Who’s The Fool? - Matthew 28:1-15 (Easter Worship Sermon)
Good Morning. What a blessedly busy morning it has been today. I don’t know how many of you had an opportunity between the sunrise service and breakfast this morning and the start of our service just a short while ago to sit back and catch up on the latest news. It was reported this morning that after further environmental studies and cost analyses that rather than put in a new high-rise bridge for Harkers Island, they will immediately begin deconstruction of the drawbridge connecting Harkers Island to Straits and bring one of the Cherry Point-Minnesott Beach ferries to the Island and run a permanent service from the Westard to the Waterfront in Beaufort, in an effort to boost Beaufort’s economy after the impact of the new bypass high rise.If you didn’t catch that news story, maybe you caught this one: The BBC reported that due to unusually warm temperatures in Switzerland, and the eradication of the spaghetti weevil there has been an abundant crop of spaghetti being produced by the spaghetti trees in the region. How many of you are ready to go out and purchase a spaghetti tree? This news story from April 1, 1957 had people from all over calling the BBC asking where they could buy one. It is considered by many to be the best April Fool’s Day hoax of of all time.
It is a day that is observed by many with a deluge of hoaxes and practical jokes, all of which are followed with the traditional “gotcha” of “April Fool’s”. Today is April 1st and it just cannot be ignored as it is the first time in more than 60 years that Easter has fallen on this day…and we gather this morning to declare that what the chief priests tried to claim was a hoax is nothing but the Gospel truth. Easter almost begs us to ask the question on this April Fool’s Day, “who’s the fool?”
We reflected last week how Jesus was betrayed…he was arrested…he was turned over to the authorities…and from the Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin to the soldiers to the crowd to one of the thieves hanging with Jesus, they cast him as the fool.
Standing before the Sanhedrin Jesus, having been falsely accused of blasphemy and repeatedly questioned by the high priest, who demands that He confesses as to whether He is the Messiah, the Son of God—Jesus’ answer, that the high priest has said that he is the Messiah, and that the high priest will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven, brings a torrent of hate from the high priest and others gathered there…as they spit on him, struck him, and say, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?” Jesus is played as the fool.
Later, after Pilate has handed Jesus over to be crucified, the Roman soldiers take a scarlet robe and drape it across Jesus’ shoulders. The form a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus’ head. They gave him a reed for a scepter. They knelt before him and mocked him, as King of the Jews…they spit on him, they struck him on the head…all before taking him to be crucified. Jesus again is played as the fool.
Those who witness Jesus being crucified, called him to him, mocking him, saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The religious leaders again cried out, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trust in God; let God deliver him now…”. Jesus and his faith are now played as the fool.
The bandits who were being crucified along side him mocked him, derided him, and played Jesus as the fool in the same way.
And when Jesus breathed his last…and when he was laid in that dark stone tomb…all Jesus’ enemies believed they were right. Jesus and his followers were the fools…for there was nothing special about that man…he was just flesh and blood and died just like everyone else…. We might even image that some of those who had followed Jesus felt like the fools for having believed anything at all…for having thought that Jesus might be different…for having lived that things might change. They were left in the same darkness that they had before they started hoping in that Jesus was something special.
The Pharisees wanted to make sure that everyone felt that way, so they went to Pilate and said, “Pilate, when that imposter, that fool, was still alive, he said that he would rise again in three days. You need to go and post a guard to makes sure none of those disciples do something foolish like steal his body and give folks hope.” Pilate told them that they had their own guards, to go and place them outside the tomb. So they did.
And if that’s where things ended, with Jesus’ bones rotting in some stone tomb then each of us sitting here could be pitied as fools, particularly as beautiful a day as it is out there…Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Corinthians: “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Yet, my brothers and sisters, we are here this morning because we claim and believe with Paul, “…in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” We are here to testify with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that the tomb is indeed empty…guards or no guards. We are here to testify with them that Christ has risen from the dead. We are here to praise God and give witness to our faith…a faith that is rooted and grounded not simply in the cross, but also in the empty tomb.
For it is this empty tomb that declares that Jesus was no fool—that he truly was, is, and always will be the Son of God—born in a manger to declare our value…died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins…and raised from the dead to offer us the promise of eternal life.
This empty tomb declares that the disciples who left everything the held on to behind were no fools—for they exchanged their earthly security of family business and steady income for the eternal security of life in the Kingdom of God.
So who’s the fool?
The guards who fainted at the sight of the angel and therefore could not testify to the Sanhedrin what really happened?
Maybe it was Pilate who gave in to the pressure of Rome to keep peace and the pressure of the religious leaders and had Jesus crucified?
Maybe it was the thief who did not repent alongside his partner as they were being crucified with Jesus, dying with ridicule still dripping from his lips?
Maybe it was religious elite who were more concerned about losing their popularity and power and failed to realize their Messiah had come?
Maybe it was death that failed to keep the Son of God in the tomb?
All I know is that everyone of those who claimed victory on Friday looked foolish on that morning when the stone was rolled away and our Savior appeared to the women and later to the disciples…
You know what else looks foolish in light of the empty tomb?
Alzheimer’s, cancer, strokes, heart attacks, and any other disease…
Job layoffs, bankruptcy, stock mark crashes, and every other financial crisis…
Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, and any other natural disasters…
Plane crashes, car accidents, boats sinking…
Terror attacks, serial killers, war…
Anything and everything, anyone and everyone, who tries to lay claim to having final word in our lives and the lives of those we love…
While they may seem to have the upper hand for a day, maybe two, the third day dawns and through the empty tomb God declares that each of them, and even death itself is nothing but an April Fool’s day hoax.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!