Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holy Week: When the Fool Became the Hero

I have been pondering the irony of the convergence of the secular and liturgical calendars this year. This year, April Fools Day and Palm Sunday—the start of Holy Week—are the same day. To some, especially political and religious leaders in Jerusalem, Jesus and his band of followers marching into Jerusalem must have seemed like fools... especially to Pilate and his well organized Roman legions. When they saw Jesus, all they could perceive was a threat to their status that needed to be eliminated.

We see this illustrated in the exchange between Pilate and Jesus during his so-called trial—see John 18–19. Pilate simply doesn't "get" Jesus. (For that matter neither does Caiaphas or Herod.) He claims to be a King, but Pilate simply can't wrap his brain around the kind of King that is standing before him. He doesn't "look the part," so Pilate concludes he must be a fool. To Pilate, anyone who challenges the authority of Caesar is clearly fool-hearty—and guilty of treason.

On the other hand, the "crowds" that the Gospel writers (especially Mark) say often gathered around Jesus throughout his ministry seemed to "get" Jesus. It is most likely that these were the same people that lined the road and spread palm branches as Jesus road toward Jerusalem on a donkey that day. The majority of these folks were not people in power; they did not benefit from the status quo of the Pax Romana. These people were eager to welcome Jesus as a hero, and perhaps this made them more willing to believe that he was their long-awaited Messiah. They were ordinary people willing to, if you will, put their faith in a “fool.” They needed to hope for something better and Jesus clearly gave them that.

Paul says the Gospel will seem like "foolishness" to those who don't believe—people like Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, and to some degree, even Jesus’ own disciples! He also describes himself as a "fool for Christ.” Paul suggests that those who have Christ in them discover an entirely new way of living is really possible in this world. Jesus came to demonstrate that Way, and was so convinced of its reality that he was willing to die for it.

On Saturday however, Jesus truly looks the part of a fool—and a dead one at that—but by Sunday, everything changes.

On Friday night it looks like everything has failed and nothing has changed, but incredibly by Sunday Morning, the stone is removed, the tomb is empty, and Christ is risen! In the Resurrection, we find out Jesus wasn't so foolish after all. Humanity's worst is once and for all overcome by heaven's best. The fool becomes the hero; the hero becomes the fool. It is the Great Reversal that is the basis of our faith.

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