For the first time in my memory Ash Wednesday was the same day as St Valentine’s Day which felt rather at odds with one another and now we are faced with Easter falling on the same day as April Fools’ Day.
Many times over the years I have been ‘fooled’ and have ‘fooled’ others with a variety of jokes on April Fools’ Day but it gets harder every year to find something original. Perhaps the ultimate ‘joke’ is that the resurrection of Jesus seems so unlikely that it feels like an ‘April fool’.
Jesus seemed to enjoy jokes. He spoke to a group of country folk saying ‘It’s obvious that if a shepherd loses one sheep he’ll leave the other 99 roaming around on the hillside whilst he spends his time looking for the one that is lost!’ You can almost hear the roar of laughter come from his audience. After all which of them would be prepared to risk the lives of 99 sheep for one who had wandered off? Then Jesus finishes with the clincher – that God the Father is one such ‘joker’ who would put himself out for each one, however lost they may be. One can almost hear the pin drop as he finishes his story.
And what about the surprise he gave everyone when, up on a hillside the hungry crowd were asked to sit down, over 5000 of them, and out came a boy’s picnic. What sort of a joke was this? How was this small amount going to feed so many? What was Jesus thinking about? Well, they were laughing on the other side of their faces when every one of their tummies were filled.
Jesus was a man who lived a life caring for others, preaching good news and pointing people to God. He cured the sick and hung out with near-do-wells. He annoyed the authorities and got into bucket loads of trouble ending in a conviction on trumped up charges at a kangaroo court and sent for execution, all done in illegal and undue haste. He died – but he had the last laugh because he didn’t stay dead. Three days later he was raised from the dead. Can you imagine Jesus being raised from the dead and shouting ‘April fool’? Or perhaps the people wouldn’t recognise that he was actually alive and think the rumours of his resurrection were an April Fool.
The fact is, the resurrection remains a bit of a problem for many people. It seems unbelievable, so it is easier to put it to one side and see it as a ‘joke’ or a ‘myth’ that can’t quite be explained. But the resurrection of Jesus is fundamental to Christian belief. Jesus DID rise from the dead and that means Jesus conquered the taboo of death and had the last laugh himself. Without the resurrection, Christianity is meaningless. All those that sighed a sigh of relief at his death on that Friday afternoon woke up on Sunday morning to the reality of a risen Jesus in their midst. They could choose to believe it or not – as can we.
So whose joke is it?
Happy Easter and April Fools’ Day.