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Easter's April Fools


Christ on the Road to Calvary - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

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.

Ultimately, the events of Easter are about compassion. They allow tears for those whose lives are precious but are treated as expendable. They allow laughter at the childishness of those who believe that brutality will bring good or lasting results. But laughter at Easter is not despairing, but compassionate even for the uncompassionate.

Kings may demonstrably have no clothes, but they do have fine bodies. So do we, and bodies can come in handy once we recognise our nakedness and see other human beings as our brothers and sisters. April Fools Day and Easter are both about finding unexpected possibilities in front of our faces.

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Image: Christ on the Road to Calvary - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - wikiart.org.



Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Easter, Christ, crucifixion, religion



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Existing comments

I love your writing Andy. You continue to peel away the crusty layers to reveal essence. This is a time to remind ourselves of big moments. To consider how we stand in silence, with.

Vic O'Callaghan | 02 April 2015  

Andrew's reflection on April Fool Day brought to mind the Delphic Oracle's description of Socrates as The Wisest Man in Greece to which Socrates replied: 'It is because I alone of all the Greeks know that I know nothing.' What a sense of self! What a sense of humour!

Uncle Pat | 02 April 2015  

Thank you for those words of wisdom: I will meditate on them these coming days. Indeed love does conquer all.

Ern Azzopardi | 02 April 2015  

Thankyou Andrew - a very thoughtful way to look at joking in the context of earnest political action. Jesus body left the tomb but Matthew has a much more elaborate story about how that happened than Luke. Whatever the detail, and John Spong has a very challenging take on it, Jesus so moved the originally ragtag bunch of followers by being prepared to die to defend his criticism of the Powers, both Roman And Jewish, that they launched a most incredible campaign to spread his teaching far and wide. In the end the joke really was on the Romans in particular.

Mike Foale | 02 April 2015  

Thank you so much for these insights and placing Easter into our lived experience of current Australia. A blessed and holy Easter to all at ES, and to its fabulous correspondents.

Eugene | 03 April 2015  

'Laughter at the Foot of the Cross' by M.A. Screech (Penguin, 1997) is recommended reading on this subject. Screech, the great contemporary translator of Montaigne, studies our relationship tp our own laughter, and others, as seen especially through the worldview of Renaissance Europe. While Christianity is laughed to scorn in parts of modern society, it is worth considering just what those at the foot of the cross thought they were laughing at.

PHILIP HARVEY | 04 April 2015  

... the desert will bloom with flowers. It will be very glad and shout for joy.

AO | 04 April 2015  

More well-chosen, important words. thank you, Andy.

helen cantwell | 10 April 2015  

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