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Easter's April Fools

  • 02 April 2015

This year April Fools Day comes earlier in the week leading up to Easter. The conjunction of the most solemn week of the Christian year and the day when jokers are let loose is thought provoking.

Jokes are also part of the story of Jesus’ killing. They are not harmless, but are bitter mockery. After Jesus is sentenced he is mocked by the bored soldiers guarding him.

He claimed to be a king, so they throw purple rags on him and a crown of thorns on his head. As he hangs writhing on the cross, the bystanders and the local authorities also mock him because he claimed to be the Son of God. They tell him to come down from the cross if he is for real.

Pilate puts a placard on the cross that mocks both Jesus’ and Jewish aspirations. It describes him as the King of the Jews. The tortured and degraded figure dying beneath the placard will put an end to Jesus’ kingly nonsense. The demonstration of Roman power also mocks any Jewish hope that they will ever have a king who is not a Roman puppet.

The Christian Gospel writers could include these mordant jokes because they believed that within three days the joke was on the jokers. In Matthew’s story the soldiers guarding Jesus are knocked senseless when radiant angels appear by the empty tomb.

Jesus’ resurrection reveals the conventional wisdom, that his life could be destroyed by death and his claims falsified by torture, to be a charade. The Easter joke is that the worst efforts of solemn minded and practical human beings to ridicule, kill, discredit and isolate a person who represents truth and love are futile. Life and forgiveness will burst out of the apparently nailed down tomb.

In the light of Easter, April Fools Day does not need to be deplored. Serious people do not need to take seriously jokes against them; mockery will always mock the mocker. When love is stronger than death, faith and politics can alike be the subject of laughter.

That message might be apposite this Easter time. Our national life is suffused with a high earnestness in which the entrails of jokes are carefully examined for incorrectness, polls are honoured as Gods, and any disrespect for economic orthodoxy and acquisitiveness is smartly corrected. And adult commitment to matters of state is demonstrated by locking up children. April Fools Day cannot come too soon.