Foolishness to the Greeks



With Tim Hardy, who works in the Religious Resources Centre in Church House and writes at

‘Alleluia, Christ is Risen!’ comes the assured cry, spoken aloud and sent in countless text messages throughout the morning of Easter Sunday with an expected response, learned and encultured over the years.

This year, Easter Sunday falls on the first of April — a day bringing its own expected response as we avoid checking our shoe-laces until our ‘helpful’ mate who pointed out they were undone has left the room or walked around the corner.

As I was preparing this column, one of my friends said: “I guess Easter could be the biggest April Fools' prank ever — Jesus popping out of the tomb going 'April Fool!'”

I think it would more be a case of the male disciples who hadn't yet been to the tomb, ‘not falling for’ the tales spun by the returning women — of men in white, an empty grave, a missing body and strange rabbinic gardeners. Women, whose testimony was worth nothing in the court of law: second class citizens expected to serve and behave; certainly not kick up a fuss with far-fetched tales in the middle of a time of deep, communal mourning. What foolishness was this? Surely, Jesus would return first of all to his nearest and dearest?

In the version of the story that I first heard, the Pied Piper of Hameln, in his fool's robes, led the children away from the town. Having rescued the people of Hameln from a calamitous plague of rats and having been cheated of his (admittedly steep) fee and abused, he plays his pipes and dances away, followed up hill and down dale by the children of Hameln, coming at last to a hole in the mountainside. The children follow him inside, the hole closes behind them and neither the Piper nor the children are ever seen again.

In the version of the story that I first heard, Jesus, having been crucified, descends to Hell (I wonder how this lines up with his understanding of Sheol, the place of all the dead), defeats the devil and his underlings, sets free the captives and returns, bursting Hell's gates and leaving the way to escape open for those who would follow him — I always pictured this as an opening of a hole in the side of a mountain, somewhat as if a stone had been rolled away. I do not recall whether the dead follow but I imagine they'd have been foolish not to.

So, does this crucified fool, reverse pied piper of redemption, leading out the hordes from Hell, have any meaning for us today?

I believe he does. From those first post-resurrection encounters, deliberately affirming those most looked down on by society — going on to turn the world upside down and making no sense at all to the wisdom of the day — through to these troubled and turbulent times, Jesus wants to lead us (as communities and individuals) out of whatever Hell we find ourselves in.

Jesus was the Christ, a title meaning ‘anointed and sent by God’ — sent to bring about the Kingdom of God, a fool's paradise where there is more rejoicing over one returned from Hell than 99 who never left.

What hell has Christ been sent to rescue you from?

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