The world today could use a little foolishness. I'm talking about a specific kind of foolishness of course, a way of ridiculous living that makes those on the outside scratch their heads, but a way that makes perfect sense to those in the know.
It's April Fool's Day today. Do you do pranks in your house? Pranks can be hilarious, as long as both sides have a good sense of humor.
Many people of the first-century, and right up to this current day, view Jesus' resurrection as the biggest prank ever pulled.
Is it ridiculous to believe in resurrection?
Two thousand years ago if you tried to talk to someone about Jesus Christ, they probably would have said something along the lines of: “I thought you were smarter than that!”
“Real people mourned this prophet. Are you trying to be cruel by stirring up false hope?”
“You must be drunk!”
“Why would you want a crucified man to be your Christ?”
Today, people still scoff.
“Don't you know it's physically impossible?”
“Faith is just an emotional crutch so you're not scared of dying.”
“How can you believe a 2,000-year-old book like it's fact?”
“Jesus was a good man who taught good things. But actual miracles and resurrection? Come on, be rational.”
Like us, the early church felt the scoffing of doubters.
No one wants to be thought of as naive and foolish. We all want to explain to the world just how Jesus died and rose again. We begin to think that if we explain it just right, or find a scientific basis, or prove it with physical signs, then we can make everyone believe. It's easy to feel embarrassed when we can't fully explain our own faith!
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks to the church about the foolishness of the cross. Read Chapter One and Two for yourself. Here are a few highlights:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
“Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [became to us] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise ...”
“When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
“...and my message and my preaching were not in the persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God."
The Greek culture of the first century revered charismatic, persuasive teachers just as much as we do today with our TED talks and professional preachers. The Jewish culture of the first century wanted hard proof, just like we do. Nothing has changed. So why should our message?
We don't need to reinvent the gospel wheel
Our model for preaching the good news should emulate the model of the early preachers.
It is not our wisdom, or our convincing arguments, or our beautifully formatted Easter services that will bring an unbeliever to Christ, it has nothing to do with us, but with God. The power to save comes from God, because as it says in 1 Corinthians 1:29, “so that no man may boast before God.” and Paul's quote from Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Easter is only a few weeks away. This is the time of year when Christians take the time to reflect on what Christ did for us on the cross. We gather to remember a moment that many in the world consider pure foolishness. Our mission is not to use worldly wisdom and science to prove the resurrection to our friends and neighbors but to simply preach the good news of what Jesus has done for us, and live out the joyful expectation in our own lives.
You don't need to wait to be “good enough” or “know enough” to share the Good News of Christ's death and resurrection. After all, there's a whole book on the subject you can point to for more information!
If you would like another first-century example of how to preach the Good News, check out Acts 2:14-41. Remember, this sermon is delivered by the same man who fifty days prior had denied Christ three times, who didn't initially understand why Jesus was going to the cross, and who returned to his fishing nets after hearing Jesus was alive. He did not have it all together!
Here it is in bullet points:
"It shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
"Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him, through a predetermined plan of God, was nailed to the cross by the hands of godless men and put to death."
"In accordance with the promises made to David, God raised Jesus up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in death's power. He is exalted to the right hand of God and made Lord and Christ."
"So repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the long-promised gift of the Holy Spirit."
Peter did say more, as we would also fill in the blanks, but this is the crux of the cross. There is so much power in just this brief sermon, and it's simple enough that anyone can share it. No theological degrees required!
And note this key phrase after Peter's sermon: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Peter partnered with God's work by stepping out and speaking the truth, and God did the saving. Crazy as it seems, God likes us to work alongside Him. We should take pleasure in working with Him as a child loves working beside a loving parent—never assuming they are responsible for getting the parent's job done all on their own.
Can we use logic to convince someone to have faith?
A well-reasoned argument can definitely help persuade a skeptic, but there is always a moment where they have to take a breath and leap.
I love to read books on faith, and we should always be eager to learn more about the Bible, but it's so we can share the truth, not so that we can save people with our own wisdom.
Wise men like C.S. Lewis or N.T. Wright have done amazing things to explain some of the hard parts of scripture, but they can only take a skeptic part of the way. As we can see in the story of Jesus, there are some who that no matter what we say or do, simply refuse to open up to the gospel. Those are the moments where we have to remember to let go and let God.
People may think you're foolish for believing in the resurrection and a crucified Christ, but you have found wisdom beyond that of the world—the wisdom of God.
You can read more of my posts on the crucifixion in my series: Understanding the Cross