Who Is the Real Fool?

Apr 01 2018



Who was the real fool? Was it Caiaphas for not realizing that Jesus was trying to teach the people how to live in a better relationship with themselves and God? Or was he a fool for thinking that the nature of his power and religion would never change?

Was it the people for thinking that in the midst of all of the self-declared messiahs this one would be different? This one would overthrow the Roman rule. This one would give them their long-awaited freedom and restore the Kingdom of Israel. This one was the real deal!

Was it Pilate for simply doing what he always did – crucifying those who defied Rome? But in crucifying this Jesus, he actually created a martyr. Did he realize the significance of what he did? Probably not. After all, he was so vicious that Rome recalled him in 37 CE and by the time the preaching about Jesus took place in Rome, who knows if Pilate was even still alive!

Was it the people whose lives he touched and who believed that his words were a new version of how God related to us and how we should relate to one another?

Was it the disciples who recognized the value of his preaching and teaching, but never thought that he would be with them for so short a time and didn’t ask and didn’t totally absorb what he was saying?

It is one of the earliest writings of Paul, written around 50 CE, in which we find these words. 1 Corinthians 15:3 states: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” No tomb, no physical resurrection. Was Paul denying what he had heard about the Resurrection? Did he even know about the stories circulating about it? Probably not - because the first Gospel was not written until about 15 years after this passage. Was he a fool for not interpreting the Resurrection completely? Or, in spite of the many differences he had with Peter and James, was he the only one who got it right?

Let’s turn to the Gospels. In Mark’s Gospel, the earliest Gospel, written around 65-70 CE, we find this account. Early on Easter morning, three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome go to the tomb. When they arrive, they enter the tomb and encounter one angel sitting there. He tells them Jesus is risen, but adds that he is going ahead of them to Galilee where they will see him. They flee from the tomb and tell no one anything. Did Mark not know what he was writing? Had he not heard what Paul was saying? Was Mark the fool?

In the Gospel According to Matthew, two women go to the tomb – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They encounter one angel who tells them Jesus has risen and that he is going ahead of them to Galilee. This angel tells them to run quickly and tell the other disciples. This Gospel was written about 85-90 CE and relied heavily on Mark as a source, but was embellished by Matthew to suit his own agenda. Did Matthew play the fool? Did he not know what he was doing?

In Luke’s version of the Resurrection, the women visit the tomb early on Easter Sunday. We are led to believe that there was quite a group since in Luke 24:10&11 we are told that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others with them went to the apostles with the message from the angels after visiting the tomb. In Luke, the women enter the tomb, see two angels, and are told by the angels that Jesus is not there, that he has risen. After hearing the message from the women, Peter runs to the tomb by himself, enters it, sees the strips of linen lying there, and goes away wondering what has happened. Luke’s account was probably written around 80-85 CE. Was Luke playing the fool?

And finally, in the Gospel According to John, we find the following account. Mary Magdalene goes and finds the tomb empty. She gets Peter; he finds it empty. Peter leaves. Mary stays and sees Jesus who she thinks is the gardener. When she finally recognizes him, he tells her not to touch him because he has not yet ascended to his father. He tells her to go tell his disciples that he is returning to God. Mary runs to tell them. John’s Gospel is the latest one written – probably around 100-110 CE. What happened here? Was John right, or was he the biggest fool?

Were the Gospel writers all fools? Were they mistaken? Did they all get it wrong? What about the writer of the mysterious document called “Q?” Mark and Matthew relied heavily on it; we have never found it; yet both of their stories varied.

If we wanted to, we could call all of them fools from Caiaphas to Pilate to the people to the disciples and to the Gospel writers. But there are two issues that we cannot deny. And as foolish as they may seem, and as much as we do not know about them, we simply cannot deny them.

One of those is the fact that the disciples turned from sniveling cowards cringing in an upper room into some of the most powerful preachers the world has known. Nothing but a profound event could do that. What changed them? Should we call them fools? Were they simply trying to keep the ideas of Jesus alive at great peril to their own lives?

Two, the whole idea of the Resurrection is what makes Christianity specifically the religion that it is. While differing sects in Christianity view the Bible and Jesus differently, the fact is that the Bible was never intended to be a “how-to” book or a scientific, historically accurate explanation of first century times in Judea and Galilee. The Bible is a book of faith. And its writers intended to convey to us the essence of that faith. It is up to us in this day and time to examine the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ and the nature of the Resurrection and reinterpret them in the context of the lives we lead today. If their versions differ, it is because of the experiences of faith that they were trying to convey.

It IS foolishness for us to try to determine which version is accurate. It is NOT foolishness for us to consider how they wrote, the progressions of the Gospels, and the impact the Resurrection event had on the disciples. It is not foolishness for us who live in the 21st century to attempt to discern how the event called the Resurrection can have an impact on our lives. It is not foolishness to question the nature of the Resurrection and to use whatever means at our disposal to discern how it relates to us.

I know beyond any doubt that the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ changed the history of the world. I know that on that Easter Sunday so many years ago, an event we call the Resurrection happened and we have never been the same.

It was as difficult, if not more so, for the disciples and the Gospel writers to explain the Resurrection than it is for us to understand it today. Yet in my heart I know that I can stand before you and proclaim a Resurrected Lord as a fact.

The message the disciples preached was a Resurrected Lord. The message that we take with us today is that Jesus overcame death and gave us the hope of eternal life.

Are we fools if we do not believe in a physical Resurrection? Are we fools if we believe in an event called the Resurrection, but do not wish to engage in a foolish debate about the nature of the Resurrection? Are we fools if we claim that no Resurrection occurred? Who is the real fool? You choose. Which type of fool do you wish to be, or no fool if that be your choice! Happy Easter. Amen.