Have you ever had a joke pulled on you? Most of us have, whether it’s someone hiding in a closet to scare you, putting a cup of water (or something larger) over a partially closed door, or calling you up pretending to be someone else, we’ve all had pranks pulled on us. We enjoy being the “puller” more than the “pullee”.
Let me tell you today about the greatest prank ever pulled. The cross of Jesus Christ, or any one else’s cross for that matter, was no joke. Crucifixion was designed to wring as much suffering out of a body as possible. The Jews saw to it that Jesus was punished as much as any victim, and Jesus suffered terribly. After being up all night, slapped and punched repeatedly, flogged nearly to death, thorns jammed down on His head, and then nailed to a cross, Jesus’ cross was no laughing matter. There was, and is, nothing funny about it.
The ones who nailed Him there were certain that they had gotten the last laugh. They mocked Him at His trial; they ridiculed Him as He hung there on that cross; “He saved others,” they said, “Let’s see if He can save Himself.” They congratulated themselves when He was dead and buried, having taken extra precautions to secure the tomb, otherwise, “the last deception would be worse than the first.”
Can you imagine the glee the Jewish leaders must have felt when Jesus was dead. Oh, how they hated Jesus. They made themselves look bad in public and blamed it on Jesus. They were simply no match for Him, but then, who would be: they were going up against God almighty! But imagine how happy the forces of hell must have been when Jesus died. They knew who He was, but didn’t know why He had come to earth. He had invaded their territory, and for whatever reason He came, they wanted Him gone! And they got their wish. Here was Jesus, “Son of the Most High God,” nailed to a cross! A Cross! An instrument of death used to punish criminals and used as a deterrent to crime. And here is God nailed to that cross. Oh how the devils of hell must have shrieked with joy.
It wouldn’t last long!
There was one problem with the celebration: it was a little premature. See, Jesus was dead; everyone knew that. The Jews knew it, the Romans knew it, the apostles knew it, and the demons knew it. Jesus was dead, pure and simple. But this is where the “joke” comes in. While the cross was no joke, it was the means to something wonderful: the resurrection of Jesus. The joke is, Jesus didn’t stay dead. He came back to life. He rose from the dead. And when He did, He “took captives captive,” making a laughing stock out of the “powers and authorities and triumphing over them by the cross.”
Not only was the cross the means by which Jesus died, it was the means by which He was victorious over sin and death. The plan to kill Jesus and destroy whatever plan God had blew up in their faces when Jesus burst forth from that grave and took with Him all God’s people that had been held captive by death. That was God’s plan all along. The shrieks of joy and glee that erupted when Jesus died soon turned to shrieks of rage and disbelief. They had played right into the hands of God, killing Jesus so He could come back to life and take with Him to heaven all those who were God’s elect. And not only that, but he became the means for everyone to get to the Father. He paved the way for the rest of us to conquer death, by believing in the one who first rose from the dead.
I love a good joke. I especially love ones that backfire on the one pulling the joke. Jesus pulled off the ultimate prank by taking the plot of hell itself and turning it around to the biggest “backfire” the universe has ever seen! But one question remains: which side of the cosmic joke are you on? Get on the side of Jesus, and you can laugh all the way into eternity!
Rev. Tim Secrist is pastor of the Little Dove Church of Christ near Lenore and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association. He can be reached by email at [email protected]