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When Easter and April Fools’ Day Collide

This year April 1 falls on a Sunday—Easter Sunday. The annual celebration of hoaxes is the same day that Christians worldwide celebrate Jesus’s resurrection. That doesn’t sit well with a comfortable faith. No one likes being called a fool.

But Christians have a long history of being called fools. In Jesus’s day, the religious types knew that no Messiah dies like a loser. And the intellectuals knew that no one rises from the dead. So when Christians started claiming that a disgraced and condemned criminal was the living ruler of heaven and earth, everyone knew who to laugh at.

Reasonable Doubt

Thomas gets the “doubter” reputation, but he was not alone. The short ending in Mark describes fearful women, running, scared, and silent (Mark 16:8). Peter and that beloved disciple ran to see for themselves (John 20:1–10). Luke’s witnesses remember being startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost (Luke 24:37). Jesus himself identifies their fear and doubt and then invites them to see and touch (Luke 24:38–39).

As Matthew tells it, “some” still doubted on that Galilean hillside as Jesus sent them to preach to the nations (Matt. 28:16–17). These were not gullible folks. They were not predisposed to imagine a resurrected Christ.

No Resurrection, No Dice

The doubters have a point: a dead Messiah is not good news. If there’s no resurrection, if there’s nothing more than this, if hope is only for this life, then Christians are to be pitied more than anyone in the world. But if Jesus is alive, it changes everything.

One alternative suggests that the disciples, in their grief, made it all up. The oldest alternative to a living Messiah is that it’s a trick pulled by his followers. Is it a double-bluff that they are the ones who record that theory first (Matt. 28:11–15)? That’s some kind of crazy.

It’s strange, to say the least, that people were willing to be killed rather than admit they went in on a hoax. Something or someone transformed that cringing fearful bunch. (The ascended Christ, who pours out his Spirit, is still having that effect on people.)

Less than two months later, 50 days or so, Peter boldly announced that he followed a crucified, risen, ruling, and returning king. The crowd was confused; some sneered and thought the Spirit-filled Christians were drunk (Acts 2:13). But Peter explained, shared his experience, and exhorted (Acts 2:14–40). Many joined, but plenty remained unconvinced.

But one unconvinced person did do a U-turn and said he had more than 500 eyewitnesses to call on (1 Cor. 15:1–11). There is evidence to consider. The Lord doesn’t ask you to shut your eyes and leave your brain at the door.

Yet it’s not the kind of case that will convince you if you assume a dead man could never rise (1 Cor. 15:12–19). Nor will you be convinced if you cannot fathom a crucified and risen Messiah: “The tomb may be empty, but we don’t speak of that in polite company. Can you pass the salt?”

Easter Fools

The message seems foolish, it really does. First Corinthians 1:18 says:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

We can try to persuade others and acknowledge that we might seem a little crazy (2 Cor. 5:11–15). The learned may joke and sneer, or they may want to hear more (Acts 17:32). The powerful may think we’re insane (Acts 26:24). Jesus rose! April Fools’!

But I still want to boast in myself instead of in the Lord. Especially as an educated theological professional, I want to convincingly explain how it all makes sense. I don’t want to sit with doubt and foolishness. I don’t want to be mocked. It’s awkward when the world isn’t as nice and respectable as I want it to be. It’s disturbing when the risen Christ says, “Come.”

Perhaps by Easter and April Fools’ colliding, God might make me a little more foolish. If someone brings it up, I might have courage to laugh, and own it, and openly say that I trust this Jesus. Yes, it seems foolish to put your hope in a crucified, risen, ruling, and returning king. But that’s the only hope I have.