The Fool of Easter

On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show’s highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets to dry. The segment concluded with the assurance that, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.”

The story generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

In the spirit of April Fools’ Day, you might want to try making caramel apples with a twist. Instead of using apples, dip onions in the caramel, poke a stick in them, and serve them to family members who think they’re biting into an apple.  Good stuff.

Oh yes, and today is also Easter Day. So it’s a combo holiday, the first time this has happened since 1956.

So who is the April fool in the Easter story? A number of candidates come to mind.

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

Then, it’s Easter and Jesus is risen. Sorry, Pilate. April fool!

Perhaps the April fools are the soldiers guarding the tomb. You have to feel for these guys. They’re simply cogs in the Roman military industrial complex. They’ve got guard duty in a cemetery. They must’ve been caught drinking grog and playing dice, or perhaps they inadvertently allowed a prisoner to escape their custody. So now, as humiliating punishment, they’ve been sent to the tombs to guard dead people. They are ordinary, common men, following orders. Guarding a dead person. The teasing must have brutal in the pub last night.

And now, it’s Easter morning and Jesus is risen. April fool!

Perhaps the disciples are the April fools. There’s no doubt that many of the apostles felt foolish as the crucifixion approached. They had given up their jobs for this Jesus. They had left their homes and families to follow this man on his journeys up and down Palestine. They had pinned their hopes and their futures on a man they believed would liberate them. And now he was being led away as a lamb to the slaughter. So the disciples went home. They abandoned him, betrayed him and wanted to forget him.

And now it’s Easter morning and Jesus is risen. April fool!

Perhaps the greatest fools are us. Certainly, much of the world believes we’re crackers, people who need Jesus and religion as some sort of emotional crutch. We who love Jesus, who follow his teachings, who obey his word, are regarded by many as the fools. The April fools.

But perhaps there’s another sense in which we’re the Easter fools. We’re 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 and decaying. We affirm our belief with our lips but do not confess Jesus as Lord with our lives.

So why bother? We are indeed fools.

And now, folks, it’s Easter morning and Jesus is risen. April fool!

But no, the biggest April fool is not Pontius Pilate, or the Roman soldiers, or the disciples, or you or any of us.

The greatest April fool is Jesus Christ himself. He is the Fool of Easter. He is the Trickster as it were. He is the one who called the devil’s bluff in the greatest jest of all time.

Even during his ministry, he acted in foolish ways, according to most contemporary observers. He eschewed a comfortable lifestyle. For friends he had tax collectors, hookers, lepers, fishermen, the poor and needy. Not a CEO among his inner circle. He shunted aside angel investors, and instead told them to give away their wealth and 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 stuck his fingers in the eyes of religious authorities and often seemed to deliberately bait those who had the power to kill him.

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

On Easter Day, “God made foolish the wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Jesus was “a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks,” whereby God reconciled the world to himself (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:18).

So, does it matter that Christ has risen from the dead? It does if you have ever loved or been loved. It does if you value life and want to enjoy it forever.

A researcher asked some nine-year-old children what they thought of death and dying.

Ryan spoke for many of us when he said, “Maybe I’ll die someday, but I hope I don’t die on my birthday because it’s no fun to celebrate your birthday if you’re dead.” I suppose he’s right.

Shannon commented, “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is there, too.”

A girl named Kayla said, “Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go where it’s hot all the time . . . like in Florida.”

It also matters whether Christ is risen from the grave if you want to make any sense out of living. Easter is important not only because of what it says about life beyond the grave, but because of what it says about life on this side of the grave.

If Christ lives, then life has meaning. There is hope even in the most difficult of circumstances. Even at the very end of my rope, here is a knot I can hang on to. If Christ defeated death, if my life goes on forever, if the Gospel is true, I can live courageously, victoriously. I can overcome my fears by his grace and I can be all he intends for me to be. I don’t have to fear the possibility of failure – not if Christ has been raised from the grave.

Reaffirming our faith in the resurrection is why many of us are here today. We need to be reminded of the power of life over death, of hope over despair, of love over hate, and there is only one place on earth that can be found. It is by peering into the empty tomb of the man from Galilee.

So go ahead: believe, follow, and imitate the one who pulled off the greatest jest in history. The tomb is empty.  He lives. And so do we. No foolin’.