The King of (April) Fools
By Anna Martin, HOPE For Every Home
Did you know babies born on 31st March are the easiest to prank on April Fools' Day?
They were literally born yesterday.
Do you love a good joke on 1st April? Perhaps you don’t care, and got married instead? (Like my wonderful Aunt and Uncle, who were wed on 1st April 51 years ago!) Or do you try carefully to expose and outwit all the April Fools’ jokes in the media, which thought they could catch you unsuspecting on a sleepy spring morning?
After a quick scout on Wikipedia, here are some of my favourite April Fools’ pranks from years gone by… (If the article can be trusted, and is not a prank itself!)
In January 1749, London newspapers published that a showman would squeeze his entire body into a wine bottle at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. However, the story was a bet between the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Chesterfield, in which the former wanted to fool the public who duly filled the house, but no performer ever showed up. Before long, rioting erupted.
‘Google Gulp’, a fictitious drink, was announced by Google in 2005. According to the company, this beverage would optimize one's use of the Google search engine by increasing the drinker's intelligence!
Sometimes, however, April Fools’ jokes can backfire. On 1st April 2021, thousands of Deliveroo customers across France got confirmation emails for orders worth more than €450 (£380). Many took to social media to express anger at the stunt!
And then there are news stories that look like April Fools’ pranks, but are genuine… like the ‘Mary Poppins’ star Dick Van Dyke, who was seen handing out handfuls of cash in the street in 2021. The 97-year-old actor was seen withdrawing money at a bank and then giving it out in Malibu, California, to people queuing at an organisation that helps those out of work find jobs.
Needless to say, whether you love the jokes or despise them, the first day of April is April Fool’s Day! (Before continuing, I’d just like to point out there are no pranks in this blog, so you can breathe a sigh of relief!)
April Fool’s Day got me thinking about the word ‘fool’. The Oxford dictionary defines foolish as “not showing good sense or judgement”, synonymous to “silly or stupid”. Immediately, my mind flashed back to my youth and the classic Delirious? song ‘King of Fools’…
On first hearing, this seems upside down – if being foolish is to be silly, then why is Martin Smith singing about being the king of fools to the world? Perhaps King David can offer us a clue. In 2 Samuel 6, after David has been crowned King of all Israel, conquered Jerusalem, and defeated the Philistines, he decided it was time to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital. And this retrieval of the Ark was an absolutely euphoric moment! (Though interrupted for 3 months by a striking reminder of the reverence due to the holy Lord God... check out verses 6-11!) David and all Israel celebrated before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, tambourines, rattles and cymbals. David even sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf in worship, wore a priestly linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, and brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets!
David was beside himself with joy because that day was a significant day. The fact the Ark was with them was a sign that the all-powerful God had chosen to dwell with Israel and a reminder of the special covenant relationship between God and the Israelites. The arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem (whose name means ‘City of Peace’) was a huge deal!
Enter Michal, daughter of Saul and wife to David. She was not best pleased that her husband was dancing around half-naked in public. (I’m not sure I would have been either… !) But she had completely missed the point. She missed the reason, the celebration, the worship. And that is why David said to her:
‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord.
I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.’
(2 Samuel 6:21-22, NIV)
David was very happy to look a fool for his God – his public celebrations were intended for an audience of one. And in the words of Delirious?, David was effectively singing to God “I’ll live for you and try to be the king of fools, I’ll long for you and walk before the King of all.”
Fast forward a thousand years to the Son of David, King of Kings, Saviour of the world, the One who - in the eyes of the Pharisees, rulers and crowds - was the epitome of an undignified fool. After all, he feasted with prostitutes and tax collectors! He was from Nazareth in Galilee and, they mocked, “a prophet does not come out of Galilee!” (John 7:52). They were wrong on several levels – Jonah, for example, also came from Galilee!
Jesus was born in vulnerability and among ordinary working people (in Bethlehem, had the accusers taken the time to look into it), and not in a royal palace. He was the Good Shepherd, a Servant King who washed the feet of others, not demanding to be served himself. And on the cross – the most humiliating execution known to the Romans – Jesus hung undignified, scoffed at by standers-by.
We see here the parallel between the way Michal saw David and the way the crowds saw Jesus. By this point, soldiers had already stripped Jesus naked, crowned him with a crown of thorns, beat him, spat on him and mocked him, saying ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ (Matthew 27:28-30). Jesus selflessly laid down his life on the cross for humankind, but it looked like he was just another delusional failure of a would-be Messiah. Matthew continued...
‘Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!’ … In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.’ (Matthew 27:39-44, NIV)
What looked undignified and foolish to those mockers was actually the most dignified moment in the whole of history. The very fact that Jesus made himself undignified for us is what gives him the honour and glory he deserves, and God proved it by raising him to life again. As Paul pens so eloquently in Philippians 2:5-11:
I feel humbled that, despite our sin, we can still enter the throne room and bow before our Lord, who shows us grace and forgiveness. I rejoice at the fact that Jesus is alive, and not only King of Kings, but the King of fools – us!
And here lies the challenge for me, and perhaps you, too. How foolish are we prepared to look for our King? As Matt Redman sung, will we become even more undignified than this? It might not mean dancing half-naked in the street (I hope!) but let’s not forget David’s heart behind his actions. He had a heart after God, and in that moment, all he could do was praise God. It just so happened that the way he did this looked pretty undignified! The challenge set before us is not ‘what undignified act can I do today?’ but ‘am I willing to be undignified for God?’ It’s about our heart posture, and disregarding what others might think of us (like David rose above Michal’s opinion).
Perhaps we need to depart from our British ‘stiff upper lip’, our infamous reservedness, and enter unreserved worship of our King, irrespective of the consequences or what others think! Let’s take the opportunity, this April Fools’ Day and, more importantly, this Easter, to be fools for our King.
Here at Hope, we have some practical tools to help stretch us out of our comfort zones…
Is your church putting on events for Easter? Why not invite friends and family along, and pray they encounter Jesus through the Easter Story, as well as your story of faith. The Spring edition of the 'Hope for All' magazine is the perfect gift to give non-Christian friends. With stories of transformation, it’s bound to spark conversation!
We also have the perfect book for young families this Easter. ‘Jesus Fixes Things’ encapsulates the Easter story within God’s big story in a simple, fun way. With a free animation, action song, and resources for all age services and toddler groups, this really is a fab investment for young families, at only £2 per book. (For more Easter ideas for Under 5s, check out the latest Talking Toddlers Webinar, which is all about Easter mission opportunities.)
The Oikos Prayer App can provide you with a great opportunity to get your dancing shoes on and prayer-dance around your streets (or prayer-walk, if dancing isn’t your thing!). Join us in the lead up to Easter, by pinning each road you pray for onto the map. Let’s cover the nation with prayer!
Let’s not confine this new-found, undignified approach to April - let’s keep going throughout the year and beyond, including Hope 23-24, a year of mission from September ‘23 to August ‘24. We would love you and your church to join us in offering the hope of Jesus Christ to everyone in the UK. For more details or to sign up, click here.
Finally, my prayer this Easter, is that you will encounter Jesus, the King of fools.
May you receive His extravagant love afresh and give it away to those around you. May we each cultivate a heart after God, like David… however undignified we may look!