Our Search for the Fountain of
28, Mark 16, Luke 24
Jesus Christ has
been raised from the dead. Praise
the Lord! Praise God for the miracle of Easter. Praise him with harps and lyres.
Praise him with drums and dancing.
Praise him with loud cymbals and shouting voices for Jesus
Christ has been raised from the dead.
He is alive and here in this sanctuary whether you believe it
or not. He has
conquered death. At
this very moment, he rules. Then,
at the very end of history, when the midnight hour arrives, the
trumpets and cornets will sound again, the choirs will sing their
hallelujahs, the dead will be raised, and you too shall be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. That is the Gospel. That
is the Gospel truth. And
if you hear and believe the Gospel, you know what this Easter
morning is all about.
conquistadors were exotic explorers of the 1500s.
These Spanish sailors were brave, daring men of adventure,
searching for gold and silver, jasper and emeralds, braving the
insecurities of their little bobbing boats in the seismic swells of
ocean waves, not knowing what was out there before them in the
uncharted seas of a strange new world.
These Spanish conquistadors were adventurous people like
Hernando de Soto, Franciso Coronado, and Ponce de Leon.
It was in 1513 that
Ponce de Leon began his search for it.
He always wanted to go exploring for it, and now was the
time. He first went
looking for it in the West Indies, but it was not there, so he
sailed to a land called Florida, hoping to find it thee.
Ponce de Leon was searching for the legendary El Dorado, a
land where gold nuggets were as plentiful as the pebbled stones
found on ocean beaches. Near
that legendary El Dorado was the one thing that everybody was
looking for. It was more valuable than gold and silver, more valuable than
precious jewels. All of
his life, Ponce de Leon and everybody else had wanted to find it. He was looking for the legendary “fountain of youth.”
He had sailed half way across the world, wanting to taste the
waters from that fountain of immortality.
He wanted to drink from those waters and be eternally young,
eternally vibrant, eternally energetic.
He wanted to drink from those waters of eternal youth and
never grow old and die. And
so he came searching in the land of Florida, near the El Dorado,
hoping to find it. He
search and searched and like every person who wanted to find the
legendary El Dorado on this side of the grave, he did not find it.
Deep down inside
every person here today is a longing for immortality.
Deep down inside every person is the drive to find the
equivalent of the legendary fountain of youth.
Deep within every person is the desire to taste the waters of
everlasting life.....for that is the way God made us.
God made every person in the image of God.
We were made for eternity; we want it, crave it, thirst for
it, and none of us want to die.
It wasn’t only Ponce de Leon who wanted to taste of the
fountain of youth; all of us do.
Every person here
loves life so much, we would like to preserve it if at all possible.
We love the scuttling clouds, the booming surf, the winds
that tossle our hair. We
love the sounds of the birds that sing and the smell of flowers in
the springtime. We love
it when our eyes caress the
mountain tops and when they reach over the endless plains to the
sea. We love to touch
the hands of our children...because deep down inside of every person
is the desire to drink of the waters of immortality. We love life so much we want to hold onto it, for that is the
way God made us. We are
made for eternity.
Now, a corollary is
also true. Because God imprinted in us the drive for eternity, each
person has an inner resistance to death.
Every person here in this room resists death, resents death,
is reviled by death. Deep
down inside, we are afraid of the unknown and the possibility of
nothingness. Deep down inside, every one of us, when the body on the other
side of the hospital curtain in our room, dies, we want it taken out
as soon as possible. Deep
down inside, every person here has a reluctance to go out shopping
for our casket or a gravesite.
Deep down inside, we don’t like to visit the mortuaries,
especially the rooms in which there are dead bodies.
Deep down inside, our stomachs churn and our hearts stick in
our throats when the doctor says to us “cancer.”
Deep down inside, when you are holding the hand of your dying
loved one at the hospital and he or she takes that last breath, your
heart panics, and at the last moment of life, your heart suddenly
explodes in a flutter of fear because you, like all of us, are so
deeply human. Like the
animals, we all have instinctive fears of death.
Like God, we have instinctual longings for eternity.
We are made in the image of God.
We are made for eternity, therefore death and everything
associated with it makes us feel uneasy.
We are afraid
because we know too much and we know too little.
We know too much about the size of the universe.
We know too much about the endless billions of light years in
space. We know too much
about the infinite size of the universe and the smallness of the
planet Earth and the smallness of measured time.
We are afraid that all there is to life is the endless cycle
of birth and death, billions upon billions of years of an
evolutionary chain of life/death/life/death, all happening way
before measured time. On
the other hand, we know too little.
We know too little about God and his eternal Spirit.
We know too little about heaven and too little about the
resurrection. We know
too little of God’s miraculous eternal love.
Because we know too little, we cannot prove the existence of
eternal life and love with God, and that frightens us, or at least
makes us nervous inside.
really trusting in God, not really trusting that there is life after
death and on the other hand, having deep drives for eternity within
us, what do we human beings do?
We try to create a sense of eternity here on earth, an
illusion of eternity in our world.
Human beings create imitation fountains of youth.
What are some examples of these attempts at eternity here on
earth? The pharaohs of
Egypt. They stacked
their great piles of rocks and created pyramids. They preserved
their bodies by removing their organs and by dehydrating their
bodies in salt. They placed their mummified bodies beneath the pyramids as if
by hiding their bodies in subterranean pyramid vaults, death could
be outwitted. Of
course, it did not work. The
mighty pharaohs ended up just as dead as their slaves whose bodies
were buried and preserved in desert sands.
Not really trusting that there
is life after death and at the same time having drives for
immortality within, what do we do?
We try to create a sense of eternity, an illusion of
eternity, here on this earth. Today
we try to prolong life and make life as good and as long as humanly
possible. … Have you
been reading what the scientists are doing to prolong and preserve
life? It is predicted
that my 2020, we may prolong human life to 120 years of age.
Can you imagine living to be 120 years old?
Getting that wrinkled, that senile, that worn out?
Nobody wants to get that old, wrinkled and senile, therefore
drug companies are investing in the skills and genius of biochemists
like Johan Bjorksten, the Finnish biochemist, who is developing an
anti-aging drug. Of
course, reports say that the formula of this anti-aging drug may not
be marketed until sometime in the near future.
So…not really trusting God’s future and yet having drives
for immortality within, we try to create fountains of youth here on
earth. If only we can
live to 120! 40-50 more
years is better than nothing. Not
really trusting in God’s good future and at the same time, having
drives for immortality within, we use science to create illusions of
immortality here on earth.
Another example of
the same pattern. Have
you heard of the more exotic science of cryonics?
It is the science of freezing human tissue in liquid hydrogen
at 320 degrees below Fahrenheit.
Scientists drain the body of blood and then freeze it to
preserve the body in liquid hydrogen. Presently, there are thirteen bodies frozen in large gaseous
cylinders of liquid hydrogen, so that people are in frozen liquid
looking like vertical popsicles. These bodies are frozen in hopes
that someday, centuries in the future, when science is more
developed, these bodies will then be resuscitated.
We are also now reading about age-reversing drugs.
Not really trusting in God’s eternal future, we try to
create illusions of eternity here on this earth.
What else do we do,
we the modern Ponce de Leons? We
wear our wigs. We dye our hair.
We put on facial creams.
We have hair transplants and face lifts. We get busy, busy,
busy, trying to become so busy that we forget we are dying.
Immerse yourself in life.
You have only one time around.
Preserve your life. Prolong
What else do we do?
We pursue wealth, reputation, fame, family, and business. We try to
leave some legacy so that we will not fade into oblivion so quickly.
All these attempts
at earthly immortality fail. Ponce
de Leon didn’t find the fountain of youth and he died, and so will
we. Life eternal is not
to be found in the pyramids, not in anti-aging drugs, not in
freezing human bodies, nor in wigs, nor in dying your hair.
It is the same for all people.
All people die. As Thomas Grey reminds us in his famous poem:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all
that wealth e’er gave.
Await alike the inevitable
The paths of glory,
lead but to the grave.
And so…we are
left alone. Not really
trusting in God and at the same time, we have longings for eternity
in our hearts. This is
what Easter is all about.
Easter is God’s
attempt to convince us that there is life after death.
Easter is God convincing us that death has been destroyed,
that there is life beyond the grave.
Easter is God convincing us that there is no need for us to
try to create eternal life here on earth.
On that first Easter morning, the women came to the grave,
thinking there was only death, and Jesus appeared to them and
convinced them and the other disciples that there was life after
death. And that same
Power is at work today, for Easter is God convincing you of God’s
eternal love and life for you and me.
I would like to
share an incident with you. In our younger years, my wife and I were
living near Chicago. One
evening we were attending an outdoor concert in a park near downtown
Chicago. It was Aaron
Copeland’s tribute to the United Nations, and none other than
Marion Anderson was singing. It
was simply a beautiful night. We
were outside; the stars were bright; the night was balmy.
There was an elderly Jewish couple sitting next to us, and we
were having a delightful time with these strangers.
It was one of those rare perfect evenings.
During the concert, Jan and I were holding hands, very much
in love. It was one of
those perfects nights for young love.
This past weekend, I was thinking about and remembering that
night in Chicago, and in an unexpected flash, my mind raced into the
future and a vision of our coming death.
In my mind, I saw us in a hospital room, two old people, Jan
holding my hand, as my bed was wheeled out of the room and down the
hall to surgery. And
slowly and suddenly, I quietly slipped away into death.
Jan was momentarily alone.
And Easter is God convincing her that there is an eternity.
Easter is God convincing us that there is eternal life for us
today. Today you will
be with me in paradise. She
will cry for the loss that she has experienced.
She will be thankful for all the years we spent together.
But underneath it all, she will have hope, a sure and certain
hope of our resurrection in Jesus Christ.
Easter is God convincing us that there is life after death,
that there is eternity for our loved ones.
There was a young American author who had written a short
story that was a masterpiece. Like
so many young authors, he borrowed a plot from a more famous, older
author. He borrowed
this plot but wanted to improve it and change it.
The young author was a realist, not a romantic at all like
the older author. He
took the plot of the older author and he wrote it more
realistically, so he thought. One
day, the older, professor-author invited the younger author to come
and read his new, revised story to him.
The plot was this: It
was a story of a son of a poor widow who lived in a village in
Pennsylvania. One day,
the young boy set out for New York to seek his fortune, and as he
left home, his mother said to him:
“Johnny, you are going to New York but I want you to
remember one thing. If
life ever really gets bad for you in the big city, I want you to
know you can come home and there will always be a light on in our
house for you. There will always be a light in the window of our
house to remind you that you are always welcome home.”
According to both versions of the story, Johnny went to New
York and he had a very horrible experience.
Life went from bad to worse, and the bottom dropped out and
he ended up penniless and friendless.
He finally remembered: “I’ll
go home. There will be a light in the window for me.”
But…in the new version of the story, the young man returned
to his village in Pennsylvania and he came up over the crest of the
hill, and his house was dark. There was no light in the window.
Slowly, the old professor rose quietly to his feet and spoke
softly but firmly to the young author:
“You put that light back into the window. I don’t like
your story the way it is.”
Easter is all about. It is when you and I come up over the crest of the hill at
the end of life and we come to the other side of death, the house of
eternity is not going to be a house of darkened windows and deserted
emptiness. When you and
I come up over the crest of the hill and into the house of eternity,
there is going to be the brightest light in that window because of
the illuminating Presence of Jesus Christ.
Easter is God convincing us that the heavenly mansion is
going to have a million lights in it.
The mansion will be filled with God’s glorious light. That
is the Gospel! That is
the Gospel Truth.
there is a story told by my teacher, Dr. Morris Wee, one of the
finest pastors many of us have ever known.
He said: Two
beggars sat on a corner begging, each with a placard, a sign, and a
tin cup. One of the
beggars received more attention than the other.
The sign of the first beggar read:
“I am blind,” but the sign of the second beggar who
gained the most sympathy said:
“It is springtime and I am blind.”
… To be blind to eternity is bad, but to have it Easter
morning and be blind? To
have it be Easter morning and still attempting to foolishly find the
fountain of youth here on earth?
To have it Easter morning and not really trust that God has
intended for us to live eternally in forever kingdom.
To have it Easter morning and not to believe that there will
be a million lights lit for the heavenly mansion.
Why, it is like living in springtime and not seeing the
beauty of it all.
Easter is God
convincing us of the sure and certain hope that our mothers and
fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our sons and daughters,
and all those who have died in his name are with him. That
is the Gospel. That is the Gospel Truth.
So, bring out the trumpets.
Bring out the cymbals. Bring
out the shouting voices because Jesus Christ has been raised from
the dead by the eternal powers of God.