Being A Fool
Text: Deuteronomy 32:36-39
Palm Sunday, C
This year, on the first of April - April Fool's day, the government decided to do two very interesting things. First they bumped up the Carbon Tax by another 25% and secondly, they gave themselves a raise. In a time when record people are out of work, the economy has been crippled, inflation is nearing a 40 year high and normal people long for the day they could fill up their gas tanks without needing to take out a loan. More vanity taxes and bigger raises for the fat cats in power. When I read the news I had to ask: Was it all just a terribly unfunny April fool’s prank, or are they trying to tell us that we are the fools and they are going to prove it to us again and again?
I’m pretty sure that no one likes being a fool. But you don't have to look very far to find fools. So I guess that means there are a lot of disappointed people out there. And at least a few in here too. Because you certainly don't have to wait until April 1st to find a fool. You need look only as far as the Old Testament Reading for Palm Sunday. 37Then he will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, 38who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!
Here in Moses' song to the Israelites, God pokes a little fun at the foolishness of this world. For each and every person who puts their trust in anything but our Lord and God is on a fool's errand. But don’t laugh too quickly. We have all done it. Not just the Israelites with their golden calves and their Asherah poles. Even modern day, enlightened, cosmopolitan citizens like you and me have been this foolish. Every single one of us have from time to time allowed false gods to consume our time, our thoughts, our plans, and our efforts. Maybe it is the never-ending pursuit of money, or the consuming desire to please others. It could be your jealously guarded leisure time, or your stubborn insistence that you be in control of your own life. Maybe it was a willingness to let God and His clear commands take a back seat to health officials and government mandates over the past two years. There are too many such idols out there to count.
And people happily devote their lives to such things spending the best years of their lives, their resources, their dignity, and their friendships on such gods. All in the pursuit of the promised better life. But what can money or fame or a bigger boat or your pride do for you when you are sick, or lonely. What hope can the government give you when you are grieving or dying? Nothing. 37Then he will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, 38who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection! And herein lies the sad prank. These false gods we like to play with will take and take and take but they don’t give back in return. In the end they leave you with nothing. Talk about foolish.
So what alternative is there? Moses explains: 36For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. 39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
God will vindicate his people. The Hebrew word is “Judge” meaning to deliver, or to save ... but here's the kicker ... only when all earthly props are gone. He will not share His glory with another. When the first commandment reads “You shall have no other gods before me” The literal Hebrew expression is al-peni “in my face” He will not be one more choice on your list of options. Only when we give up all the foolish pursuits that aren't God and that can't give anything of lasting value in return, only when we get all that out of his face and our own, do we truly see the God who has stood there for us all along.
How does God save where false idols and government promises won't? By sending our Judge, our King, our Saviour. As we read in our Gospel: 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
Yet as God sends His blessed Son our Lord and King, and as Jesus comes this blessed day, is it not one of the most cruel of jokes? A fool’s errand some might even think. Such great pomp and ceremony such unbridled joy and celebration. But we all know what begins in glory today will end up very differently only five days from now. Today Jesus enters Jerusalem a victorious King, to the praise of adoring crowds. Yet by Good Friday this same Jesus will be led out of this very city stumbling and bloodied, shamed and broken. He will have the mocking title of King nailed above his thorn crowned head upon the cross. And there he will die as many of these same crowds shout in derision and scorn. He will be called the fool, and many in this world would still agree.
But dear friends, we would be truly foolish if we were to think this all a sad and cruel twist of fate. It is precisely what is meant to be. 39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. The Lord has judged his people in Jesus Christ their triumphant King, and in Jesus we have God's vindication and compassion. Jesus was killed on the cross and made alive on the third day, that we might die sin and rise to newness of life. He was wounded for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed.
The only joke here will not to be had at Jesus’ expense. In this death of His Son on the cross it is sin, death and the devil who are made the fool. Philippians 2:7but [Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What begins in triumph will end in triumph. God has vindicated His people. He has wounded and healed, He has killed and made alive. He has sent His Son who was obedient even unto death, and He has raised and exalted Him to the position of power and authority over all creation. And He sits there even now for the glory of His Father and the care of His beloved Church. The King who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the Saviour who was crucified like a common criminal, the author of life who was buried in a tomb, has been raised to life and seated on the throne of heaven so that every knee must bow before him, both now and forever-more. April Fool's indeed! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!36For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.