Fools for Jesus

I will admit that I have never liked April Fools Day. It isn’t that I don’t like a good time, or a funny joke; what I don’t like is how mean it has become. Like Halloween, which should be fun (Disney does a great job with that), it has become, for many people, an extreme sport. If you want to know a little about its history, here is a link to an interesting video. 

The word “fool” appears dozens of times in the Bible, and is almost always used in a derogatory way. Jesus, in one of his sermons, said (Matthew 5), ” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” He also uses the term in other places as an insult, so I have to think that the Beatitudes comment must have been metaphorical (or snarky). Regardless of how we take it, being called a fool isn’t a compliment. Except for one instance in I Corinthians. 

In chapter 3, Paul seemed to be saying that if we are to seek wisdom, we must become fools, and in chapter 4, Paul tells the readers that being a follower of Jesus makes us fools. He goes on to say that while others are strong, followers of Jesus are not. We are hungry and thirsty; we are weak and disreputable; we are disadvantaged and reviled. In the face of all of this, those who follow Jesus are supposed to respond with kindness. We are called to turn the other cheek – to walk the extra mile – to give our coats away. It is remarkable that Christianity made it out of the 1st century! Or maybe not. 

I think Paul was speaking to people who were powerless against the mighty Roman Empire, and powerless people either fight back and die, or give up and suffer. Paul was giving people another option – in our weakness, we are loved and accepted by God, and those who abuse us are condemned for their behavior. When we mourn, God mourns with us; when we suffer, we can look to our crucified Lord and find something in common. We have a God-made-human Savior who didn’t fight back – who died rather than lead an army to certain death. Caesars were called “Sons of God”, and even though most of them didn’t live very long in the office, they were the “greatest” and most powerful men of their times. Jesus was called “Son of Man” – He wasn’t exalted or powerful or rich; He was beaten and abused and murdered. And yet, Jesus rose, and promised those who follow Him the same gift. 

The modern Church has largely lost this perspective – we like to be powerful – to be the majority and have rules that favor us and people who listen to us. All of these things go against the teachings of Jesus, but we don’t really care – as long as we get ours. Think about church: I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how big my church is, as if the size of a church has anything to do with being faithful. An article in the paper proclaimed this week that less than 50% of Americans are members of a church. So what? Most churches only ever got 1/3 of their members in regular attendance anyway, so what’s the difference? The church in America has never been full – except on Christmas and Easter. We delude ourselves when we think our goal is to be the biggest and the best. Holy Thursday is about losing, not winning. Two things happened at the Last Supper: First, Jesus took bread and wine and used it to show that His body would be broken (literally) and His blood would pour from His body (also literally). Second, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus took the lowest job in the house – He washed the feet of His disciples to teach them one last lesson in humility and servanthood. 

If we follow Jesus to be winners, we are following the wrong person. Winners don’t serve – they get served. Winners don’t get beat up – they give the beating. If we want to really follow Jesus, we have to be servants – we have to be fools – we have to come in last. Faith isn’t a commodity – it’s a lifestyle. If we want to win in God’s eyes, we have to lose. 

Prayer – Holy and merciful God, this week we see You eat Your last meal with Your friends and die on a cross. Help us understand better, so we can get through it whole. Amen. 

Today’s art is Salvador Dali’s “The Last Supper”.