50 years ago, on Sunday, April 12, 1970, Apollo 13 was about halfway to the moon. Which means they were about a day and a half from those chilling words, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
Apollo 13 launched at 1:13 Houston time, or 1313 in military time. The explosion that almost killed the crew happened April 13.
Anybody who looks at those numbers today might say, “Were those guys crazy? Had they completely lost their minds? Hey guys, there’s a reason the elevator skips from the 12th to the 14th floor in a hotel. Didn’t you get the memo?”
As DebbieMiller said when we watched the movie “Apollo 13,” “I coulda told ‘em, but they never woulda listened.”
Of course, the people of NASA are scientists, and they couldn’t let a little thing like triskaidekaphobia get them down.
That’s a Lot of Perfume
This year, Easter landed on April 12. Why bring up an irrational fear of the number 13 and explosions in space in relation to Easter Sunday, the greatest, happiest day of the Christian year?
Well, like the people at NASA, the disciples were good, solid, rational folks. They looked out for Jesus. They took care of business.
Then they watched as Mary poured her perfume out on the feet of Jesus. They figured happy people like extravagant gestures, but this took things too far.
The disciples knew the value of a denarius ― 300 denarii probably equaled about $40,000 ― and they had no time for such craziness. The disciples chided Mary, saying this wasted valuable resources that might have been used for the poor.
And they were right about that. Or rather, they were accurate about that. That was a lot of money.
And they were right about something else, too, as far as I’m concerned: Happy people are really annoying to be around.
I don’t enjoy hanging around happy people. I don’t trust happy people.
Again, that sounds crazy, but check me out here.
The Case Against Happy
Happy people love you and think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread as long as they feel happy. But once the happiness fairy quits making deliveries, all bets are off.
That job offer? Well, I made that under the influence of happiness, and things look different now.
Polite attitudes and opening the door for you when your arms are full? Well, that was fine when you made me happy, but you don’t anymore, so open your own lousy doors.
Loving God and doing the work of the risen Christ?
Well, you get the idea.
For a lot of people, the fact that Christians worship a dead Jewish guy equates to somebody fearing the number 13. It’s kind of crazy, but they have the circuitry in place for dealing with it.
But when we start saying the dead Jewish guy rose from the dead and went on to eternal life, that’s when they figure we’ve really gone off the rails. The whole business just sounds ― OK let’s use the word ― crazy.
They figure we act like a crime novel where everybody dies, but when they make it into a movie, everybody lives!
Everybody loves a happy ending! And why not?
Countdown to 13
It’s hard to imagine a more restless resurrection Sunday than April 12, 2020. We feel restless and fearful. A virus continues killing over 150,000 of our fellow human beings.
Anybody who looks at those numbers and sees us praising God on Easter Sunday will not think good thoughts about us.
“Christian, are you nuts? What do you have to be happy about?”
One late night, DebbieMiller laid on the floor of her den. She noticed the light over her stove reflected off her tea kettle, causing dancing rainbows on the kitchen ceiling. She called me up and said, “I’m so glad I believe in God, because I’d hate to think that moment was being wasted on just me.”
Now, I know Deb was at a really crummy time in her life when that happened.
And what about Mary? You think Mary was having a good day knowing the Jews and Romans persecuted Jesus? You think she was having fun when she poured the perfume on Jesus’ feet?
Those wonderful moments didn’t happen because everything went right. They happened in spite of the fact that everything went wrong.
The resurrection of Jesus isn’t just some tacky, slapped together, last-minute editing because test audiences didn’t like the original ending.
The resurrection plays as much a part in the story of Christ as the birth and the teachings of Jesus. And it’s not here just to make us happy.
Happiness comes and goes. It’s all because of what happens to us.
Where’s Your Bonnet?
Happiness looks like an Easter bonnet: appropriate in the proper circumstances. But there are lots of situations where it makes you look just plain stupid.
But joy! Joy wears well ― like a navy blazer or a little black dress. It may not be the most obvious choice, but it’s never the wrong choice.
Yes, happiness is appropriate on Easter. But far beyond that, we celebrate with eternal joy this ridiculous, hilarious, crazy notion that a nice, Jewish boy died then rose from the grave, and up there in Heaven, He lives forever. And He will take us with Him.
The joy of Easter is as profound as the wisdom of the prophets and the parables. The joy of the risen Christ is as real as the sun and the moon and the rain, as real as rocket ships and astronauts. And it remains as important as our salvation.
With the great cloud of witnesses and communion of saints, we celebrate the bedrock of our faith. Christ is risen!