For decades an insurance company has advertised that, by purchasing an insurance policy from them, you’re in good hands with them. It’s a slogan that has worked incredibly well for them. Years ago, I had a car insurance policy with them…until I believed the cost of being in their good hands was too high. It’s always prudent to consider the cost when being cared for or when you want to provide care or protection for others. What are the benefits? How much am I willing to pay? What am I willing to sacrifice to take care of the ones I love?
During this Lenten season we heard God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, to Him. The cost of obeying God was enormous; it would cost Abraham his own son’s life. Abraham showed he was willing to offer up his own son as a sacrifice to God, even to the point of being ready to thrust his knife into his own son, Isaac. Abraham knew the cost of following God; it meant having faith in Him, that God Himself would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham confessed his faith to Isaac when the lad asked where the lamb for the sacrifice was. Abraham was not playing games. Neither was God. But Abraham trusted God, and this faith God credited to him as righteousness. Abraham, and Isaac, were in good hands—in God’s hands. The best hands of all.
During that first Holy Week, it was Lazarus’ sister Mary who fell at Jesus’ feet and anointed them very expensive oil—pure nard—-preparing Him, as He said, for His burial. It was customary to anoint the deceased’s head, but out of humility and devotion to her Lord she knelt at His feet, wiping them with her hair, knowing she was in good hands—in her Savior’s hands. In a few days He would die—-for her, for me, for you, for the life of the world.
Here we are in this world, a world full of sin and the stench of death. On this Friday we call Good, it can be hard for us to fathom what can be so good about it, especially as we are beset with our own troubles in this vale of tears. What can be so good about struggling to pay the bills, living from paycheck to paycheck? What can be so good about not being able to get the car fixed or to put food on the table? What can be so good about living in a world filled with sin, with immorality and even amorality, where sin is no longer called sin and is even praised and extolled, where those who confess the Jesus of the Bible are considered evil and hateful? What can be so good about living, working, and associating with so many people who don’t know who Jesus really is and confess their own made-up Jesus? What can be so good about loved ones being sick or even dying before your very eyes and knowing you can’t do anything to stop death from taking the one you love away from you? What is so good about any of that, when we don’t feel like anything—ourselves included—are in good hands, or in any hands at all? What is so good about living in a perpetual freefall, with no safety net or no hands to catch us?
Those hands, my friends, are there, stretched out on the cross 2,000 years ago. These hands belong to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross we remember today. Those sacred limbs, spread out in bloody agony, show the world, you and me included, that we are in the best hands of all…in HIS hands! Jesus’ death on the cross doesn’t take the world’s problems away (or even ours), but He makes our dealing with them much easier, not giving us more than we can bear, for He has borne the greatest weight of all: our sins on His shoulders. Our sins for His holiness. Our death for His life.
You’ve likely heard the old story of a little child coming to Jesus and asking Him, “Jesus, how much do You love me?” And Jesus answers, “This much,” and he stretches out His arms and dies. He dies for that child. He dies for you. He dies for me. He dies for a world that does not know Him, that by the Holy Spirit they too would be brought to faith in Him and placed in God’s hands. You see, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He has you and me in His hands. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29). We can’t be in any better hands than those of the One who created us, fearfully and wonderfully made. These great hands willingly took back His own Son who bled and died for us, His people, winning for us the forgiveness of our sins and saving us from eternal death. “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit.”’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46), breathing His life into us through His Word and Sacraments.
When Jesus died, He commended Himself to His Father’s care. Since He is risen from the dead, we get to commend ourselves to our heavenly Father’s care, too. Let us conclude by praying Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer:
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Send Pastor Mark Schlamann an email.