Easter is this Sunday, April 1. April 1 in some European and Western countries is known as April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day where people play practical jokes or spread hoaxes and often shout, “April Fool” at the victim of the joke or ruse. Perhaps the greatest surprise, turn of events, joke on Satan and the world is the Easter story.

The early church took great joy in what is termed the “fishhook theory of the atonement.” The idea goes roughly like this: Satan would free the world from his control (sin and death) if God would allow him to kill God’s only son Jesus. God agrees. The bait and hook are set. Judas, the religious leaders, Rome and ultimately the cross execute the deal. Satan has taken the bait and gleefully chomps down on what will be his undoing. Jesus is dead, placed in the tomb; the women come to properly prepare the dead body after three days and “April Fool!” Jesus is alive! The devil has given up control of the world in the bargain and Jesus can’t be killed. Not even death and the grave can hold the Son of God. This is Easter! We are free!

Jesus foretells of this great reversal in John 12:11-12, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”Reality is reversed at Easter. The cross judges the world, not Jesus. The cross defeats Satan, not Jesus. The cross intended to scare, intimidate and repel the world away from Jesus now draws billions to him.

Sadly, the disciples then and we today are slow learners. On Easter evening, “When… the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you… As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:19-21). See the contrast? Jesus is up and out of the grave sharing peace while his followers are locked down and in a grave of their own making. In their fear and anxiety, they are hiding from everyone.

If I’m not careful, I can find myself hiding in fear in my own home. When I was a child and the doorbell rang, I ran to it to see what friend or relative was at the door. It was one of the best and most exciting moments of my short, little life. Today, if the doorbell rings, often my heart either sinks or races in anxiety because “I’m not expecting anyone” or something terrible has happened or someone I don’t know wants me to give them money or they want to give me a dog. Ok, it’s my dog Peanut who is an escape artist, but still, they are giving me a dog!

My fear of whoever is at the door as a 50-year-old man is irrational. I know this. However, I’m not alone. Some 57 million Americans suffer in more serious ways with real anxiety disorders. This is more than one in six Americans in a time in our country where we have less to fear. Daniel Gardner writes in The Science of Fear, “We are the healthiest, wealthiest and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.”

Easter is the right time to invite God to again reverse the ways of the world by the power of the resurrection. We no longer have to live in fear even though many in our world do. We can choose to be a new kind of “April Fool” trusting in God’s great reversals. We can be kind in a world that hates. We can engage with love while others hide. We can receive the gift and power of the Holy Spirit as the resurrected Jesus breathes new life into us to be sent out into the world (John 20:22).

Fear can paralyze us. Fear can imprison us without a judge, jury or trial. But it can’t hold us down forever any more than the grave could hold our Savior. The deal has been struck. The bait has been taken. Jesus is alive! The Spirit is moving. We are sent out unafraid.

Pastor Mark with two children

Join me at 5 p.m. this Saturday or 9:15 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. this Sunday for Easter Worship at Acts 2 United Methodist Church. We will begin our four-week series, “Unafraid” inspired and informed by Rev. Adam Hamilton’s new book just released last week. If you would like to dive deeper into the material, we will have two adult Sunday morning classes (one at 9:15 a.m. and the other at 10:45 a.m.) going through the book during the series. Rev. Andy Nelms and the One Church community will also begin the series at 6:30 p.m. on Easter Saturday and then continue it at 6:30 p.m. on Friday nights.

Week 1: Overcoming Fear (March 31 and April 1)
Week 2: Fear of Failure (April 6 and 8)
Week 3: Financial Fear (April 13 and 15)
Week 4: Fear of Rejection (April 20 and 22)

Hope to see you soon and with all the saints that have gone before us, we too can say, “He is not here. He is risen! He is risen indeed! April Fool!

Dr. Mark Foster

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