The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalenewent to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved,and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
“NOW Who’s the Fool?” John 20:1-18
Today is April Fools’ Day. It’s also Easter Sunday. Since 1700, 318 years ago, Easter has fallen on April 1 only 11 times. The last time Christians celebrated Easter April 1 was in 1956—more than 60 years ago.
It was just one year later, on April 1, 1957, that the BBC pulled off one of the best April fools pranks ever.
The BBC got so many calls from so many people asking where they could buy spaghetti plants that they had to confess the film was a hoax on the next day’s news.
You think we’re less gullible in this high-tech age? Here’s a much shorter April fools clip from last year that many people thought was the real deal.
Today is Easter. And, since it’s April 1, we almost have to ask: “Who’s the biggest fool in the Easter story?” There are plenty to choose from, that’s for sure.
Is Pontius Pilate the April fool? He caved when the Jewish religious authorities said that letting a troublemaker like Jesus go free wouldn’t go over so well if word somehow—hint, hint—got back to Rome.
So Pilate tried to wash his hands of the whole matter and let the execution go forward in the name of the emperor.
Then, it’s Easter and Jesus is risen! Sorry, Pilate! April fool!
Maybe the disciples are the April fools. There’s no doubt that, mixed in with their fear, grief, and disappointment after the crucifixion, some part of them wondered if Jesus had made fools of them all. They’d given up their jobs, homes, and families to follow him, wandering around the countryside.
Sure, they’d seen some amazing things they couldn’t explain. They’d heard some great sermons. It hadn’t been bad sharing the spotlight with Jesus, either, at least until things went south in Jerusalem.
None of that changed the fact that the man they’d pinned their hopes and futures on, the one they thought would free them and their people from the yoke of Rome, had died the kind of death reserved for the worst of worst.
They tried to ignore the inconvenient truth that they’d hung him out to dry, betraying him and running at the first sign of serious trouble.
They went home. They went to work. They tried to forget.
And now it’s Easter morning and Jesus is risen! April fool!
Maybe we’re the biggest April fools, you and I. Let’s face it—a lot of people think we’re bonkers. They think we’re superstitious fools, hanging onto Jesus like some kind of spiritual crutch.
These days, some claim to understand all mysteries and all knowledge. Others don’t care about anything beyond themselves. They’re content to wallow in the muck and mud of their own life, ignoring everyone else.
People like that see people like us, people who walk by faith and build our lives on hope, people who love Jesus, obey his word, and try as best we can to walk in his way, they see people like us as little more than fools.
The sad fact is that sometimes they’re right. Sometimes, we really are Easter fools. We’re fools when we say we believe, but then act as if we don’t. Paul told the Romans:
If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, God will save you. Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. The scripture says, “All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame.”
We say, “Christ is risen!” on Easter Sunday, but then live the rest of our lives as if he never left the tomb. When we do, we shame not just ourselves, but our church and our Lord. We’re the worst kind of fools.
And now, friends, it’s Easter morning and Jesus is risen! April fool!
When you get right down to it, though, the biggest April fool of them all is Jesus himself. Frederick Buechner wrote:
If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party.
- • The world says, “Mind your own business,” and Jesus says, “There’s no such thing as your own business.”
- • The world says, “Follow the wisest course and be a success,” and Jesus says, “Follow me and be crucified.”
- • The world says, “Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own,” and Jesus says, “Whoever would save their life will lose it, and those who lose their lives for my sake will find them.”
- • The world says, “Law and order,” and Jesus says, “Love.”
- • The world says, “Get,” and Jesus says, “Give.”
- In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and all those who think they can follow him without being a little crazy too are laboring less under a cross than under a delusion. On Easter Day, as Paul put it, “God made foolish the wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Today we celebrate the resurrection of one who Hebrews 12 says, “endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and now he’s seated at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2)
- Jesus, Paul told the Philippians, “humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal, on a cross. ” (Philippians 2:6-8).It all sounds foolish enough. But we know it’s not the end of the story. Here’s Paul, writing to the Philippians again:
God has now lifted him high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus ‘every knee shall bow,’ whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that’s why, in the end, ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ’ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Many people might not think it’s the smartest thing in the world to follow Christ. In fact, they might think we’re crazy, and that Christ himself was a fool.
- But on this Easter Sunday, we rejoice in a faith that the world calls foolish, a faith foolish enough to believe that Jesus conquered death and brought life and light to a lost, pain-filled, world.Let’s not just say Christ is risen, but live like he is, here in this family of fools we call the church.