Ricky Gervais – English comedian, actor, and atheist – preached the gospel yesterday. The best part was that he did it accidentally.
On Twitter he wrote: “When you die, you go to heaven for eternity and meet Jesus and grow wings. #aprilfools.” Oh Ricky, you thought you were so sly with your April Fool’s joke. But joke’s on you, because you just preached the gospel.
The Christian faith is not about flying off to heaven. That’s such a boring story, and one that’s already taken by a myriad of other religions. A real, vibrant, and faithful Christian life is about right here and right now. As the Christian Aid Society in Gervais’ native land says, “We believe in life before death.” We don’t want to wait around until death to meet Jesus. We wish to meet Jesus right now.
We meet Jesus when we stand in solidarity with the poor. We meet Jesus when we sacrifice ourselves for the love of others. We meet Jesus when we care for the earth and speak out against cruelty, injustice, and oppression. You’re right Mr. Gervais, the pearly gates and angel’s wings and all of that is silly. What’s not silly is when Christians heal, minister, and love in the name of Jesus.
I find all of this particularly intriguing because it was posted on Palm Sunday. And on Palm Sunday, of course, we read the Passion Narrative, the story of Jesus’ suffering. Throughout this narrative, Jesus’ accusers unknowingly speak the truth about Jesus even as they are trying to mock him.
For instance, when the sign nailed to the cross says, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” it was meant to mock Jesus. But God works through irony, and indeed Jesus is King of the Jews. Or when the chief priest, Caiaphas, says that it is better for one man to die (Jesus) than for the whole nation (Israel) to perish. Gotcha! That’s the good news, even from the mouths of those who condemn Jesus.
Mr. Gervais, you stand in a long line of folks who have unknowingly spoken the truth about God and the Kingdom of Christ.
Joke’s on you.