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Easter Fools!


John 20:1-18

Today is April Fools’ Day. It is also Easter Sunday. I just couldn’t let this connection of dates go without comment!

It is unusual. Easter has fallen on April 1 only 11 times since 1700 – 318 years! The last time we celebrated Easter on April 1 was the year of my birth, 1956. That means I have never experienced it – I was born in November!

It is unusual. Easter will fall again on April Fools’ Day in 2029 & 2040, but then it will not be observed on April 1 until 2108 – another 68 years later.

So, since Easter fell on April Fools’ Day this year, & since it has been 62 years since the last occurrence, I just had to mention it.

I am guessing that everyone here knows about this quirky little holiday, a festive day to generate joy perhaps because we are finally shedding the doldrums & darkness of winter. It is almost as though on April Fools’ Day, everyone is getting out of the house for the first time, like mole-people leaving their burrows to enjoy the sunshine.

I call it a holiday, although there is nowhere in the world where it is officially observed. You don’t get to stay at home & hide in bed for the day, or have a picnic in the park. But throughout the western world, some version of April Fools’ Day exists & pranks are played.

Typically, a prank is played on some hapless soul who has forgotten that it is April 1. When the prank is completed, & the fool humiliated, the perpetrator then yells, “April Fool!” There’s the caramelized onion prank. Dip an apple-sized onion in caramel, poke a stick in it, & serve it to unsuspecting victim.

Or you can cut an outline of a large bug, about an inch or 2 long, and affix it to the inside of your spouse’s lampshade. When the lamp is turned on, the silhouette of the bug appears, supposedly freaking out your mate.

The BBC once broadcast a short documentary in a current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly grown spaghetti in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was then flooded with requests on how to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to announce that the film was a hoax on the news the next day. April fools!

Enough of that! We are here today because it is Easter Sunday. This is without a doubt the highest & most holy day on the Christian calendar. As holy days go, it doesn’t get any holier than this. But since it is April 1, I have to ask: “Who, in the Scriptures, is the April fool?” I found a whole slew of candidates.

Is the April fool Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator? He was the one who cowered in the face of certain religious leaders who said that failing to deal harshly with a treasonous villain like Jesus would not be viewed favorably by Rome. He is the one who washed his hands of the whole affair. He permitted the execution, & not only permitted it, but carried it out in the name of the emperor.

Then suddenly, it is Easter & Jesus is risen! Sorry, Pilate! April fools!

Perhaps the disciples are the April fools. Let’s be clear: there is no doubt that many of the disciples felt foolish as the crucifixion approached. They had given up their jobs for Jesus. They had left their homes & families to follow this man on his journey up & down Palestine. Yes, they had been witness to some phenomenal events, things they could not then, & could not now explain. They had pinned their hopes & their futures to a man they believed would liberate them. And now he was being led away like a lamb to the slaughter.

So the disciples went home. They abandoned Jesus, betrayed Jesus & wanted to forget Jesus. And now, it is Easter morning & Jesus is risen! April fools!

Maybe the April fool is Annas, the high priest, & his snarky son-in-law Caiaphas. Annas is a dark, violent figure in this Holy Week drama. He has had enough. He has corrupted witnesses, falsified evidence, & placed a mole inside Jesus’ inner circle, tracked the movements of this radical insurgent & bided his time. But now, with Passover approaching, he must make sure Jesus is dead & buried - & quickly! He pulls the strings. He plays Pontius Pilate like a NC fiddler. He gets what he wants.

But now, Annas, it is Easter morning & Jesus is risen! April fools!

Perhaps the April fools are the soldiers guarding the tomb. You have to feel for these guys. They are simply cogs in the Roman industrial military complex. They got guard duty in a cemetery. They must have gotten caught drinking grog & playing dice, or maybe they had inadvertently allowed a prisoner to escape their custody. So now, as humiliating punishment, they have been sent to the tombs to guard dead people! Haha! They are good, decent men. Ordinary, common, & just following orders. Guarding a dead person. I’ll bet the teasing was brutal in the pub last night!

And now, it is Easter morning & Jesus is risen! April fools!

Maybe the April fool is Peter, the commercial fisherman. Oh, Peter started out enthusiastically, no doubt. He defended his rabbi right & left. He was the one who identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. He swore never to abandon his Lord. He even drew a sword against a cohort of Roman security & nearly decapitated one of them, but his swing went awry & deprived the soldier of only his ear, not his head.

But then, Peter loses faith faster than a rock sinks in water. When Jesus is at last captured & led away, he denies he ever knew the man. And the person who said he would never leave Jesus, leaves Jesus. What a fool!

And now, Peter, it is Easter morning & Jesus is risen! April fools!

But then again, maybe the biggest fools are all of us. Certainly, much of the world thinks we are bonkers, completely foolish souls who need Jesus & religion as some sort of emotional crutch. It is likely that a fair percentage of the general population, who – although identifying themselves as religious – think that we committed followers of Jesus take things too seriously. We who love Jesus, who follow his teachings, who obey his word, are regarded by many as the fools. We are April fools.

But maybe there is another sense in which we are Easter fools. We are fools when we claim to believe, but behave as though we don’t. We affirm a belief in the resurrection of Christ. We declare that “He is risen!” But we live as though Jesus were still in the tomb, cold & decaying. We affirm our belief with our lips but do not confess Jesus as our Lord with our lives.

So why bother? We are indeed fools. And now, friends, it is Easter morning & Jesus is risen! April fools!

No, the biggest April fool is not Pontius Pilate, not the disciples, not Annas the high priest, not Peter, & not you or any of us.

The greatest April fool is Jesus Christ. He is the Fool of Easter. He is the Trickster, if you will. He is the one who called the devil’s bluff in the greatest “prank” of all time.

Even during his ministry, he acted in foolish ways, according to those who were there. He turned from a comfortable lifestyle. For friends he had tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, fishermen, the poor & needy. There was not a CEO among his inner circle. He turned aside heaven seekers, & instead told them to give away their wealth & follow him. He knew that there is power in being a somebody but there is truth in being a nobody. He opted for the truth because he knew that power emerges from truth. He chose weakness instead of strength, vulnerability instead of aggressiveness, truth instead of practicality, & honesty instead of influence. He thumbed his nose at religious authorities & often seemed to deliberately bait those who had the power to kill him.

And then they did kill him. But death could not hold him. The grave could not contain him.

On Easter Fools’ Day, the apostle Paul writes: God made the wisdom of the world foolish. Jesus was God’s fool, a scandal to Jews & foolishness to Gentiles, through whom God reconciled the world to himself.

Today, Jesus is alive! He who endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, & sat down at the right side of God’s throne. It was Jesus who emptied himself by taking the form of a slave & by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Pretty foolish, it would seem. But this is not the end of the story.

Therefore, God highly honored him & gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, & under the earth might bow & every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

On this Easter Fools’ Sunday, this is what we have an opportunity to do: As fools for Christ, as God’s fools, we might consider in humble reverence reaffirming our allegiance to the one who pulled off the greatest “prank” in history. Let us reaffirm our belief that Jesus is Lord.

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