Monday, August 9, 2010

Did Jesus Laugh?

Every speechwriter knows, and every speaker should, that there is only one safe form of humor in public speech, and that’s the humor of self-deprecation, when you encourage the audience to join you in laughing at yourself. Humor is something that speakers have to be extraordinarily careful with, especially in these days of hypersensitivity to insult, even when it’s meant to be funny.

In the Bible, too, laughter is serious business.

In the Old Testament, laughter largely (but not entirely) has a negative connotation. Think of Sarah laughing to hear that she will get pregnant in her old age; hers was the laughter of the scoffer. In the New Testament, there are exactly two references to laughter, both in close proximity to each other in chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is pronouncing the blessings and the woes, and he says “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (v.21). And then he says “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep” (v. 25).

That’s all there is for laughter. And in the context of blessings and woes, laughter is a serious subject.

So, did Jesus laugh?

The short answer is, we can’t say for certain. There’s no reference, direct or implied.

But one way to understand what he says in those two verses is to ask another question: why do people laugh? Here’s a not-inclusive list:

We laugh because we’re nervous, embarrassed or feeling awkward.

We laugh because we’re happy or joyful for ourselves, families, friends or even acquaintances.

We laugh because someone has tickled us, literally or figuratively.

And we laugh because we think something is funny. This is where we enter the minefield. We laugh to express disbelief or incredulity; to mock or scoff; to ridicule; to amuse ourselves at someone else’s expense; to show how hip or cool we are. All of these “funny” motives actually demonstrate our superiority in some fashion.

If there was anyone who could have laughed to demonstrate his superiority, it was Jesus. But then, he wouldn’t have been Jesus. He would have been exactly like us. He was perfectly human like we were meant to be. And while I have no proof for it whatsoever, I could easily see Jesus laughing for joy, like at a wedding, or when he marveled at the faith of a centurion. We do know that he wept.

The context of the passages in Luke tells us that he was speaking to a large group of people on a mountainside, but that he was directing his words to his disciples (all of them, not just the 12).

That is, he was speaking to us. And there’s nothing funny about what he said.

May all of our laughter be for joy.

To read more posts on laughter, visit the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley.


Graceful said...

Oh I like this. And I'd say yes, Jesus laughed. In a good, joyful way -- not a sarcastic way. Something to think about for sure.

Linda said...

You always challenge me to think about new things Glynn. I hadn't thought about how often laughter is mentioned in scripture, but I do have a mental image of Jesus throwing His head back, laughing for the sheer joy of living.
It is sad to think that so much of laughter is at someone else's expense, but it is true.
Lots to think about.

~*Michelle*~ said...

Great thoughts.....I am with Linda.

I'd like to envision Jesus "laughing for the sheer joy of living"

Maureen said...

Of the many, many wonderful poems in Love Poems from God is this one, from Tukaram: "If God would stop telling jokes,/ I might act/ serious." I've always thought thatd thought-provoking.

I think it's important to not forget that we also have been given the ability to laugh at ourselves. And laughter, as has been shown time and again, is both good for the soul and our health.

Red Letter Believers said...

I have long been a member of the Fellowship of Merry Christians

Their Laughing Christ by the sea print is a classic

Jeff Jordan said...

There's always such comfort in your words...such wisdom. Here's wishing you much laughter born from great joy...

n. davis rosback said...

"why" is a good question.

katdish said...

I'm gonna say Jesus did laugh. I'll even go so far to say that the use of terms like "remove the plank from your own eye" may have caused at least a few snickers. I'm sure God has a sense of humor. At least I hope he does, because if he doesn't, I'm in big trouble.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

I know of at least two places in the Bible that speak of the Lord laughing at those who think they can best Him, Psalm 37:13 and Psalm 2:4.

But God has such an intense sense of humor that Jesus had to have laughed often. Can you picture a Jesus playing with children without laughing?

Helen said...

You know how sometimes a parent laughs when his baby is taking his first steps? That's how I imagine the Father laughing.

richd said...

I hope Jesus laughed. As a man, I hope He experienced the boundless joy of humor in relationships.

I imagine that He used humor as any good speaker does, to soften the blow of an otherwise harsh statement. "Only the sick need a doctor, right?"

I really hope He laughed.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Oh my Glynn -- thought-provoking as usual and filled with ideas I just hadn't given thought to before!


Monica Sharman said...

When I was in college, I was walking with my husband and suddenly laughed at someone who tripped. He admonished me, and he was right.
I grew up watching TV shows that taught me to laugh at others' misfortunes. Jack of "Three's Company" is first to come to mind.
I hope I can continue to outgrow that.

Mari-Anna Frangén Stålnacke said...

You're right, Glynn. Every gift of God can be and unfortuntely is misused. Thoughtprovoking post. Thank you! Blessings!

Bonnie Gray said...

Very thought-provoking, Glynn! I love where you took this. Joy is the center behind laughter from heaven. I want to hear and feel this laughter more! Great post.

jasonS said...

Great post. You make me feel convicted for my post. :)

JC Dude said...

This is such a well thought out post!

I can imagine Jesus laughing (not at their expense)with those 12 guys he hung out with. When I'm with my closest buds, we laugh at things that are "ours", shared experiences and such.

"May all of our laughter be for joy."

Yes and amen!

Claudia said...

i do think that Jesus laughed - in a nice way - never in a bad way
enjoyed to read your post Glynn!

HisFireFly said...

Amen Glynn!

May our laughter be born of joy.. not at the expense of others, or even ourselves.

Just the pure simple joy that Lord desires to fill us with.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

I can't imagine a Jesus without laughter. Partly, I suppose, because we're made in His image.

I think of the Christ-child, and imagine those first coos and tiny giggles.

I think of the five-year-old Jesus, laughing with his mama.

I think, too, of the range of emotion that Jesus may have experienced while on Earth, and I think of him outside the tomb of Lazarus. "Jesus wept."

Bridget Chumbley said...

Deep thoughts on laughter, Glynn. I love the way you approached this and gave us all something to ponder. Thanks!

Laura said...

Glynn, when I think of Jesus, truely human and truely divine, I would guess that most people laugh and Jesus would be no exception. After all he once was a little boy. He and his mother, must have shared a few giggles. I have relaxed more in my view, and see the "loving happy side of Jesus, also."

Robin Arnold said...

I've always thought God does have a sense of humor...there's oh so much evidence, especially in the design of the human body. One could argue Jesus surely had a sense of humor too, and laughed, considering His choice of miracles.

H. Gillham said...

I've thought about this post of yours for days - ---

and I haven't come up with a good response.

It has cause me great pause. Thanks, Glynn. :)

God created laughter -- He created smiles -- He created joy --- awe --- and puns and corniness. He intended for us to laugh, I just know it.

Did Jesus laugh. Yes, He did.