April Fools’ Day! It’s a day to pull pranks, to tell stories, and hopefully to laugh. Laughter is a great gift from God. Some date the origin of this “holiday” back to 1392 and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Certainly a harmless prank evokes hilarity. I had a member of one of my congregations who routinely sent out an April Fools’ newsletter or a letter from some board or committee. Usually only to a select group. Undoubtedly I would get “the” call. Someone would have received it, believed the nonsense, and called me for an explanation. One year it was talk of a “geezer room” for our elderly to nap in during service, next to the cry room… Another time he had people believing we were going to move our church to a new location. In fact, my secretary called me while I was on vacation to inquire why I hadn’t told her. I had no idea what she was talking about until it dawned on me and I said to her, “What is today?” And she groaned as she knew she had been fooled.
The Psalmist wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Some have said that this is a holiday for people who choose to not believe in the promises of Jesus. I’m not sure I would go that far. However, I do know that the foolishness of our weak humanity is no match for the strength and majesty of our God. With the Apostle Paul, I would gladly become a fool for Jesus. That’s because I know that as we put our trust in Him, even though we may get “pranked,” we are no fools! This year the proximity of this day to Good Friday reminds us of when God played the biggest and best April Fools’ joke. The devil thought he had won, that he had somehow defeated Jesus. However, Jesus broke through those chains and rose to new life.
I love this old B.C. comic. Years ago there was one that showed two women sitting on a small hill. One is reading the Bible and says, “Oh, my goodness. . . Says here. . . Jesus descended into hell!” The other is shocked and says, “You’re kidding!” Then the woman with the Bible says, “Oh, no. . . Not to stay! He just dropped in to cancel our reservations!” You and I, who deserved only death and hell because of our life and actions, have new reservations in eternity because of our Savior, Jesus. He now has power over death and the devil, and because of His grace, we can live without fear. This is the true joy of Easter.
What joy to gather on Easter Sunday to rejoice in the life of Jesus and our new life in Him. I remember the joyful anticipation of this celebration each year, sometimes needing to wear gloves at the sunrise service as it was so cold in North Georgia. Easter was a day when it seemed like everyone loved Jesus and was so excited to worship Him. As a pastor, this was a time of blessed exhaustion, reveling in the events of a very busy day, and then rehearsing it over and over. Easter, in most of our churches, is a glorious celebration and testimony of our faith in Jesus. It is often a time for fellowship and partnership. Sanctuaries are filled with beautiful lilies, and there is often special music and even food! People seemed overjoyed to be present in worship and there is a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.
I am often mystified at how the disciples were cowering in fear after the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. They had seen the Risen Lord, but shortly after this we find them once again fishing and pretty much back to life before Jesus. Of course, Jesus didn’t leave it there!
I wonder if we stand in danger of the same thing. We get so excited in our preparations leading up to Easter and then our celebrations on Easter Sunday, but it seems by the following Sunday that people allow the joyous exuberance of our excitement turn into a “ho hum,” routine kind of faith. In fact, some traditions call the Sunday after Easter “Low Sunday.” So often the weeks following Easter see a huge dip in attendance, like the air slowly leaking out of a beach ball. The good news of Easter is a living joy that we are privileged to celebrate every Sunday. In fact, we worship on a Sunday because of the Resurrection, and every Sunday should be a celebration of Easter. Jesus is alive!
The early Church didn’t just celebrate the Resurrection on one day, but they celebrated it every time they gathered. So for us the Resurrection of Jesus is something that deserves to be celebrated again and again. It should gather us and build us up as we anticipate gathering with fellow believers each week. The resurrection is the foundation of our faith in Jesus. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave then this is a terrible April fool’s joke. Thank God, this is no joke. Jesus is alive. So Paul goes on in this chapter and says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
We are made alive in Jesus. That’s no joke! It’s great news that we get to share with the world all around us. This is the Master’s business. Who doesn’t need to know that this life is not all there is for us? God has provided for our eternity in Jesus. And while we celebrate this especially at Easter, it is something we get to celebrate every day. Is it any wonder that on the night of His Resurrection as Jesus met with His disciples, the first thing He did, after calming them down, was to commission them? “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you!” This is what engaging in the Master’s business is all about.
On Easter Sunday there will be many churches filled with people who desire to celebrate the Resurrection. However, how many people will wake up, nibble on some chocolate rabbit’s ears, down a few jelly beans, maybe even eat some ham or lamb or such, but never once recognize or proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus? It’s staggering to see how many still need to hear that Jesus has risen and is alive. Going to church on Easter is a great thing—even better if it inspires you to go week after week to grow and learn, to be equipped to go and engage with the world. All around us people need to know the joy we celebrate. Wouldn’t it be foolish not to tell them? Apart from Jesus, people will die and spend eternity in hell—that’s no April Fools’ joke.
May our celebrations include telling others of our Savior’s Resurrection and the new life He offers to all who believe in Him. So have a little fun today as you celebrate April Fools. But then let’s allow our Easter joy to overflow to those who still haven’t heard!
A blessed rest of Holy Week and a joyous Easter in our Resurrected Jesus!
In His peace,