The two brothers and I were good friends. We had grown up together, and now in our late twenties, were fully occupied in their father’s fishing business. We were always laughing and joking together, banter and teasing without malice. Something was always done on April Fools Day, and, more often than not, I was the butt of some practical joke that the brothers had contrived. But this year, our mood is more sombre than usual. Indeed we find ourselves bewildered, frightened, saddened by what has happened to our best friend. He was gaining a lot of popularity amongst our people, and we had learnt a lot from him about the Kingdom of God. But the religious leaders did not like it and they contrived to persuade the Romans to get rid of him. So three days ago we buried his body and sealed his tomb.
This morning (April 1st) one of the brothers called and the conversation went like this:
“You must be joking”.
“No, he’s alive!”
“It’s April 1st and I’m not in the mood for practical jokes!” (At this point I really began to feel that the brothers had gone over the top with their practical joking. Weren’t they being a bit tasteless to say the least)
“Peter and John and some of the women have seen him; he’s alive!”
We had arranged to meet this evening and, when I arrived, the sombre mood of the past few days had changed. Yes, we were still bewildered and frightened, but there was an air of expectancy, even of hope. Ten of us were gathered and all the others were talking about this news and what it might mean. Personally, I thought the brothers were enjoying their elaborate practical joke at my expense. Any moment now, at a suitable lull in the conversation, they would turn on me and say, “Ha! Ha! April Fool!”
And then it happened…………………… He was there, sitting next to us, talking to us, eating and drinking with us. You could see the marks on his wounded body, but this was not someone struggling for survival; we did not need to call the para-medics! No, here was our beloved friend fully alive who somehow had found the secret of transcending death. He knew us all by name. The same love was there as it had been before. His familiar greeting “Peace be with you!” warmed our hearts. And then he gave us some instructions about what to do next, which can be summed up in one word “Wait!”
On April 1st 2018 we celebrate Easter again. Many people keep Easter in a variety of ways – Easter eggs and Easter egg hunts, Easter bunnies, exchanging Easter cards, bringing some spring flowers into our homes, enjoying a four day break away from it all, or going on a long walk with the family etc., etc. Nothing wrong with any of that. But whatever we do, dare we stop and ask the question, ‘Did Jesus really rise from the dead, or was it all a practical joke?’ The church buildings that are scattered around the countryside are there because millions of people have believed that Jesus is alive. The Easter worship that is offered in the churches in this town, not least St Michael’s, will draw us again to rejoice in the truth that is not only at the heart of the Christian faith, but also at the heart of our culture and indeed the history of the world. It all began with the words on the lips of those early disciples, “He’s alive!’, and his living power can still make us and mold us into the sort of people he wants us to be.
Reality or a Practical Joke? What’s your verdict?