Friday, April 03, 2009

B, Palm Sunday - Mark 11:1-11, Philippians 2:8 "It's not April Foolishness"

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Is it too good to be true?
There's a study that suggests if women and children eat chocolate for breakfast, weight problems usually associated with eating the sweet at other times of the day will be avoided. It's believed the bodies of children and women digest differently in the morning. In fact, when eating chocolate at this early time of day, for a prolonged period, the study candidates actually lost weight! Perhaps it's too good to be true!
In 1976 it was reported that the planet Pluto passed behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that counteracted and lessened the Earth's own gravity. If people jumped in the air at the exact moment this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. Apparently when 9:47 AM arrived, radio stations received hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even testified that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room. Too good to be true? Hmmmm!
Did you know that stretching nylon stockings over a plasma television makes the picture standing out in front of the screen in three dimensions! It's as if the people on the tele were actually standing in your lounge room. This effect was first discovered back in the black & white days when stretching the stockings over the TV screen would make instant colour TV. The nylon in the pantyhose chemically reacts to the light a television produces causing the amazing results. Wow! It sounds too good to be true?
There are also rumours that local footy clubs are in a bidding war to import Frenchman Lirpa Loof into Australia. He was born with the amazing ability to kick a ball further than anyone else in the world. Lirpa no longer plays soccer because every time he kicks the ball it flies right out of the stadium. His ability comes from his legs having similar qualities and strength to that of a frog and it's hoped that the man's talent can be taken advantage of on our larger football grounds! He'd be able to kick goals the full length of the ground. Too good to be true?
What's even more amazing is all these things were discovered or occurred throughout history on the same day - the first day of the fourth month. Yes, it is too good to be true, because the day is "April Fools Day"!
The first of April rolls around year after year and time and time again pranks of various size and effect are administered on family, friends, and work colleagues with various degrees of success. Those who have not noticed the date of the day can be sucked into the gag. The more gullible the recipient the greater the laugh others have at their expense.
It's not really known how April the first, came to be known as April Fools Day. One view is that the day came about after the Gregorian calendar was changed to the Julian calendar. May Day was recognised as the start of summer or the spring planting season. An April fool was one who did this prematurely after the calendar had changed.
Then again, in the eighteenth century people believed that the day was connected with Noah at the time of the flood's ebb when he released a raven too early. He did this on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar which coincides with April the first.
Unfortunately many believe the gospel is too good to be true. One might think Jesus Christ - both Son of God and Son of Man, the cross, his death, his resurrection - the Word of God offering forgiveness and peace with no strings attached, is just too good to be true. And therefore, it's believed one has to either add to or water down God's grace to make it a little more convincing. Or, on the other hand, one might be temped to discard the gospel as a laughable foolish faith to sustain those who have nothing better to do with their time.
We human beings with our understanding and nature find it very difficult to understand the being of God, his nature, and his ways. The crowds on Palm Sunday thought they knew exactly what Jesus was doing as he walked into Jerusalem. They cried "Hosanna" as the man rode a donkey into the city, reminding them of a bygone era when Israel was strong under David their almighty king. But Jesus' exercise of almighty power came in an unexpected way, in that he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
Imagine the fickle crowd, seeking Jesus as the new King David, believing he would march into Jerusalem and dethrone the Romans as they cried "hosanna", "save us, we pray". But rather witnesses saw him confront what Judaism had become and then take his throne on the cross in death.
It sounds like the greatest hoax of all time; definitely too good to be true! How can Jesus be God if he can bleed and die in the most disgraceful way on a cursed cross? How can a king reign when he's dead? And so on Good Friday the broken body of Jesus became a laughing stock, to the Romans who saw Jesus as a fool, and to the Jews who saw in Jesus' death something too good to be true.
But as Jesus entered Jerusalem, hidden in his motives and actions, was a way that seemed too good to be true, but in fact is the only way that's too good not to be true. Jesus confronted what Judaism had become and overturned their corrupted means of righteousness. He faithfully took hold of the law and kept it, and in doing so, set a benchmark that nobody could match.
In Luke's Gospel we hear Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he marched into the city. The crowd whipped into a frenzy calling out for victory - "hosanna" "save us, we pray". To which Jesus tears and actions said, "Amen, let it be so", as he went to the cross to give victory to all people, saving them from their sins, once and for all freeing them from the condemnation of the law.
Do you wonder if it's all too good to be true? Maybe you want to discard the Word of God like a trite April Fools Day prank! Or perhaps you believe you need to bolster what God did with good deeds in the hope you might get the victory you're praying for. Possibly proving to God you're no April fool!
However, Jesus' death and resurrection is no prank! Discarding him or being caught in deeds of self-righteousness, treats him as a fool, and shows that we as humans are naive and gullible. If left to our own senses we are doomed.
But God is faithful. As we remember his walk to the cross this Good Friday and see that it really should be you and me nailed there, God calls us to peace in the knowledge that the day of his crucifixion was too good a Friday not to be true.
Thankyou Lord for cleansing us and making us holy with your Word, your Word is truth, Amen.