It is wonderful happenstance that Easter Sunday falls on 1st April, traditionally celebrated as April Fool’s day. It is a reminder that a certain kind of divine foolishness marked every stage of Jesus’ life and ministry.
He was a fool to be born in a marginal northern province, well away from the spheres of influence. It would have been so much wiser to have been born amongst the elite, where he could have had natural influence. He could have been of royal blood, or like Moses pretended to be so. I was recently told that, in order to act like a king, you need to have been raised as a king, and Jesus needed that more than anything. Perhaps the place he was raised was a community who were looking for the ‘netzer’ or Branch of David of Is 11.1—but religious fervour is no substitute for wealth and influence. What a fool.
He was a fool for having his birth announced to a ragtag assortment of foreigners and shepherds. Magicians who use the stars to tell the future are hardly going to be a commendation to God’s people for whom such things are forbidden. And the shepherds will hardly be the most trusted witnesses, even if their sheep are connected with the temple sacrifices. And why hide away, in Egypt or in Galilee, in obscurity for so many years, satisfied with being a good Jewish boy and honouring father and mother, when a few spectacular childhood miracles would have marked him out for future greatness? What a fool.
He was a fool to follow that raving eccentric John the Baptist, even if he was a relation. He was never going to match that crazy desert showman, and it is a wonder that he managed to draw people from John’s crowd to follow him. And he was a fool to begin his ministry by announcing the imminent coming of the ‘kingdom of God’. Surely he must have known that later scholars would denounce him as a deluded apocalyptic prophet, whose message would come crashing down around his ears when this ‘kingdom’ didn’t transpire as he had hoped, and the world didn’t actually come to an end? What a fool.
He was a fool to claim so much, to put himself and his teaching on a par with the Torah of God, brought down from the mountain by the great leader Moses who spoke with God face to face—what was he thinking? To claim that his words would never pass away, to break with every tradition of the rabbis who carefully quoted preceding authorities, to imagine that a few miracles would trick people into believing his claims. And to claim that the law of Moses wasn’t primarily about outward actions, but was intended to address our inner dispositions—how unrealistic! What a fool.
He was a fool to choose those 12 men—and even more foolish to count women amongst his disciples (we all know how unreliable they are). Did he think he could begin a national renewal movement with that mixed bag, demonstrating a strange predilection for choosing those he knew and was related to above people who would be obvious leaders? How could he possibly think they would get on together—a mixture of the impetuous, the arrogant, the revolutionary, the obscure—and even the plain greedy, out just to further their own ambitions? What could anyone make of them? And they were so slow to understand his message, even after all the time he had spent with them! What a fool.
Having chosen this ragtag bunch, he was a fool to tell them more than they could understand. How foolish to take them aside, and invest them with special teaching about this ‘kingdom’, as if they could be trusted to pass it on reliably. And how foolish to allow different ones of them to write their own account—surely he knew they would never agree exactly? Why didn’t he writing it down for them, instead of imagining they would remember everything he told them? What a fool.
He was a fool to leave the people who knew and loved him, and set his face towards Jerusalem. He must have known that only trouble lay in wait for him there. He was a fool to enter the city so conspicuously, riding rather than walking like all the other pilgrims, and allowing the Galileans who had travelled with him to acclaim him with such noise—and using slogans with such obvious political implications! If he wanted to win over the Judeans and Jerusalemites, there had to be a better way. He was a fool to argue with the teachers of the law in such a public place, and to confront the powers that be in the temple courts. Did he think they would just roll over and let him upset the delicate balance of power with the Romans? What a fool.
He was a fool to give so much of himself in those last moments. He was a fool to keep Judas so close to him so near to the end, when he knew what would become of him. He was a fool to trust his oh-so-frail friends in the garden, who couldn’t even stay awake whilst he was agonising with life and death decisions. He was a fool to accept the cup being offered to him, a fool to trust that God would save him from the agony. He was a fool to try and bargain with Pilate—what would that thug understand about the things of God? He was a fool to keep silent in his trials, when only days before he has been silencing his critics with the theological deftness of his response. And he was a fool to think that Peter would stay with him to the end. What a fool.
Yet when God raised him from the dead, the foolishness continued! He was a fool to trust women to testify his new life, and a fool to think that an empty tomb and some cloths neatly arranged would provide the proof that sceptics demanded. He was a fool to give his followers a second chance, when they had failed so badly the first time around. He was a fool to leave them alone to spread the message—a fool to be taken up to his Father again. Why not make a dramatic appearance to a few key figures, and all the doubt would be driven away? And he was a fool to do all this in a very small corner of a very large empire. Why not instead find a way to establish this message in the courts of Rome? What a fool.
And he continues to be a fool. He is a fool to make himself known to ordinary people, expecting that their simple testimony will change the world. He is a fool to partner with people like you and me, imagining that frail failures like us can possibly bear the hope for the whole world. Who will believe the testimony of people with such imperfect lives? He is a fool to lavish on us the wonders of hope for the world that is to come, when we continually distort what we’ve been given and turn a vision of hope into a timetable for doomsday. What a fool.
And yet, as Paul says, ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength’ (1 Cor 1.25). Somehow or other, this fool Jesus has proved to be wiser than all the councils of humanity, and has changed the world like no-one else. And as he has been foolish for us, he now asks us to be foolish for him.
He asks us to embark on the folly of trusting that there are things that are more important than material gain. That our reputation with an unseen deity matters more than the reputation with people we can see and hear. He asks that we are foolish enough to believe that we can be rich though we are poor, that we gain most when we give the most away. Foolish enough to think that our testimony will change the world more than politics and power. Foolish enough to live by the high standard he calls us to, stubbornly uncompromising, rather than going with the flow of the world around us when it would make life so much easier for all concerned. And foolish enough to live in the hope that the best is yet to be, when so many around us tell us it it not true.
‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.’ (Jim Elliot)
This Easter, let us celebrate the fool Jesus, that he might make us as foolish as he is.
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8 thoughts on “What kind of fool is this Jesus?”
Wonderful post – thanks Ian –
and let us be fools for Christ
Yes, thank you, Ian. Nothing so controversial in this post that doesn’t have the potential to utterly overturn one’s life.
Amen, amen, amen
In my time at LET Conrad Gempf gave a sermon along the lines comparing I Cor as it ‘should’have been written by today’s advertising gurus for mass appeal. As with your excellent post what shone through is the wisdom of God’s ways compared to the processes which seem so attractive to us in our abject foolishness. Today is Friday Sunday is acomin’.
Thank you Ian. I was named after Ramon Lull (1230-1312) who called himself a fool of love. My Dad read a biography about him in the Old Mission Church in Calcutta just before I was born.
Thanks for this Ian – gave me the trigger for my Easter Day talk!!
This was beautiful
How odd that the nativity of Jesus reflects that of John the Baptist !! Yet so many dates & events of Jesus’s life & death run parallel to those of other historical figures which predate his existence !! Same story, only the name changes. John could perform miracles as did Simon the Magus & others. Jesus is called a ” naggar “, a word with two meanings, one is carpenter, the other a learned man. Which one is it !! You have made your arguement with passion, but no real historical facts whatsoever to back it up. Blind faith might suit some people, but others need substance to justify faith. I wouldn’t blindly follow anybody past or present, why should religion be any different !! John the Baptist never recognised Jesus as the ” Messiah “, nor did he venerate him, that’s a fabrication, they were in fact rivals. John was most certainly a Gnostic with his own thriving church & initially a mentor to Jesus. Jesus branched out on his own after gaining acceptance through John. Jesus was intended ( chosen by John ) to lead John’s huge church in the event of John’s death, but John started to have severe doubts & appointed Simon the Magus instead. Simon, however, was usurped by Jesus, as he was away & didn’t hear of John’s death until later. Jesus immediately called a meeting, this is alluded to as the miracle of the feeding the 5,000, which it was nothing of the sort. These 5,000 were leaders/members of John’s church, so it was expedient !! Do not make the mistake of taking the New Testament literally, it’s Jesus’s propaganda machine. Jesus’s disciples were political rebels, Judas Iscariot was really Judus ” Sicarrii ” a faction of violent revolutionaries. The role of women has been vastly underrated, Mary Magdelagne was a priestess, probably in the vein of Ishtar or Astarte, but not a common prostitute, though still regarded as half a person, being female. She’s believed to have fled to Southern France, to escape the wrath of misogynistic Simon Peter after Jesus died. Both Mary & John the Baptist are still venerated there to this day. Although there’s no evidence to support the fact that they knew each other personally, but possibly would’ve heard of each other. Odd that Jesus isn’t included isn’t it !! There’s so much evidence out there, but nobody’s putting in the time to discover & read it. Out of approx 40 or more authentic Gospels, the Church chose only 4 to be included in ” their ” Bible. This does a complete injustice to every practising Christian !! Would any other body get away with so much authentic evidence dismissed & only their chosen ones allowed !! New findings aren’t in the churches best interests to make public & theologians exist to back up the claims of, well. theology. Practising Christians today know so little about whom & what they’re worshipping, or any new information. So people must dig & delve for themselves, everything is ever evolving, more & more is discovered & understood every day. The church has a moral duty to keep it’s findings public, yet it acts like some secret society. Is it indeed built on so little substance that the truth would end it !! The historical times must also be taken into consideration. It was believed by Gnostics that magic & the occult played a large part in their beliefs. As John the Baptist & Jesus were Gnostics it was their belief & that of other factions, that to have a man’s beheaded head, especially a murdered man’s head, gave them that man’s power, something Herod Antipas also believed. Herod knew of John’s great following & popularity so would’ve been fearful to do such a thing, especially as John was imprisoned on a misdemeanour. Whether Jesus was aware or not, John was beheaded not on the suggestion of Herod’s wife Herodias to her daughter Salome, but by the machinations of some of Jesus’s followers, as this automatically gave Jesus ALL of John’s power & knowledge once he did know, if he didn’t already. This isn’t as far fetched as it sounds, as cannibals, well into the 19th century beheaded & shrunk the heads of their enemies to obtain their powers. The Knights Templar revered a stone replica of a severed head during some of their religious rites, symbollically believed to be that of John the Baptist . Interestingly enough, the image on the Shroud of Turin shows that the head has been severed. Even the last supper comes under scrutiny. It was Passover, Jerusalem was heaving, yet seemingly, disregarding this & not planning ahead, once there Jesus told his disciples to find them a room to feast in, by saying a certain word to a male water carrier. Men categorically did not do menial jobs such as water carrying, these tasks were always undertaken by women !! The Jewish Talmud says Jesus was a disceiver, as do the Mandaeans, a religious group of whom John the Baptist was once a leader. They’re still found in small groups in Iraq & Iran but were once a major religion . The Mandaeans existed long before John the Baptist, yet still positively abhor Jesus. I have no idea why, as they guard their innermost secrets because of religious persecution. In fact the term ” Christ ” was used by some religions in the distant past to mean ” leader “. So many threatened religious groups, can, in all honesty call themselves Christians to avoid persecution. Paul made sure that Jesus was made palatable to the gentiles as it was expedient for him to do so. I was brought up as a practising Christian until I started to question the veracity of what I’d been taught. I found alot of Jesus’s sayings ambiguous, as looked at closely they apply only to believers in him, even the ones regarding little children & at best a cover to keep his real intentions from the authorities. I discovered through my love of etymology that the word ” heretic ” derives simply from the word ” choice. ” Seems heretics weren’t given any ! This is only a small fraction of my own personal quest for truth that I’ve found. My quest is still ongoing. Please look, read, discover historical times, thoughts & truths, keep an open mind, then draw your own conclusions. Only the truth will set people free