“Christ is risen, Bethesda. Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!”
The resurrection of our Lord is a joke at the expense of sin, death, and the devil. A chuckle that rises up to turn aside tears. A sudden burst of laughter that can’t believe its own good fortune. A full-throated guffaw in the maw of death because its fangs have been reduced to drooling gums.
We can be pretty good at turning 40 days in Lent into a penitential season or an opportunity to give up or take up something for the sake of our wellbeing or connection to God. Why couldn’t the 40 days from Easter to the Ascension be a season for rejoicing in the Spirit’s gifts? We could put a little levity into the levitation of Christ from the grave to the heavens.
Martin Luther knew the devil can’t take a joke. “The Satan” is the prosecuting attorney who has been disbarred. “Now the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10).
A personal letter to Jerome Weller contains a great example of Luther’s pastoral care and good humor:
“In this sort of temptation and battle, contempt is the easiest road to victory; laugh your enemy to scorn and ask to whom you are talking. By all means flee solitude, for he lies in wait most for those alone. This devil is conquered by despising and mocking him, not by resisting and arguing. Therefore, Jerome, joke and play games with my wife and others, in which way you will drive out your diabolic thoughts and take courage. Be strong and cheerful and cast out those monstrous thoughts. Whenever the devil harasses you thus, seek the company of men, or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you, “Do not drink,” answer him, “I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” One must always do what Satan forbids.”
My friends, if Good Friday is good, Easter is even better. In the words of a former Young Life friend of mine, “Smile! When Jesus saved you, he also saved your face.”