Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday and those April Fools

One-quarter to one-third of the Gospels deal specifically with this week: the final showdown between Jesus, son of God, and the Pharisees, the political & religious leaders of his time. It is a powerful time and literally changed the history of Western Civilization. The modern trivialization of Christian belief in our culture notwithstanding, Christ's death and resurrection is either of mind-numbing experiential value or means not one whit at all.

You see, if Jesus was just a good man, a good teacher, which you often hear, but not the very son of God, then He's just another loser in a line of moral teachers who say some really good things and then die. He has a man's reach through history.

But if He is truly God's Son and was sinless, death could not hold Him. He is Alive at this very moment, able to talk to you, reveal Himself to you, etc. He can save others, since death could not stop Him.

The question is not whether or not Jesus was a victim of the times: He most assuredly was not.

He predicted His death, and how it would happen on several occasions; He flatly told His disciples to their faces: "I'm going to go into Jerusalem, and be handed over to the Chief Priests. They will mock Me and spit on Me. They will even have me flogged and crucified. On the third day, I will be raised to life!"

Here's the kicker, oh cynical ones. His disciples didn't believe that would happen to Him. He was too awesome, too popular, too well-protected - they'd make sure no one would hurt their Leader!

You know the story. Everything happened just as Jesus said it would.

But that didn't convince me. Do you know what's ultimately convinced me of the reality of His resurrection? Not all the physical weirdness reported, not prophecies saying this and that.

No, what convinces me is how NATURAL and 'C'est la vie' Jesus is about the whole affair AFTER it has happened. In other words, Jesus acts like a man finished with a hard job who just wants to sit down with his neighbors. He calls to them, eats with them. He doesn't beat them with His new authority, with this great miracle but rather uses it to reach their hearts. He loves THEM and He's paid the ulitimate price for THEM.

He just wants them to love him back. Period. We're the fools for not seeing it this way.

I imagine Jesus smiling really big. I imagine Him shaking His head at the slowness of the disciples. I imagine Him eating the honeycomb and fish and wiping his beard clean like He's done a hundred times in front of them.

I imagine their shock and awe and love all mingled together. I imagine Jesus' eyes dancing with humor at this great big "April Fool!" being worked out in front of them.

Thus we too are called fools for serving Christ, for believing He is risen from the dead.

Yet the real fool is one who will not accept God's wisdom, but only accepts the world's - the stuff you read written by men who think they are wise, but ignore God altogether, looking only at the world, not what is above it.

I Corinthians 1:21-25
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.


Christians are easily ridiculed. I know. I used to do it, though counting myself as one, I thought the 'holy rollers' who talked about Jesus all the time were fanatics.

Then I was betrayed, by the world I was serving. One sabotage at a time. I began to note that what was promoted in media would get you arrested in real life and with that simple disconnect, I realized I was listening to fools, watching fools, and letting my life be affected by - you guessed it - fools.

To really get a good grip on how shallow our worldly wisdom truly is, read "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" by Neil Postman.

Thank God that God knew how foolish we were.

There is a reason we are called sheep and it is NOT because we are soft and fluffy and cute in God's sight.

Sheep are some of the dumbest, most defenseless, most clueless creatures on Earth.

When Jesus says, after His resurrection: "Peter do you love Me?" and follows the affirmative from Peter with "Feed My sheep", He's NOT 're-instating' Peter - he's affirming him by giving him a necessary job to do. Jesus, since He has accomplished all that was necessary for our salvation, merely wants Peter to take care of the dumb followers - the sheep, the fools - who will trust Him to save them.

So Peter feeds them the good words of God, has to be patient with them and even take a few hits from Paul [cf. Galatians 2] for acting one way and then another, but in the end (decades later) dies heroically for Christ's sake.

Jesus knew it'd take Peter years to grow up enough spiritually to do that. It was difficult for HIM to allow Himself to be crucified! How much more for an ordinary man!!

So even if you have been a fool (like all humans), made foolish promises to God (like Peter did) or just count yourself as unable to live wisely, you too can come to Christ.

He was the Greatest Fool of All, so He definitely knows how to love on the rest of us.

Including you.

Amen.

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