The Humor of Jesus

Who doesn't like to laugh?  

There was a woman once who went to get a mammogram at a Franciscan hospital, where it was customary to put Bible verses on the walls.  In the mammogram clinic, the verse someone had chosen was "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed..." (2 Cor. 4:8)  We'd love to think that someone chose that particular verse to shed some humor into a difficult process!

Jesus also used humor to teach, heal, convert, and of course to redeem awful situations.  

In a famous exchange with a non-Jewish woman, Jesus offers a riddle that is almost absurd.  

There are two basic ways to interpret this passage.  First, Jesus is being culturally insensitive and insults the woman, who, for some reason still wants to be part of what Jesus is doing.  Second, Jesus (perhaps with a wink in his eye) offers her an absurd riddle to engage with her and see if she's willing to play along.  Of course, she is, and he is delighted.  

She saw the absurdity of the life we live, where we seem to believe that some people deserve blessings and others don't.  

Whether or not you think Jesus had a "sense of humor," surely you can agree that he was anything but boring.  His stories and sayings employed lively characters and images that engage the imagination, where the endings are surprising.

"I'm going to make you fishers of people."  How would two life-long fishermen have reacted to such a silly idea?

"How can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me get that splinter out of your eye,' while you have a plank in your own eye?"  Try to imagine that image!

"You're blind guides!  You filter out a nat but then gulp down a camel!" Jesus said to the Pharisees.

 Jesus' wit brilliantly drew the humanity out of people, to encourage or instruct, to hold accountable, or even encourage.  It also disarmed and helped people become more available to him.

How can we apply the humor of Jesus in our lives?

1) Look for funny rather than trying to be funny.  Some of us aren't wired to be funny; we even struggle to remember punchlines of jokes!  But you can observe little quirky things, like noticing a sign at a local pool that read, "Swimsuits Required."  

2) Ask friends or family to share a "Remember When" story.  Pastor Aaron remembered when his mother once served spaghetti that somehow didn't drain all the way, and everyone's helping slid off their plate onto the floor!  

3) Turn up good humor, turn down destructive humor.  Shared and self-effacing humor is good for the soul.  Everyone can join in and no one (except the subject telling the joke) feels put down or hurt.  Consider the "butt" of the joke and whether or not having fun with that person or thing is in on the joke ("laughing with") or not ("being laughed at.")

4) Let God use humor and laughter to change how you see the world. One woman recounts how a joke may have staved off war in the US.  During the Cuban missile crisis.  "What's the difference between Capitalism and Communism?  In Capitalism, man exploits man.  In Communism, it's the other way around."  While we can never be sure what role that joke played in the crisis, we'd like to think that it offered some perspective that might have helped the major players realize the futility of the fight.

May we all come to know a better, healthier, and more redemptive humor this week.  

Reflect:
- What are some of your favorite jokes?  How do they fit these criteria?
- What are some of your favorite funny stories?  Who can you share them with?
- What can you do to rediscover humor in your life?

 

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