I’m a huge fan of April Fools’ Day. In fact, I am the type of guy who loves seeing the faces of people who just got pranked. Whether it’s America’s Funniest Home Videos, Punk’d, or Wipeout, seeing people get gotten is a favorite past-time of mine.
One year for Halloween I made a scarecrow and set it on my grandmother’s porch for a week or so before trick-or-treating would happen. Then, on the night of candy collecting I put on the scarecrow’s outfit and placed the candy bowl in my lap. You guessed it! Those grubby little paws would reach in, and I would scream till they reached their cars and drove off! TOO FUNNY!!
This year provides us April Foolers with a very unique opportunity, however. The funnest atheist holiday (as a great friend of mine called it) is combined with one of the holy days of the Liturgical Calendar, or Palm Sunday. I actually asked my pastor what he was planning for Sunday, and he said palm branches… I was floored! He is one of my fellow, prank-loving April Foolers! Perhaps he’s just throwing me off the trail though…
But as I got to chewing on the idea of these two divergent holidays converging this year, a thought occurred to me. Jesus was the greatest April Fooler of them all! I mean, if you’ve ever gotten mixed up in pranks you know how addictive they are. Once someone gets you then you want to turn around and get them back, only bigger! Then it just goes back and forth until somebody’s wife gets fed up with it!
Imagine this: It’s the first Palm Sunday (not that the ancient Jews called it that) and the people are basically coming out in droves for a huge welcoming party that they’re throwing for Jesus. If you close enough you’ll see the Pharisees there in the back. Those sniveling creatures are wringing their hands incessantly because they’re supposed to hold all the religious (and by extension social) power in the community, but here is this upstart on a donkey with the crowds throwing down robes and palms for his mule to walk on. They’re hanging on his every word. The Pharisees are furious.
John 12:19 says, “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”
So one of them gets the bright idea: “Won’t it be a great idea if we get all these worshippers and partiers to turn on Jesus by the end of the week?”
And another says, “What a great idea! He’ll never see it coming!”
Then a third says, “Maybe we could get them so turned around that they want to kill this one they’re calling the Messiah?”
There are cheers all around and much back-slapping. Well, except for that one guy who spends a little too much time actually living with the Scriptures rather than just proof-texting them, “Wait, guys… won’t that just fit into the prophecies?”
Guy #1 chimes in, “Oh you old so and so! Go back to your studies. Let the big boys make the devious plans.”
Cue snide laughter that goes on for a few seconds more than it should.
By the end of the week, of course, they succeeded. This triumphant entry became a huge defeat for Jesus’ followers and a huge win for the plotting Pharisees and their pharishcemes. From palms to Pilate, Jesus made it all the way into the hands of the Romans and death on a cross.
Ugh! Such arrogance! If only they had listened to this man they hated so much (but what villain ever truly listens to their adversaries??)! They would have heard that for at least a while Jesus had been planning the greatest April Fools’ prank that the world has ever seen! Early in His ministry Jesus went to the Temple before Passover and saw money-changers and merchants in His Father’s house of prayer. With a whip and a fiery spirit He cleared them out, so of course they whimpered about all the money they were going to lose. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’” (John 2:19).
That right there! That moment! That conversation is when He let them know exactly what He was going to do! But they didn’t believe Him. So they thought for sure their prank would be better. They pulled off something unheard of! They ran one of the first successful political smear campaigns and in less than a week (and without the aid of the internet or John Stewart) got the King of Man a thorny crown.
So I can only imagine the party they were throwing for themselves as the disciples (well, those who hadn’t fled) lowered His body from the cross and laid it in a tomb… their precious Lord… I’m sure the champagne was flowing and the matzo balls were rolling. Like any good prankster, Jesus knew to wait to strike until they least expected it though. I’m sure that one Pharisee was keeping an eye out, the studious one. He tried telling them, but it’s hard to hear the shofar of your own impending doom when the harps of joy and arrogant victory are going strong.
True to His Word, three days after Christ died He took the shaped boulder blocking His grave and rolled it away in a blaze of radiant glory (it was blazingly radiant in my head anyways). From death to life He came forth! Up from the grave He arose! Victorious, powerful, and full of the Spirit He ascended back to life from the underworld with the keys of Hades and of Death in hand. The Temple was rebuilt in three days, just as He promised!
I can’t imagine how the crow tasted as those Pharisees heard the news. The prankers got pranked.
Yes indeed. Christ’s death was the ultimate April Fools’ Joke, because no grave can hold the one who gives life everlasting. May His example be inspiring to you on this Palm Sunday, I mean April Fools’ Day.
© 2012 by Jeff Brady