Summary: Jesus has the last laugh! In Jesus' resurrection, the Creator of the Universe gives His answer to the rejection of His Son at Calvary. In Christ, our lives no longer end in our funeral but rather in the Wedding of the Lamb.
Jokes can be pretty mean, and maybe April 1st, being April Fools Day in some parts, can be a pretty worrying time – you might be always looking over your shoulder, not sure if you’re going to get pranked before mid-day strikes.
However, this April 1st, this April Fools Day, also happens to be Easter Sunday. So this year we celebrate the day that the Creator of the Universe pulled off the biggest and most beautiful joke the world has ever seen. The purest of jokes that has no hint of meanness but rather a generosity that spreads its arms wide. This masterful cheating of death that has caused joy and laughter to peel down the centuries.
William Shakespeare wrote a number of plays classified as comedies and a number of plays that are classified as tragedies. The comedies are defined by their shape, like the ‘u’ of a smile. Things start out well, things hit some serious problems, but everything ends well. And the key way of denoting that happy ending is classically with a marriage or a whole load of marriages. I read a quote from the British Library regarding Shakespeare’s comedies that says, “[Shakespeare’s] comedies head towards marriage… Marriages conventionally represent the achievement of happiness and the promise of regeneration.”
Shakespeare’s tragedies are also defined by their shape, like the arch of a frown. It looks like everything is going to be great with our hero, but usually down to a major character flaw, everything ends with the hero’s tragic downfall. The ending is defined by a funeral or funerals… it’s a question of body count at the end.
Our problem as humans, and as the heroes and heroines of our own stories, is that we have a major character flaw called sin, and because of that, everything, no matter how great our successes and achievements, is only headed one way… to a funeral. Our lives are a Shakespearean tragedy. Most aren’t very dramatic or exceptional. Yes, some people achieve great heights, but most of us won’t live lives that will be made into a Hollywood/Bollywood/Nollywood blockbuster. For all of us, no matter how high we soar, it all ends, though, crashing down, with a funeral. For the slaves of sin, the wages at the end are death not glory.
But then there’s Easter…
Easter, of course, is the focal bit of Jesus’ earthly story. Now, pretty much everyone would acknowledge that Jesus’ story is pretty strange. People often say, ‘How can you even say that God would become a human? Coming down to be a foetus, then a baby, then a teenager, then an adult?’ For many people that suggestion is far worse than a joke. Then we have the events of the last week, with Jesus, a full-grown adult, sitting, legs trailing, on a young donkey being proclaimed king by a load of children. It doesn’t look ‘serious’, it almost seems to be a joke. And the triumphal entry leads to his enthronement not on a golden throne, but on a wooden cross. His victory parade ends in defeat to the Romans and the Jewish leaders. His acclamation by the crowd leads to his being deserted by everyone. Alone, naked on the cross. It’s all very strange and upside down. It’s almost like an awkward joke.
But then Easter morning, the first light of a new week, a whole new creation, a new Genesis 1, and life and light burst out of the darkness and death of the tomb. And joy and laughter and confusion… People running (Mary)… where is he?... More people running (Peter and John), racing each other…. seeing but not understanding… seeing but not recognising (Mary, again)… If you’re the gardener…
Our stories have always been shaped as tragedies. We as heroes and heroines are fatally flawed and thus no matter how far we rise, we all fall, and our funeral is the end. Death and no glory.
Jesus’ story is, instead, shaped as a Shakespearean comedy. The Ultimate Divine Comedy. Jesus… being “in very nature God… made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! [you can’t get lower than that]”
But then Easter… resurrection… and then “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”
God in Jesus has turned things on their heads and in calling us to join ourselves to him, our stories can become, in Him, no longer tragedies, no longer ending in our funerals, our lives can become part of the Divine Comedy.
And where does the Biblical narrative end? With a wedding. Which is the key ending feature of all good Shakespearean comedies. The wedding of Jesus and His bride the church. Our ending, in Him, is no longer the funeral… but in Him we will be brought to The Wedding.