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04/01/2018

John 20: 1-18   Fool for Christ   April 1, 2018 Easter

Rev. Jerry W. Krueger   Boardman UMC

 

HE IS RISEN! He Is Risen Indeed!
Today is April Fools' Day. It is also Easter Sunday.  Since 1700, Easter has fallen on April 1 only 11 times! The last time Christians celebrated Easter on April 1 was 1956 -- 62 years ago when the world was so unlike the world and culture we inhabit today.
Is this calendar event the greatest prank in history? Should we wonder who the April fool is in the Easter story?  

 

 In the western world, some version of April Fools' Day exists and merriment ensues.  Typically, a prank is played on a hapless soul who's forgotten about April 1. When the prank is completed and the fool humiliated, the perpetrator yells "April fool!" 

 

Lots of good April Fool pranks. Like the fake caramelized apple prank, except it is a caramel dipped onion. Take a bit bite out of that.   Or, cut an outline of a big bug, and tape it to the inside of your friend’s lampshade. When the lamp is turned on, the silhouette of the bug appears suddenly, freaking out your victim.   Or tell your child school is cancelled due to a power outage.  April Fools.
Easter is the holiest day in the Christian calendar. Easter is greater than Christmas, because if there is no resurrection, we have no Christian faith. For Christians, it doesn't get holier than this. And since its April 1, we have to ask: "Who, after all, is the April fool?"

I can think of many acceptable candidates. In politics, in society, in popular culture. A whole slew of candidates come to mind.     

But in our text today, is the April fool Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator? He was the one who caved into religious leaders who told Pilate, “Failing to deal harshly with a treasonous Jesus, will not be viewed favorably by Rome.” Then, Pilate literally and figuratively washed his hands of the whole affair. He allowed the crucifixion, and it to happen in the name of the emperor.  Then, Easter arrives, and Jesus is risen! Sorry, Pilate! April fools!

Maybe the disciples are the April fools.  Did the disciples feel foolish as the crucifixion approached? They’d walked away from jobs for Jesus. They’d left home and family to follow Jesus on his wandering journeys, up and down Palestine. They were witnesses to phenomenal and miraculous events they couldn’t explain. They’d hitched their hopes and futures to an itinerant rabbi, believing he would liberate them. And now he was to be executed, crucified like a common criminal. 
 

So the disciples left him, betrayed him, slipped away, and wondered if they should forget him.
And now its Easter morning and Jesus is risen! April fools!

Could Peter, the fisherman, be the April fool? Peter enthusiastically, defended Jesus time after time. Peter was the sole person to identify Jesus as the "Christ, the Son of the living God." And he pledged to never abandon his Lord. He drew his sword against a squad of Roman security forces, and nearly killed one, but his swing was askew and he instead lopped off the ear of one soldier, not his head. 

We know Peter later loses faith faster than a duck on a June bug. Jesus is captured, led away. And Peter has proclaimed, “I will never leave you Jesus,” but Peter does deny the Christ, 1, 2, …3 times.
And now, Peter, its Easter morning and Jesus is risen! April fools!

Perhaps the April fool is Thomas, the one who prided himself on knowledge of the visible world, and delighted in understanding how things worked. He seemed to believe the was a natural explanation for everything. When Jesus talked about going "to prepare a place" for them, it was Thomas who asked, "We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" (John 14:5).

 

When the disciples in the Upper Room proclaim Jesus is alive, Thomas, demands evidence. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).  Jesus appears to Thomas. Jesus is risen! Believe now Thomas! April fools!
Perhaps the greatest fools of all, are right here this morning. All of us.  Much of the world believes we're gullible, “You believe in Jesus, what a FOOL!” Some think we somehow need Christianity as an emotional crutch. Many non-believers think we Christians, take things too seriously. We who love Jesus, who follow his teachings, who obey his word, are regarded by many as the fools. The April fools.

But here'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 I ask, do we choose to live as though Jesus were still in the tomb, cold and decaying? Do we affirm our belief with our lips, but fail to confess Jesus as Lord, with our lives?

 But now, friends, its Easter morning and Jesus is risen! April fools!

Hear me church. The greatest April fool is not Pontius Pilate, or the disciples, or Annas the high priest, Peter, Thomas, or any of us.
The greatest April fool, is Christ himself. He is the Fool of Easter.

 

He is the one who called the devil's bluff in the greatest jest of all time.
Even during his ministry, Jesus acted in foolish ways. He opted out of a comfortable lifestyle. His friends were the despised, the lowly, and the hated. Tax collectors, hookers, lepers, fishermen, the poor and needy. Not the powerful his inner circle. He even told the rich, to give away their wealth and follow him.

 

Jesus lived the truth, because He knew that power emerges from truth. He chose weakness instead of strength.  Love instead of hate. Vulnerability in place of aggressiveness, truth instead of practicality, honesty instead of influence. He thumbed his nose at religious authorities, and often baited and challenged those who had the power to kill him. And then, they did kill him. But death could not hold him. The cold grave could not contain him. Because he defeated death!
On Easter Fools' Day, "God made foolish the wisdom of the world" (1 Corinthians 1:20). Jesus was God's Fool, "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). 

Today, Jesus is alive! -- It was Jesus who "emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).

Pretty foolish, it would seem. But this is not the end of the story.
"Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, ... and every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).

On this Easter Fools' Sunday, we have an opportunity as fools for Christ, as God's fools, we might consider in humble reverence reaffirming our lives to the one who pulled off the greatest jest in history. Let us on this Easter, reaffirm our belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  

Take these words into your hearts as I say them, "Lord Jesus, you came into the world to save us. The weak, the strong, the high and mighty, the low and humble. Through your grace, you lovingly offered yourself in my place, taking MY sin upon yourself, and then dying for one like me, and for all of humanity. Thank you for loving me so much, that you would sacrifice yourself, for me. How can I repay this gift, this debt, this gift of freedom? Today, I commit, or recommit my life to you -- to be your grace filled, loving God and loving neighbor fool, to live for you, and to empower this church to foolishly seek out, and invite and care for those who do not know you, so that the world can be transformed into your likeness. " 

And all of God’s Easter people, shouted, HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!  AMEN!