Mary Kay writes:
I have been struck this Holy Week with the juxtaposition of the sacred and the secular calendars. As you know, Palm Sunday fell on April 1 this year. This has only happened nine times in the last three centuries. Apparently it happened in 2007, the only other time in my lifetime as I look back, but I totally missed it then – probably because we had just moved to Ghana and everything else about Holy Week and Easter celebrations here was so new to me. Plus, it doesn’t seem like Ghana makes as big a deal of April Fool’s Day as we used to in the US. The next time it will happen will be in the year 2091. Since I would be 131 at that point, I think it is probably safe to say that this is the last time in my life that I will see Palm Sunday and April Fool’s fall on the same day.
I read a couple of devotions, tweets, and the like this week that pointed out this juxtaposition. Most pointed out that the same people who were praising Jesus, shouting “Hosanna”, which means “save us”, were the ones shouting for his crucifixion by the end of the week. Some talked about the disciples “borrowing” a donkey – which the owner must have seen as a prank – though presumably the donkey was returned at the end of the day.
I also looked into the history of April Fool’s Day to see when the tradition started. The Persians (and now the Iranians) celebrate a day of pranks on the 13th day of their New Year, which either falls on April 1 or April 2, according to Wikipedia. The earliest mention of a day of pranks associated specifically with April 1 was in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, which is the tale of Chanticleer and the Fox. Certainly Chanticleer outfoxing the fox could be considered a good April Fool’s prank! But the Romans celebrated a festival called Hilaria on the 25th of March, which is also thought to be a precursor to our present day tradition.
Given that Jerusalem was under Roman rule, and that the Passover (and therefore Easter) changes days as a lunar holiday, it is quite possible that the original Palm Sunday procession coincided with the Roman Hilaria. This would be even more fitting in my mind. To see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, with the crowds going wild? This event is easier to see as a Monty Python-esque satire of the great Roman military processions than as a real act of worship and praise. Who would cheer for a guy on a donkey, unless you thought it was all a great farce? Certainly Jesus did not represent the type of military hero that Israel would have liked to see come and kick out the Romans – that guy would have looked more like a combination of Sparticus, Ben Hur and Rambo! Or at least Iron Man, with the disciples cast as the rest of the Avengers.
By Friday, the prank seemed obvious. Jesus, who had triumphally entered Jerusalem the week before was now hanging on a cross, dying. The joke felt like it was on all of us for believing, for hoping. The disciples sure didn’t get it – they were the ones most discouraged at the death of their leader. They were the ones who thought Palm Sunday was real, only to have their hopes dashed. They heard Jesus say, “It is finished,” and thought all was lost. They spent the weekend hiding in terror that they would be killed next as his associates. Even Satan thought he had won that day, triumphing over God’s Son at last.
On Friday, a thief on a cross and one of the Roman centurions who helped to crucify Jesus caught a glimpse of the real story, but even they didn’t get the full picture. But today, Sunday morning, we can look back and laugh! We see joke and we get it. We share in the “Gotcha”. We can run to our friends shouting the Good News. He is alive! Jesus conquered the cross and death. He conquers all the rulers of this world – whether Romans or Americans or someone else. He conquers all the lesser gods and demons of the spiritual world – even that most powerful of demons, Satan. On Easter, of all days, we proclaim that all is right with the world. God’s creation is restored and God declares, “It is very good!”.
Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
“[Jesus] told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness will be preched in His Name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47, NIV)
The artwork posted today is from www.jesusmafa.com, an organization dedicated to presenting the Gospel in an African context.