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November 10, 2019    “There’s No More.   Yes; there is!”

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

‘Sorry,  there’s no more.’   All out.   All gone.   That’s it.   That’s all she wrote.

When the message is, ‘there’s no more,’  that’s bad news;  people don’t like to hear that.  If you’re a  ‘black-Friday’ shopper, & you hear that news,  /after all that effort, / early arrival, / fighting the crowds, / & keeping your eye on the advertised specials,  you don’t want to hear the words  ‘there’s no more’.   Children don’t like to hear those words;  when they like a food or dessert: (maybe that’s why mom sings it) ‘no more.’    Even our pets learn to recognize that sound of bad news when they’re begging for something:  ‘all gone.’

Now, TV commercials like to play off the opposite of that phrase:  “You get all this for just 19.99;   but wait!  That’s not all = there’s more;  if you act now…”  ‘there’s more’   is perceived as being good news.   When you’re at a concert,  enjoying the beautiful music & having a wonderful evening;  and then the musicians acknowledge your applause,  and begin leaving the stage.  Sometimes,  if the applause is particularly enthusiastic & lengthy,  they return to the stage for a couple more songs. (encore)   There was no more;  but now there is still more.

For almost ALL things,  ‘there’s no more’  is bad news;   ‘there’s still more’  is good news.

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At the end of the Church Year,  and in hearing again about Judgment Day, / the Return of Jesus (2nd Advent),  and the End of the World,  it may sound like the message is  ‘that’s it;  there’s no more.’     When we stand beside a grave,  it feels like ‘that’s it;  there’s no more.’   But that IS NOT the final message  as it has been declared to us by our Creator Himself.

On Easter morning,  Jesus turned all the ‘no more’s’  into ‘there’s still more = much more in store for those who belong to Jesus.’   That good news gets the last word.

In the Gospel reading from Luke 20,  Jesus is in dispute with a group of religious leaders called the Sadducees.  The heart of the controversy is,  essentially,  between those two phrases.   The Sadducees are on the one side saying, “There’s no more.”  But Jesus is on the other side saying, “There’s still more.”  They talking about  the resurrection from the dead.   They use an illustration involving marriage,  but the dispute is not really about marriage;  they’re arguing about resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees did not believe the day would come  when people would rise out of the graves,  and their bodies would live again.   One way to remember what the Sadducees did not believe  is to make a wordplay on their name.   They were ‘sad, you see’ = because they didn’t have anything more to look forward to after death;  ‘no more’ beyond this earthly life.

Now,  they were usually the more wealthy leaders,  so they could afford to enjoy this life ‘to the full.’    But when death came,  their minds hit a wall;  they couldn’t see beyond the grave,  or believe anything after death;  they didn’t have a hope that there was anything more.   There are ‘sadducees’ today;  those who lack hope beyond this life;  they don’t believe there’s more.

According to the Gospel of Matthew,  Jesus stopped them in their tracks & said:

“You are wrong,  because you know neither the Scriptures,  nor the power of God.”    And in both Matthew & Luke  we hear these words:  “…He is not God of the dead,  but of the living…”

In other words,  even Moses declared that there is life after death,  there is a resurrection,  because he calls the Lord,  “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,”   they were dead to the earth & gone,  but not dead to God.  He is the God of the living;  they are alive.

So,  while the Sadducees, {and some people in our day},  teach that this earth & life is all there is,  Jesus taught that when someone dies,  there’s still more to come;   that’s why we hope,  and that’s why we behave ourselves, too.     And Jesus wasn’t just talking about our souls going to be with him  when we die;  which is wonderful in itself.   But here  he was also talking about the end of time, / the Last Day, / the Day of Resurrection, //  when our bodies will rise out of the grave  =wherever our ‘dust & ashes’ may be=   He will raise us up.  God-in-the-flesh  has given good news to us:  there is still more.

One author likes to think of it this way for the Christian:  ‘there is life  after life-after-death.’   That is,  there’s life after death,  when the souls of those who believe & are baptized in Jesus Christ  go to be with him,  while their bodies are left behind for a time.  AND then there’s the resurrection, when body & soul are joined again for even more life.   So,  there’s  ‘life after life after death.’    Whether that’s clever or confusing,  it’s the message that,  on the Last Day,  there is a resurrection of our body  so that it can be reunited with our living soul.   That’s what Jesus was talking about.  The poor Sadducees said,  ‘there’s no more.’  But Jesus said,  ‘there IS more.’

The official group called the Sadducees pretty-much died out about 70AD,  about 35 years after Easter,  after Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.  But their sad teaching,  their hopeless philosophy,  their bad news  of ‘no more’  still lives on.   Just about every year around Easter time  there are TV specials about Bible history & the claims of Jesus;  two sides debate whether His tomb was actually empty,  and if it was,  why?   One side is always denying His resurrection.   Archeologists dig up burial boxes called ‘ossuaries’,  and claim they may contain the bones of Jesus.

Many religions believe that there is ‘spiritual’ life after death,  but you won’t need a body.   Hindus believe in ’reincarnation’,  which means you keep getting a new bodily form on earth,  over & over again,  until you get your ’karma’ right,  and then your spirit can finally be ’absorbed’ & you lose yourself into the cosmic energy = but you won’t need a body for that — so they say.   And there are atheistic groups  advertising the message:  There’s probably no God,  so stop worrying and enjoy your life.   In other words,  this is all there is,  make the most of it!

( eat, drink & be merry,  for tomorrow you die )

Many try to take away Jesus’ resurrection,  which eliminates our own resurrection from the dead,  and so they take away the hope of a real,  human,  body & soul life-to-come.   According to some surveys among the general population in the last few years,  about half of the people are burdened with the lack of hope,  and they say,  ‘what counts is what I see & experience right now.  This is it;  there’s no more.’  …when all along,  Jesus came from heaven,  and shared our flesh,  to convince us:  ‘there IS more = with Him’.

This Sadducee spirit of no hope  is part of our fallen nature & old Adam.  Things happen to US,  and we wonder if  ‘this is all there is.’   Our loved ones breath their last earthly air,  and go down to the grave,  and we see them no more = *is that it?   When we spend weeks or months away from God’s Word & promise of good news,  our old sinful nature makes us forget the good news & the hope that’s promised us;   and that’s when doubts creep in.

Just think of how far away from hope  a person can get  if they spend years away from church,  away from God’s encouraging Word of this good news in Christ Jesus.

Our Creator designed us with a yearning to have hope  despite this broken world.

*What happens to the soul  if a person does not hear what the God-of-the-Living says?

*What happens when they only listen to the daily news of strife & wickedness & war & tragedy & death,  and they don’t hear their Savior promise them the hope of  ‘more’?

*Is that where YOU are,  /or where you kids, /or grandkids are:  caught up in hearing only from the fallen world,  bombarded by tragic headlines?   *Have you been too busy to ponder the resurrection on the Last Day?   This resurrection is part of your foundational hope in Christ;  it’s the same hope of the Gospel message  proclaimed with Jesus’ cross & empty tomb.  But *what if your focus of life never gets beyond the bad news of the day?

While we DO have to pay attention & live in this old world,  it makes a big difference to our life & our living  if,  on a regular basis,  we take our head & thoughts OUT of this world,  and come here to put our head & thoughts INTO heaven,  and glimpse our real future.

This is why the 3rd Commandment specifies that we need this worship each & every week;

6 days is enough earthly labor & focus.   So,  the 7th day is a Sabbath to the Lord,  so that He can pull us back from the sad temptation of  ‘no more,’   and rejuvenate us with his promise & hope:  ‘there IS still more.’

Just before this clash with the Sadducees,  Jesus told His disciples He would go to Jerusalem.   There,  He would suffer;  He would die at the hands of the Sadducees & Pharisees.   He also said that after 3 days,  He would rise from the dead.   Not long after that,  everything He said would happen,  DID happen.  Jesus suffered, died & was buried;  all to pay for our sin.

For 2 long days the sad disciples thought: ‘It’s all gone!’    But on Easter morning  the angels asked them that question:  *Why do you seek the living  among the dead?  He is not here;  He is risen!   That means ‘there is more for you & me.’

You remember that Thomas didn’t see Jesus that first Easter Day.  But a week later,  he was there to see;  Jesus even let Thomas touch His new flesh.  And you remember how Thomas’ life went from ‘I won’t believe,’  to  ‘my Lord, and my God.’   Bad news to good news;  ‘there’s no more’  to ‘there IS more.’   There is not only soul-life after death,  but real,  physical life  after life after death.

And like Thomas,  we need to believe our God is the God of the living,  not the dead.   We need so much more than the ‘Sadducee spirit’  if we are to live in hope,  in holiness,  and in real peace.

The Sadducees used the example of marriage to try to show how confusing a real bodily life would be after death,  after a woman has married 7 men;  who’s wife will she be if there’s a resurrection?   Let’s briefly address that.   In the OT,  God had a high expectation of the family-line & the Israelite Tribe you belonged to.   So,  instead of marrying the person you ‘love,’  marriages were arranged to carry on the family name;  and you learned to  love, honor & keep  the person you married.  Nothing wrong with that.  But the Sadducees assumed that a life after death would mean the same kind of life as now on earth.

Jesus flat-out tells the Sadducees that they have it wrong;  that they don’t understand the resurrection,  because they don’t understand all that the Scripture teaches.   So He explains that marriage is something for this world & life,  for 2 main things:  +chiefly for having children to populate & repopulate the earth,  +and also for companionship.   Well,  in the resurrection,  no one dies  =there’s no more death because there’s no more sin=  so maybe no additional people are needed.   And,  in the resurrection,  everyone will be a perfect brother or sister in Christ,     so the companionship of a spouse won’t be needed.

What Jesus is saying is that life after death  will be so different  that marriage won’t be needed anymore.   Our loved ones of faith will be there,  and we’ll rejoice in each other’s presence;  a perfect companionship.   On the day of resurrection  we’ll be body & soul again,   to hug & hold,  to live, move & have our being once again.   But it’ll be different.  It’ll be so much better & more.

We can’t describe it further than that,  because that’s about all our Lord tells us;  but Jesus says it will be much more than now,  and we believe him.   Even for that poor woman,  who sought to enjoy God’s marriage blessing in life 7 times,  but had to endure sorrow & loss 7 times;   Jesus would promise that poor widow  much, much more;  loss becomes victory beyond earthly comparison.

That’s the kind of hope you & I need;  our neighbor needs it too.   And that’s a reason we come here each week of this life.   We need to see Jesus being with us  in our losses,  to turn them into victories;  that’s what a True Savior does.   As soon as we started breathing earthly air, the clock began ticking  toward that day we would stop breathing earthly air.   And,  if  earthly air is all there was,  what a depressing reality that would be:  That’s it, / that’s all she wrote, / there’s no more.   No wonder people seek to be distracted & entertained  so they don’t have to think about ‘nothing’ to come.

But Jesus disagrees with that;  He says ‘there IS more.’   There is a resurrection,  and real life after death.   This is the real reason we have hope;  it’s also our motivation to behave in right & holy living with our Creator;  His narrow road leads to that prize.    Our hope in Christ gives us the foundation and the purpose of living a good & full life right now,   receiving God’s blessings with thanksgiving,  and following his guidance.

It’s all because Jesus declares:  ‘there IS more to come!’

Amen