April Fools

What is the essence of a good April Fool’s Day prank?

I suppose that first of all it has to be plausible. There’s no point in trying to persuade people that you saw just a flying elephant (unless you are watching Disney’s ‘Dumbo’).

Secondly I think it has to be enticing. The premise of the prank needs to be something that people are happy to believe, especially if they think it might enhance their life. For example a hat tip to CVM for their new app for blokes that automatically generates small talk for them.

Thirdly I think it has to be mostly harmless. A prank loses its charm if someone ends up getting hurt.

And finally I suggest that it has to be funny. There is no point in playing a prank that is dull and boring.

I have used these four criteria to evaluate pranks I have played in the past, and those that are being played today. I think that on the whole they are fair criteria against which to measure the likely success and impact of a prank.

The Laughing Christ
The Laughing Christ

In our morning services we are working our way through Luke’s gospel and for the past few weeks have been looking at different events that Luke records in the last few days before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. I wonder if one of the reasons that the authorities and then the crowd turned against Jesus was that they were assuming he matched those four criteria and he didn’t.

Jesus spoke the truth, even when it made him unpopular. People thought he was plausible as a rabbi or even as leader of a revolt. They did not consider it plausible that the carpenter from Nazareth was the Son of God.

He was certainly popular – look at the reaction of the crowds as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Even in the subsequent few days the people came early to hear him speak. But he was not saying popular things. He condemned the religious leaders. And he even upset one of his closest friends so much that he agreed to betray him. Sometimes the things he said were far from enticing.

The opposition to Jesus intensified when they realised he was not mostly harmless. When he cleared out the traders from the Temple it was a direct attack on the authority of the Chief Priests. He publicly condemned those who were supposed to be teaching the people about God and told people not to be like them.

And while he told entertaining stories they often had a barb in them that made them uncomfortable listening. When he evaded the linguistic and legalistic traps of the authorities designed to make him look silly or discredit him he made them look foolish. He spoke of a future of death, persecution and destruction not fluffy niceness. Jesus knew that what lay ahead of him was no laughing matter.

This does not mean that his followers should be dour and humourless. In fact I think the opposite is true bearing in mind his Resurrection (have a look at my poem ‘B lieve it or not’ and you may see what I mean). But let’s not try to domesticate Jesus and make him more palatable because if we do he can be laughed off as easily as an April Fool’s Day prank.

Be blessed, be a blessing

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