(April) Fools for Christ
‘…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men…’ (1 Corinthians 1, 25)
Today is Resurrection Day. It is day Jesus Was raised from the dead. Today, the Christian Faith confronts the world and says quite simply ‘believe it or not’ – and how one responds to that challenge determines everything as far as everyone is concerned. One can live one’s life believing that Jesus, the Jesus who was crucified on Friday last, was raised from the dead by God on this, the 3rd day, or one can live one’s life as if it didn’t happen. Moreover, the Christian Faith stands or falls by what it proclaims on this day. Peter, preaching soon after the events described declared quite straightforwardly, ‘This Jesus, whom ‘you’ crucified, God has made both Lord & Christ by raising Him from the dead’. Whether we like it or not, whether we are comfortable with it or not, whether we can accept it or not, if Jesus is not raised from the dead, then everything He said and did during His lifetime dies with Him. Good man He may have been, much good He may have done, a good example He may have set, but the Christian Faith is not about do-gooding; it is altogether more profound, more startling, more disturbing, more liberating, more uplifting than just a guide book on how to be good.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
…Indeed, to anyone who thinks Jesus was just a good man, remember His own words, ‘Why do you call me good?’ No, today is all about rewriting history in the light of eternity, interpreting life in the light of eternal life, understanding how to live in the light of the life of One who lived, who died, and was raised to life. Our topsy-turvy world is turned on its head in the light of what the Christian Faith proclaims concerning this day. No more obviously is this illustrated than in the way Paul contrasts the so-called ‘foolishness of God’ with the assumed ‘wisdom of men’ – ‘It is by the foolishness of what is preached’ that we are saved – ‘The Cross is foolishness...’ and so on. Today is ‘April Fools’’ Day – and it might be appropriate to ask of ourselves, in the light of the Easter Story, ‘who’s fooling who?’ Of course, the ‘fool’ is not necessarily someone who makes us laugh, a figure of fun, an entertainer, a comedian, someone who is accident prone, who is a disaster in the making; to ‘play’ the fool can be a serious matter. Shakespeare makes good use of ‘the Fool’ in a number of his plays…
’The fool is a very important character in a Shakespeare play as he fulfils a [most] important function: He has licence to speak truth to power with no holds barred – in a context where no-one else dare do that, for fear of their lives. He is usually the wisest character in the play. The other characters refer to him as ‘the fool’ and we usually know him as ‘the jester.’
Perhaps the most famous example in Shakespeare is the ‘The Fool’ in King Lear. King Lear is a disturbing play but at its heart is a relationship that has much in common with the way Paul structures his argument concerning the respective merits of worldly wisdom – foolishness in the eyes of God – and Godly wisdom – foolishness in the eyes of the world.
‘The fool does not have a name and is called, simply, ‘Fool.’ He is Lear’s constant companion and accompanies him on his journey into madness and eventually death when he, just before Lear’s death, is hanged by those who have imprisoned Lear. In this play the fool functions as the inner consciousness of the foolish king, who is foolish while his fool is wise. The Fool is Lear’s alter ego and constantly comments on Lear’s relentless folly. Every time Lear does something foolish, like giving up all his power to his daughters, the fool rubs it in. When Lear finally achieves a measure of understanding about how lacking in wisdom he has been, there is no need for the Fool, who dies.’ ‘Many a true word hath been spoken in jest’.
Jesus, during His lifetime ‘played the fool’ over against the worldly wisdom of the religious and political leaders of His day; and in the end is crucified because the wisdom of the world can take His foolishness no more. But in His stead, God has raised up the ‘Community of the Resurrection’ – The Church – that we might ’play the fool’ for Christ in the face of the malign forces that influence the so-called wise man, the so-called scribe, the so-called debater of this, of any age; if we do our job properly, if we play the role to perfection we will drive the world mad with rage, and it may well turn against us, it may well cost us our life. But Resurrection declares that even though we die, yet shall we live, that life shall emerge victorious from death, that the foolishness of what we preach will triumph over the spirit of the age – any age, every age. Christ has died, Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed, that is the cry that goes forth from this place today, that echoes round and about us, that reverberates down the years and across the miles; the world is not what it was because of Jesus having been raised from the dead, and neither should we be…April ‘Fool’ – Easter ‘Fool’ anyone?