April 1, 2018
Grace Community Church
There Is More Beyond
In Valladolid, Spain where Christopher Columbus died, they’ve erected a statue in his honor. At the top of the statue is Christopher Columbus in a boat with a woman representing Faith guiding him from behind. At the base of the statue are engraved three Latin words, “Non plus ultra” which means “No more beyond.” For centuries, non plus ultra was the motto of Spain because they believed they were the end of the civilized earth and there was nothing more beyond their shores to discover. Non plus ultra was even written on the edges of their maps. No more beyond their shores…
But then Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas and they knew there was more beyond. So the words non plus ultra are written at the base of the statue, but there is a great lion pawing away the word non, leaving the words “plus ultra” - more beyond.
For many people death is the ultimate non plus ultra. The shoreline beyond which there is nothing else. The absolute and permanent conclusion of life. But this morning, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we celebrate the truth that Jesus, the Lion of Judah, has torn away the word “non” and has given us the confident hope of “plus ultra” after death– there IS more beyond death and the grave! Jesus is risen!!
Let’s read the resurrection account, only let’s back up a little to right after Jesus died on the cross and start reading in Luke 23:50-56
What Luke records in these verses is a moment well known to anyone whose been to a funeral – it’s that moment when you say goodbye to your loved one. After seeing Jesus laid in the tomb, the women went home to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint his dead body with as a final act of love. In their minds, it was their last goodbye, non plus ultra – no more beyond. The story picks up a couple days later, early on Sunday morning as they brought their spices to anoint Jesus’ body:
As Walt said on Friday night, that final “thud” of the stone being rolled over to close up the tomb wasn’t final at all! Angels descended and effortlessly rolled the stone away and Jesus took the ultimate no more beyond and ripped off the word “no” leaving us with an unshakable hope and confidence that there is way “more beyond”!
The resurrection declares that there is more beyond death and the grave
A lot of people live out their lives with the belief that death is the end. We have a friend on LI whose dad passed away on Friday. For those who believe there is no more beyond, the grave represents the end of everything you are, everything you did, everything you loved. Your life is deleted and everything about you is erased except the memory people have of you, which will eventually be erased as those people age out and die. Let’s face it, there’s pretty good reason to believe the grave is the ultimate non plus ultra: out of billions of people who have lived, all of them – all of them! - have died (except one!) and none of them have ever come back (a few have been revived only to die again later). Except one. Death never, ever lets go and no one has ever broken death’s final grip – except one.
But oh the hope that one exception brings to our hearts! On that early Sunday morning two thousand years ago, Jesus broke the chains of death, went beyond death, to new life! Resurrection life! And that same Jesus promises us that everyone who believes in him, though they die, yet will they live. There is more beyond death and the grave – there is resurrection life waiting for everyone who believes in Jesus!
He is the “first fruits”, the pioneer of life. He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. ~ CS Lewis.
Everything is different because Jesus forced open a door that has been locked since the first death of the first man and showed us that there is more beyond. We look through that open door and see two really cool things:
There is life beyond death. If you have lost a loved one, you know that it’s almost too much to bear to think that your loved one is gone. To think that they don’t walk the earth anymore, that you’ll never hear their voice again, or spend time in their company, or hold them ever again goes against something deeply ingrained in us. And it’s because God has set eternity in our hearts. Eternal life is how we were created – death is the unnatural thing. Jesus forced open that door, and we can see beyond the grave to life.
There is a new, improved resurrection body beyond these worn out tents. If you’re over 30 you know that these bodies – what the Bible calls our earthly tents – wear out over time. If you know what I’m talking about if you’re over 30. There’s a story of four 30 year old friends who met for a reunion after years of not seeing each other and were trying to figure out where to go for dinner. Someone suggested the Glowing Embers Restaurant because they had attractive waitresses there. They all agreed. 15 years later they had another reunion and as they discussed where to have dinner, someone suggested the Glowing Embers because the food was good and the decor was very nice. They all agreed. Well, another 15 years went by and now as they get together they’re 60 years old and when the subject of where to eat came up, someone suggested the Glowing Embers because they could eat there in peace and quiet, and no one would bother them. They all agreed the Glowing Embers was the place to go. 15 years later, amazingly the Glowing Embers got the vote again because it was easily accessible and even had an elevator. Finally, 15 years later, they’re all 90 and they’re trying to figure out where to eat at what they know will be their last reunion and someone suggested the Glowing Embers…because they had never eaten there before. And they all agreed.
These tents are wearing out. Our minds are literally wearing out as we’re sitting here. You’ve lost about 4000 brain cells just since I started talking! By the time I’m done, you’ll be down 7000 brain cells that you can never get back. Some Sundays you might feel like you’ve lost twice that during a sermon. The point is, the years take their toll. Sickness can speed the process along. There are some who live out their whole lives under the shadow of a weak earthly tent. I had a friend many years ago who suffered a massive heart attack in his early 20’s. He survived, but he was very frail from that point forward. He would only live into his 30’s. Wherever we happen to fall on the health spectrum, the fact is the years will catch up to us and our bodies will wear out.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, the Bible tells us he was raised in a resurrection body – he was the same person, but different. The resurrection body is really unlike anything else in all creation. Better than angels – powerful, spiritual, physical, glorious, real – all at the same time. The Bible promises us that if we die in Christ (believing in Christ) we will be raised like him:
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:42-44
What is sown into the ground (when we die) is a body that gets hungry and tired and sick, that feels weakness and wearing out. The body that is raised by the power of God never gets hungry, never gets tired, never gets sick, and never wears out.
If you are young and blessed with perfect health, this may not seem like such a big deal to you now. But give it time, it will! For those who live with physical or mental challenges daily, it is a source of great hope and comfort. Jesus’ resurrection takes the fear that there’s no more beyond and tears away the “no”, promising us that there is more beyond.
But if the resurrection tells us that there is more beyond death and the grave, it also tells us that…
The resurrection promises us that there is more beyond for our lives right here and now
As great as it is to know that the grave is not the edge of the map and there’s no more beyond, we would be missing so much if we just thought of the resurrection as something that only kicks in after we die.
Think about how the lives of the disciples were transformed that morning. They went from depressed and confused and hopeless – to knowing that Jesus is alive and that changed everything about everything! The hope they thought was dead was brought back to life when Jesus was raised from the dead – only bigger and brighter than ever. The walls of what they thought was possible were kicked out and they saw the power and glory and sovereignty of God in a way they had never seen before!
There’s a movie called Room about a mother and her boy who are being held captive in a little shed and that shed is all the little boy has ever known. He can’t imagine or believe there’s a great big world out there – the room defines the boundaries of his life and he thinks there’s “no more beyond”…until they escape. A lot of people think this life and this natural world and its natural laws are all there is. They can’t imagine anything beyond or more powerful than what they can see and hear and touch. So they try to get the most they can out of life and do the best they can in life, all the while believing that this is all there is to life. Life is this brief dash between two dates: our birth and our death. And we’re left to live that dash out as best we can.
The resurrection isn’t just good news for after we die – it’s brilliant news for us right here and now. It means that God is real and powerful and good and sovereign over all things – including death! It means, for the Christian, that Jesus is alive and living in us through the Holy Spirit. After Jesus rose from the dead, he didn’t tell the disciples to hang on as best they could until death when the resurrection hope would kick in. No, he told them that all power and authority in heaven and earth was given to him, so go confidently and preach the gospel to every nation, tongue, and tribe. And then he made this promise: “behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The resurrection and the empty tomb assure us that Jesus has more beyond planned for our lives right here and now. God wants to use each one of us as a light in a darkened world – helping others to see Jesus. God wants to use each of us to rescue the lost, come alongside the hurting, go after the wayward, and help others know the risen Savior as we know him. Sometimes we can lose sight of this and the walls start closing in on our perspective. And we need to be reminded that Jesus has kicked the walls out and nothing is impossible with God, and then we need to be reminded that Jesus is always with us.
When we’re walking through a trial that seems to be the biggest thing going on in our life, the resurrected Christ declares to our souls that there is more beyond that trial. There’s a power far greater than the power of that trial that has ultimate say over our lives: the power of a sovereign, loving God who will never fail us and never let us go.
When we are faced with a challenge – something we need to do or say or face and it feels way bigger than us, we aren’t alone, Jesus is with us and will help us face that challenge.
This little room we call the world isn’t all there is – there is more beyond! The biggest reality in the world isn’t the world – it’s God. If Jesus could overcome death – and make no mistake, Jesus didn’t cheat death, he didn’t pick the lock on the door that no other person could open and escape, he didn’t sneak away when death wasn’t looking – no, Jesus defeated death! He kicked the door open that no other person could open. Death didn’t give Jesus up willingly, it wanted to hold him but it couldn’t hold him. Jesus overcame death. And the resurrected Christ is living in you and me. Let God open our eyes to see the more beyond that He has planned for our lives and then let’s believe God to make it happen.
Jesus is alive today and forever. The resurrection assures us that there is more beyond death, and that Jesus has more beyond for our lives than we could ever plan for ourselves. If you’ve never asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, the Bible says you’re dead in your sins and if you die in your sins apart from Christ, you will enter a Christless eternity. That’s not what anyone wants to hear, it’s not pleasant to hear, but the Bible promises its true. The one who rose from the dead said that he is the way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through him. The only way to eternal life is by faith in Jesus. But Jesus also promises that all who come to him in faith will be saved. Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins, and rose from the grave so that you might also rise one day. There is more beyond. Will you believe in him and ask him to be your Savior this Easter morning?