A painting appeared in the early 70s that depicted Jesus laughing. As a new Christian I had just begun to learn that Jesus was fully God and fully human and the artist had captured the human and emotional side of the Savior. I was impressed. I purchased a copy and showed it to an older believer. He was not impressed. He said, “Jesus never laughed!” When he said that I laughed, but quickly realized, by the man’s somber face and body language, that he was serious. At that point in my life I was soaking everything up like a $5 sponge, but I quietly decided to reject that particular concept. I simultaneously began to wonder if the glum and dour disposition of some believers might be at least partly due to the view that God is humorless and unemotional.
The life and ministry of Jesus Christ are no laughing matter and Jesus was never cavalier or thoughtless in what He said. He did not begin the Sermon on the Mount with an icebreaker joke, but His ministry was sprinkled with wit, irony, hyperbole and at times even sarcasm. Jesus’ humor was usually subtle rather than overt, but it was definitely present.
Jesus experienced, in His human nature, a full range of emotions and humor is as much a part of the human condition as is joy or grief. Because He was Divine, He never employed humor simply to entertain, get laughs or with the intent of causing harm.
Humor has the potential to disarm, relax, reengage and aids in the process of holding the attention of listeners. As the master teacher and speaker of all time Jesus employed the appropriate and proper use of humor with the intent of reaching His listeners with the most important message this world has ever heard.
Just one example of Jesus’ use of humor is found in Matthew 23:24 where He told His listeners that they had carefully strained their water so that they would not accidentally swallow a tiny insect, but they had swallowed camels instead! There is humor, sarcasm and hyperbole in His statement. There is also a play on words that does not appear in our English Bibles; the Aramaic word for gnat or small insect is “galma” and the word for camel is “gamla”. Even those who may have felt insulted by His comments must have recognized the humor in Jesus’ rather pointed communication on that occasion.
I am not suggesting that Jesus should be nominated for The Canadian Comedy Hall Of Fame. I am saying that our connection, camaraderie and communication with the Lord does not need to be a laborious and pessimistic undertaking. It is a daily walk of faith…an adventure, with the living Lord that is very serious, but we can travel with Him with joy in our hearts and laughter in our lives.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).