I am not a fan of April Fools’ jokes. In fact, stronger than that – I despise the style of ‘humour’ which goes to great lengths to convince people of an unlikely fact solely so the ‘joker’ can then ridicule his or her victims for their gullibility. Putting people into situations where the only possible outcome is that they look and feel stupid does not strike me as the kind of love we are supposed to have for one another.
As we at ThinkTheology have been looking at the calendar and noting the coincidence of April Fool’s Day with Easter Monday, however, I suggested that perhaps St Stuffed Shirt would like to comment on what could be seen as the biggest April Fool’s joke in history. Displaying uncharacteristic sensitivity, however, he politely declined – and he was right.
Yes, the Easter story tells us of a time when the whole world, having been led to believe one set of ‘facts’, suddenly found that the truth was nothing like what they had thought. Yes, it was a time when Satan, crowing in his victory, discovered that in fact he had just suffered the ultimate defeat. Yes, Jesus’ appearance to his friends, disciples and followers after his death was a surprise (to say the least!). But no, describing it as a joke won’t do at all.
Jesus’ purpose was not to deceive in order to make us – or even Satan – look foolish when He did the big reveal. He didn’t go through all that pain, sorrow, humiliation and rejection in order to have a good laugh at the look on Mary’s face the next day, and he won’t find it the least bit funny when the truth is revealed to all those angry atheists on Judgment Day.
In fact, Jesus didn’t do anything to try to create or retain an element of surprise. Centuries before his birth he had been speaking through the prophets of the suffering he would have to undergo. He had even told his disciples in plain, unambiguous language what was to happen to him:
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Satan was the one who had been working for millennia to convince the world of an untruth. He was the one waiting for the moment when he could leap out, laughing with glee, and reveal his deception.
Was it a surprise to him when Jesus rose from the dead? It shouldn’t have been – he of all beings knew who Jesus was and what he was capable of, but perhaps the great deceiver had deceived even himself.
By Easter Monday, all the powers of heaven and all the powers of darkness knew that Satan had been the one left looking a fool. But none of them thought it was a joke.
This article first appeared on ThinkTheology.