Summary: A short talk given at a local school where I was invited to take an Easter assembly on the last day of term. The date was Friday 1st April 2011. I used the opportunity to talk about April Fools day hoaxes, and to say I believe the resurrection is true!
On Sunday 17th April many Churches will celebrate an event known as Palm Sunday, remembering when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a Donkey. Now I know a donkey doesn’t sound impressive, but back then people expected a saviour to come riding on a donkey so they knew what it meant. The Bible puts it like this: ‘The crowds walking in front of Jesus and those walking behind began to shout, “Praise to David’s Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord!”’ (Matthew 21:9). But the religious experts hated Jesus. They plotted and schemed, had him arrested once it was dark, arranged a trial which was fixed, found him guilty and placed a crown made of thorns on his head. In my Bible it says, ‘When they had finished mocking him …they led him out to crucify him’ (Matthew 27:31). Jesus died on a Friday, just 5 days after he’d arrived to such a noisy welcome …but on Sunday Jesus’ friends found his tomb empty, and an angel said he had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:5-8).
Thank you for inviting me to your Easter assembly on 1st April 2011. Yes, it’s your Easter assembly, it’s a subject that’s very important to me, but I also like a bit of a joke and today’s 1st April. So, I feel as if I’m in a bit of a quandary. How do I talk about a subject that’s the most important thing in the world to me - when my inclination is to want to spend the whole morning playing ‘April Fool’s’ tricks on my family and friends?
Well, here goes!
In 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore made an announcement on BBC Radio 2. He said this: “At 9:47 a.m. today there will be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ astronomical event occurring.” He said that listeners could experience it in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth’s own gravity.
Patrick Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, Radio 2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room. The date was 1st April 1976.
On 1st April 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in an American newspaper announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" especially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger, etc.), but all the items were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The next day, Burger King issued a follow-up.
The follow-up press release said that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others [had] requested their own ’right handed’ version."
On 1st April 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree; to which the BBC diplomatically replied, "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
A few of you just might be starting to think, “But what’s all that got to do with Easter?” Well, I can safely say that none of those practical jokes have got anything to do with Easter; except this: My belief as a Christian, in the death and resurrection of Jesus is no joke, and it’s no laughing matter. Whereas the left-handed whopper and the spaghetti-growing trees were hoaxes, I believe the historical evidence regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Romans kept good records. So did the Jewish historian Josephus. They refer to the crucifixion of Jesus around 30 AD; but as for the next bit, the really amazing bit, why do Christians believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead, and does it really matter?
In the late 1920s Frank Morison, a Lawyer, began to research and write a book to prove that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead did not happen. He researched thoroughly over a long period of time.
In 1930 Frank’s book was published with the title ‘Who moved the stone’, but it wasn’t the book he had intended to write. During his research and legal reasoning Frank came to the opinion that the resurrection of Jesus did take place.