April always starts with a bit of a joke or a tongue in cheek story. Many of us get suckered in by someone who has that serious look and tone and tells us the most incredible story. And just when we have swallowed it hook, line and sinker, our friend says “April Fools’!”
I have an April story for you. It is about a young man who grew up in a small village, far away from the major population centers. The man worked in the building trades and not a whole lot is known about his early life. He had a Mother and Father and reportedly some brothers and sisters. The family was pretty religious and lived as typical people in their village. That was the way it was for the first 30 years of the young man’s life. But then it all changed.
The young man left the village and headed south where he encountered an itinerant preacher. After listening to the preacher, the young man decided to be baptized, just as the preacher had suggested. Well all kinds of amazing things happened when the young man was baptized. He started to talk with other people and it happened that he had an amazing amount of knowledge. And as he shared that knowledge with other people they were amazed at what he knew and how he explained things. He taught with such insight and power that people were fascinated by his teaching.
And then even more amazing things happened. It seemed that the young man had unique abilities and powers that allowed him to heal people who were sick, to feed huge numbers of people with just a few table scraps, and even to arouse people who had died. More and more people started to listen to the young man. But at the same time there were people who were in charge and ran things and they did not like what the young man was saying and teaching the people.
These powerful people were able to convince the government to arrest, try, and convict the young man of crimes against the government. And in spite of a lack of evidence and any harm, the young man was sentenced to death.
At this point in the story, you would expect to hear the words, “April Fools’.” But this is not a joke, and all of you, I am sure, recognize this as the story of Jesus. In many ways the Gospel of Jesus is an improbable story and sounds made up.
Yet, it is the greatest story on earth. God sends his Son, to earth, to live as a human, yet to do so without sin. And then this man Jesus, who taught with great authority and did many miracles, surrenders his life as payment for our sins. Jesus goes on to rise from the dead and give to all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior the promise of eternal life.
This improbable story is the Good News that we will celebrate as we conclude Lent and look forward to Holy Week and Easter this week in April.
Gracious God and Lord, the story of Your love, grace and mercy for us, Your children, is sometimes hard to believe. Yet, it is true, that You came and died for us to grant us the forgiveness of our sins. Not because of who we are or anything we have done, but rather because of who You are and all that You have done for us. Let us not be fooled by the people of the world who say that God does not matter, for truly we are solely dependent on Your grace and love for our eternal life. Thank You, Jesus. Amen