that we shouldn’t commit to Him. We commit to Him our sins because He alone can pay for them and forgive them. We commit to Him our worries and cares because He will provide for us in the wisest way. We commit to Him our eternity because He is Lord of both the living and the dead. Our weaknesses – they are His. We need His hand. Our strengths? He will make them pure and right. On finding that right place of leaning upon our Savior, Paul says, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
Psalm 23 says this about such a heart, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) When Simeon had met the baby Jesus, knowing that this was the Savior of the world, he found himself in the right place, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Maybe the highest compliment that can be said of us, whether we are living, or we are dying, is this – “We were in the right place – we were in the hands of Jesus and in the arms of our God.” Amen!!