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LOOK BEYOND THE GRAVE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

19 APRIL 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Isaiah 65:17-25
Luke 24:1-12
Romans 10:17
1 Corinthians 15:12-20

This morning, we are gathered together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event that occurred approximately 2,000 years ago.

Now, this gathering of ours doesn't make us Christians, any more than the people of non-Christian nations when they celebrate Christmas, for they are mostly interested in the glitter and lights.

To be a Christian this Easter morning, one must be able to look beyond the grave, and know that one day, they too will be raised from the dead into everlasting life with Jesus Christ.

If we look around our community, and perhaps even among us here, we will find those who don't have this knowing assurance of being saved and of going to heaven.

The apostle Paul saw many of these doubting people in the city of Corinth, and in his first letter to them, beginning at 15:12, he tries to open their eyes to look beyond the grave. (1 Corinthians 15:12)

12. Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

13. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;

14. and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

What are you thinking in your heart now?

Is my preaching vain?

Is your faith vain?

Or are you able to look beyond the grave, and have that hope of a better life to come?

But to those who still doubt, Paul says:

15. Moreover we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.

Have you ever considered this position?

That if what we preach and what you believe as Christians is not true, then we are false witnesses of God.

But since it is true, then those who don't believe are the false witnesses; thus, they won't have any part in heaven, because having heard the truth, they rejected it.

But if there are still doubts, Paul continues:

16. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;

17. and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

18. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

19. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

20. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

Being a true Christian is living beyond today.

Being a Christian is living in the hope of a better world to come.

Being a Christian is living in such a manner, that others will see our faith in a better world of tomorrow, because we will show them through our examples, the love and peace and compassion that heaven will bring them, and every other person, and animal.

Being a Christian is living and looking beyond the grave.

Following Jesus' crucifixion, even the apostles and those who were with him through most of his ministry could not immediately look beyond the grave.

They needed to be reminded, even at the grave site, as recorded in Luke 24:1-12.

1. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.

2. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

3. but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

In their hearts, they knew Jesus was Lord; but they had also been with Him as a man.

They had also seen Him die as a man, and be buried as a man.

And now they still expected to find His body in the tomb; thus they came to anoint it, as was the custom.

But His body wasn't there!

They could understand that His spirit had gone back to heaven, but they could not perceive of His body also leaving, or that He could have been raised from the dead, even though they had seen Him raise others from the dead.

They were trapped in earthly thinking, and had trouble fully looking beyond the grave.

4. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel;

5. and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?

6. "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,

7. saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."

Do you see God's grace?

He will never push us away, or make us look foolish, if we seek Him with a pure heart, even if our understanding is incorrect or we make a mistake.

God sees beyond these things, as should we.

And even today, such messengers could appear to us in bodily form.

And, if we care to accept it, the Lord Himself and His angels and prophets will speak to us every day of our lives; that is, if we will do our part to listen.

All we have to do to hear them is open our Bibles and read.

For as often as we do so, they will speak to our hearts.

And the more often we do this, the easier it becomes to look beyond the grave.

8. And [through the reminder of these men] they remembered His words,

Just as we will be reminded and remember, as often as we read and reread the Scriptures.

For as we are told in Romans 10:17: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

9. and [they] returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

10. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.

11. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

They, too, were trapped in their worldly, confined thinking; and so could not look beyond the grave.

12. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.

Peter's worldly vision had developed a crack in it, and he began to look beyond the grave, as any of us can if we care to do so.

Once we allow ourselves to look beyond the grave, and learn how to do it consistently, what are some of the things that we will see?

The prophet Isaiah paints us quite a picture of this view, both of the foreseeable future, as well as far beyond.

Please turn with me to Isaiah 65:17 and following.

17. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

To look beyond the grave, we must train ourselves to let go of our worldly problems and, instead, look ahead to what things will be like; and with that peace of mind, solve our problems without becoming a part of them.

18. "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing,
And her people for gladness.

19. "I will also rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

20. “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not live out his days;
For the youth will die at the age of one hundred
And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred
Shall be thought accursed.

A person who continues to see only the problems of this present world, and worries about things beyond their control, and creates problems for others, whether human or non-human, also begins to focus their vision on their own grave.

And since Christ gave us the power to see beyond and live beyond our present situations, we make ourselves seem accursed by refusing to accept His gracious and loving gift.

We can have much more than we have now, if we allow Jesus Christ, and his teachings, to be the focal point in our lives.

21. "And they shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22. "They shall not build, and another inhabit,
They shall not plant, and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands.

23. "They shall not labor in vain,
Or bear children for calamity;
For they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord,
And their descendants with them.

Everything we do in the will of the Lord will prosper, both now and in the future.

24. "It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

25. "The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the Lord.

Don't be like those, as symbolized by the serpent, who remain earthbound and eat the dust, and then return to the dust in their graves.

Live for Christ, and inherit all the goodness that is beyond the grave.

It is for this future that Jesus died for us.

It is for this future that Jesus Christ arose from the dead.

And the more we train ourselves to look beyond the grave, the better will be the world around us, and the better will be our own lives.

Resurrect your heart from the grave you've allowed it to be buried in.

Let the S-o-n shine in.

Let the light of the Lord show you how to look beyond the grave.

And let that light shine through you to others, that they too may see.

And we all will have a very happy Resurrection Day, today and tomorrow and every day of the rest of our lives, even forever and ever.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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