The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

Good Friday March 25, 2016

Luke 23:46 God's Right to Die . . . For Sinners

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

Did you hear about the physician assisted suicide bill that was recently withdrawn by Senator Eaton?

* I guess she decided to withdraw the bill rather than face a vote that was likely to fail.

Apparently, she could see the handwriting on the wall after listening to two hours of

passionate protests against the bill.

* It was clear to those who gathered at the Senate committee meeting, that there's a big

difference between mercy killing and mercy dying.

* Mercy dying is permitting the terminally ill to die, rather than hooking them up to

unnecessary life support. It's both compassionate and God-pleasing.

* Mercy killing, on the other hand is taking the life of the helpless and innocent, arguing

that man has a right to end any suffering that would rob a person of purpose and dignity.

It's neither compassionate nor God pleasing.

* Interestingly, one point made by some pro-life advocates also dealt with the rights of the

suffering. The elderly, the terminally ill, and the disabled have the right to receive good

quality care, rather than be pressured to choose death because they're allegedly a burden

to other people.

 

We just might ask ourselves whether Christ's death has anything to say about all this.

* You may remember that he died just three hours after his crucifixion.

He died when he determined it was time to die.

* Now, I've never heard it argued, but some I'm sure will contend that he was exercising a

right. Of course, no one would assert that this was a mercy killing.

The only gesture of mercy that day was the plan to break Jesus' legs, so that he might

suffocate sooner, thus ending his suffering sooner.

* Then again when the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead.

And therefore they did not break his bones. They were too late, for the only mercy to be

demonstrated that day would be on Christ's part.

* You see, Jesus did not die because he was killed.

He died because he willed to die.

* So he was exercising a right.

But his death was neither a case of mercy killing nor mercy dying.

* He didn't die for his own sake but for the sake of sinners. He died not so that he might

not be a burden to us, but that we might not be a burden to ourselves.

* Our sin, after all, had deprived us of our rights.

But that we might not die eternally, God the Son exercised his right to die for us.

 

Maybe you find this a little difficult to grasp. Dying this barbaric death was a right?!

* For many watching the crucifixion of our Lord, there's no doubt what the thinking was.

"This is no way to die!"

* And so it may bring to mind the claim of today's right to die advocates.

No one, not even our worst enemy, should have to suffer this way!

* How do we argue with that? We sympathize with the Son of God exercising his right.

After exclaiming: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" we're told, "he breathed his last."

Was this not appropriate that he die - just three hours later?

* Yes. He died not because he had no other choice but to die.

He died because it was his choice to die!

 

What do you think? Does that make our Lord a right to die advocate?

* I've never heard it argued, but I'm sure someone's going to make the connection.

People believe it's a person's right to die when he desires to die, if in his opinion his life is

no longer worth living.

* In other words, today's right to die advocates do not believe God alone should decide the

timing of one's death. They think of a God who would make us wait as a God who's

inhumane; lacking understanding and compassion.

* Okay. But now why did Jesus choose to die?

It wasn't because he was tired of waiting for his Father to make the choice for him, or

because his Father had some coldhearted sense of justice.

* He chose to die, rather, as the world's substitute; that he might deliver us from of our sins.

He wasn't trying to get out of something. He was exercising his right as God to save us.

 

Well, today's right to death advocates may say we're entitled to our religious beliefs.

* Still, they don't believe Christ's death offers any relevance to our own death.

Speaking of normal people, such as you or me, we die because we have no power.

We grow weak and old, and lose control of what happens to our ailing and failing body.

* And that's just not right in the opinion of today's death advocates.

But we can fix things. We can make a meaningless death a good death.

* And to make good on their promise, they exploit a power that doesn't belong to them.

 

I speak of Christ's power, which is none other than God's power.

* The truth is, Christ has power not simply to give life, as when he raises the dead to life.

He also has power over life. Being God himself, the timing of one's death is in his hands.

And so, Jesus demonstrated that he was the Lord over life, even in his own death.

* Recall the opening words of our text: "Jesus called out with a loud voice."

Dying, he still cried out loudly, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

* Who's witnessed such a thing?

Ordinarily, a dying person gives up his tired soul with a weak groan.

He has no more power to speak and cry aloud.

* His strength fails. The powers of his life fade away.

And eventually his pulse stops and his heart quits beating.

 

But Christ's death could not be described in this way.

* He did not die from exhaustion.

He did not die because of his countless pains or his unimaginable agony.

* No. By uttering his last words with a shout, he revealed to the world that he indeed

was God's Son and had power over life and death.

* Therefore, he didn't die because he had to die.

He died because he wanted to die and had the power to die.

* "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" Jesus had said.

As the Lord, he had the prerogative to lay down his life any time he chose, and to raise

it again.

 

Well, if some right-to-death advocates claim to believe in God, as I imagine they do, they may

very well agree that only God has the final say about death.

* I suspect they'll also state in most cases that assisted suicide would be wrong.

"Rather than encouraging people to seek an exit from this life, we should remind our

loved ones in every possible case that their life has value."

* But then they'll go on and say that the time may come when one's life has no value to

anyone; not to their family, not to their community, and least of all to themselves.

They're suffering needlessly and may have even become a burden to those trying to care

for them.

* In such cases death advocates believe we may assist a loved one in their desire to die.

In fact, this makes death beautiful in their view; having a chance to die with dignity.

 

This is a problem, to tell you the truth, that extends far beyond our culture's pro-death mentality.

Many people today try to take the edge off death by hiding the reality or effects of death.

* We see this, for example, in many of the traditions surrounding the funeral.

What would you say is the main responsibility of the mortician?

* Some might think it's to beautify death.

We glance at the body lying in the casket and comment "Doesn't he or she look nice?"

* And if the makeup job is at its usual best, we may have a hard time believing this person

is dead at all.

* But what's the real purpose of an open casket; to help the loved ones accept their loss;

to give them chance to say "good-bye?"

* We'd be better served regarding the open casket as our chance to come to grips with our

own sin. We recognize that death is the result of our sinful nature.

* The open casket should be sobering reminder not only that we shall all die someday, but

also that we need to be delivered from death.

 

What crosses your mind when you see the face of a loved one who now lies dead before you?

* When the disciples saw the corpse of Jesus taken from the cross, they might have lost all

hope of seeing him again.

* But they should have known better than to regard his death as we regard other deaths.

For while it's true that your death may only remind you of your own sin and frailties and

imperfections and, yes, our own death, Christ's death reminds us that such dying is not

the end.

* And that's why we may speak of a beautiful death.

It happens to be the death of our Lord Jesus who died in order to save us.

* And it happens to be the death of any sinner who dies trusting in the blood of his Savior

and looking forward to his new life with Christ.

 

And so do we pick up on yet another difference between believers who advocate life and those

who advocate death.

* Those trusting in their own means of death die with no hope, whereas those trusting in

Christ's death, have every reason to hope.

* Very simply, Christ's death means that our own death can no longer separate us from God.

What caused our separation, our sin, was heaped upon the body of Christ.

So that our sin might no longer be our problem or concern, Christ made it his problem and

concern - up until the moment he died on the cross.

* This was the death he chose. By dying our death, he wanted us to know that we were

truly forgiven; without sin in God's sight.

* As Paul wrote the Colossians: "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body

through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation."

 

Reconciled to God! . . . Holy in his sight! . . . Free from accusation!

* In the end, God's death makes your death and my death very different than the typical death.

Unlike nonbelievers who die like cattle with no thoughts or hopes concerning tomorrow, the

Christian can die with the certain hope of eternal life.

* Every one of us can die knowing that the sting of death has been removed.

"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."

* What a comfort: to have our fear of death taken away!

 

Meanwhile, we don't concern ourselves with those who try to hide or beautify death or speak of some

human right. The only right that we need brag about is Christ's right to save us and our right to believe

in him.

* It's why we may commend our souls each day to our faithful creator saying,

"If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.

So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."

* And when we see our final day approaching we may permit God's Word to be heard from our lips,

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.