Posted April 2014
Prior to Christopher Columbus setting sail across the Atlantic in the late 15th century, it was believed that the world ended out there somewhere beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. One of Spain's great “claims to fame" was that their nation was the last outpost of the known world. They were positioned, so they thought, at the edge of the great beyond.
Illustrating this belief, the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms portrayed an image of the Pillars of Hercules, the ancient name for those mammoth stone monoliths on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar. Printed on the Pillars image was the Royal motto, with no modest pride: NE PLUS ULTRA, “No More Beyond."
However, Columbus and his crew returned with remarkable “crack in the universe” information. They encountered, beyond the wildest of comprehension, a whole new world.
In reality, they experienced something much "more beyond." The Royal Coat of Arms had egg all over its face. Then someone (I think it must have been an early advertising genius with a quick eye and daring spirit) made a noble and thrifty suggestion which was immediately accepted by the King of Spain: simply that they strike the first word, NE, from the motto. And so, the coat of arms would read, and has read ever since: PLUS ULTRA. “More Beyond!"
This historical anecdote is a good parable for Good Friday and Easter. Good Friday declares that Jesus is brutally executed. Killed for the cause of God's countercultural movement: The Kingdom of God! But his dead body is placed in a deathless grave. For, on that morning after Shabbat, there is that astounding announcement from the graveyard. As James Weldon Johnson proclaims: “Then comes that great ‘gettin up’ morning." Jesus is alive!