The first Sunday after Easter is celebrated by some denominations as Holy Hilarity Sunday. It comes from the ancient tradition of celebrating Risus Paschalis— the Easter laugh, God’s Holy Joke.
Things had been going Satan’s way right up to the moment that Jesus’ scarred corpse rose to glorious life again. On Easter morning, Satan suddenly realized he had played into God’s hands and had brought about his own defeat. What a horrible surprise! No doubt he and his forces smacked their infernal foreheads and groaned, “If only we had known!” But they hadn’t. God in His wisdom had kept His age-old plan of redemption hidden from Satan. Paul says, “If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)
No wonder “the One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” Psalm 2:4 (NIV).
My wife and I saw Satan defeat himself in a similar way during our 22 year-long project of setting up an educational system among the Canela people of Brazil, and translating a partial Bible into their language. (Read the full story in “What’s so holy about the Bible?” in my book A Kick in the Pants.)
During one period, anti-missionary forces in the Brazilian government expelled all missionaries working with indigenous people groups from the villages and reservations. Our forced separation from the Canelas people was painful and extremely frustrating for both us and the Canelas, many of whom were eager to learn to read better.
We had prepared a variety of reading booklets in the Canela language and I was seeking permission to distribute them in the village. I was in a government official’s office when I realized the underlying satanic opposition to God’s Word. The official handed me a document giving me a one day permission to distribute literacy materials in the main Canela village but the final line read, “Specifically excluded from this distribution permit are the books of Sacred Scripture,” referring the copies of Luke and Acts.
“Sign here to indicate you understand the conditions, and that you will not leave any of the Bible books in the village when you are there to distribute the other books,” the official said, handing me a pen. Breathing a quick prayer, I signed on the dotted line.
The Canela chief and village elders welcomed me and were excited to see the reading booklets as I showed each book and described what it was about. But when I mentioned I could not leave the copies of Luke and Acts with them, they were confused and dismayed.
“But those are the best books of all,” they exclaimed. “They tell us about Our Great Father in the Sky!” I showed them a copy of the document I had signed and explained that the government had forbidden me to leave any of the God books in the village.
“What?” the Canela leaders exploded in anger, “Don’t all the rest of the Brazilians have God books in their language? Why can’t we read them in our language? Don’t we have the same rights as the Portuguese-speaking Brazilians?”
The next morning the chief came up with a solution. “You pack all those reading booklets and the God books back into that drum. Put it on your pickup truck and leave the village. My son will follow you on the village tractor. In 35 kilometres, you will leave the reservation through the great gate after which your promise does not apply.
Move the drum onto the back of the tractor and drive away. My son will bring it back to the village on the tractor. When he returns, we will distribute all the books to the readers, we already have their names. That’s my order. Do it!”
Years later, when Jo and I were able to resume our ministry in the village, we heard that the first books everyone had sat down to read were Luke and Acts—the special, forbidden God books.
For over 20 years the Canelas have been reading the published partial Bible. The title page says, Pahpãm Jarkwa Cupahti Jõ Kàhhôc. “The Book of the Highly Respected Words of God.”
Satan moved Brazilian officials to keep the Bible away from the Canelas. He would never have done this if he had known how his nasty plan would turn out. But because of his opposition, the Canelas recognized the God books as being special. God again had the last laugh.
“Man’s futile wrath will bring you glory. You will use it as an ornament! Psalm 76:10 (TLB).