Maundy Thursday: The April Fool

Maundy Thursday credit Catholic Church of EnglandThis year, Maundy Thursday and April Fool’s Day falls on the same day, 1 April. The Revd Adrian Bulley, United Reformed Church Assistant General Secretary, reflects on this juxtaposition:

As a child and teenager, even as a young adult, I used to look forward to this date in the calendar, planning for weeks beforehand how it might be marked.

I’m talking, of course, about April Fool’s Day. The day when nothing can be taken at face value.

I’m still embarrassed to admit some of the pranks I’ve pulled on April Fool’s Day. Years ago, a family friend and church member, while helping me prepare for my Institute of Bankers’ exams, confided in me that he had always been surprised he’d passed his accounts examination.

A few weeks later April 1st came around and a letter, purportedly from the Institute of Bankers, came through the door which advised him that an audit had revealed that there had been a mistake in his accountancy grade, and he now had 18 months to retake the exam. It was just as well his wife was in on the joke as the blood drained from his face!

The juxtaposition of April Fool’s Day and Maundy Thursday this year is an interesting coincidence.

For several of the characters in the traditional Maundy Thursday narrative the events that were unfolding seemed foolish, and Jesus a fool.

Judas was exasperated by all the defeatist talk of Jesus’ body being broken and blood shed, which is why he walked off into the night in frustration, leaving the fool to his destiny.

Peter could not get his head around why Jesus should be kneeling before him washing his feet, and he certainly could not understand the passivity of the Garden of Gethsemane. Where Peter preferred the sword, the fool gave himself over to the authorities.

Even Pilate could not understand why Jesus did not plead for his life and try to escape the destiny that so obviously awaited him. Pilate handed the fool over to his fate, washing his hands as he did so.

Only with the benefit of hindsight, and from our post-Easter Sunday perspective, can we recognise the apparent foolishness of Maundy Thursday as faithfulness.

Paul reminds us, in 1 Corinthians 1:25, that at the heart of our faith is foolishness: “God’s foolishness is wiser that human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: “Consider your own call … not many of you were wise by human standards … [or] powerful … [or] of noble birth … [yet] God has chosen what is foolish, weak, low and despised … to shame the wise (and) the strong.”

God works through us. That may not seem like a very bright idea, foolishness even, but it is God’s way. We may be imperfect, but God has chosen us, not because we deserve to be chosen, but because God loves us, and wants us to express that love on our travels through life.

We pray:

As we recall today
food shared and feet washed,
a friend betrayed and arrested,
prosecution and mockery,
we celebrate Jesus,
faithful and purposeful,
never a fool,
eternally our Saviour,
ever beckoning us
into an enriched relationship
with you, O God.

Image: Catholic Church of England/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Published: 31 March 2021

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