The Humor of Jesus

The Spirit of the LORD has anointed Jesus:
“To preach good news to the poor.
To bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

Does Jesus make you laugh?  Have you ever thought about what is at the root of laughter?  At least with the laughter I’m talking about, I think it springs up from joy.  Joy is hard to beat—and joy is hardly more prevalent than when we laugh.  Jesus is The Joy Giver.  I love it when he gives me joy.  I very much enjoy sharing his joy with others.  And I find they like it when I do.  Joy is contagious, often accompanied by this thing called laughter.  Sometimes joy is reflected in a slight grin.  Sometimes it’s a chuckle.  And sometimes it’s a gut-busting belly laugh that we can’t even contain.  Jesus gives us laughter.

I experience joy when I watch Jesus in action.  I experience it when I listen to Jesus.  And I particularly experience joy when I pass along to others the joy he’s given me.  What a privilege it is to make others laugh.

I find it humorous when Jesus intervenes in an awful situation and overrules the grief he encounters.  One of my favorites is in Luke 7.  Jesus is headed into town with his disciples and a big bunch of people.  At the same time, a funeral procession with another bunch of people is headed out to the graveyard on the edge of town.  A mother limps alongside the casket of her beloved son.  Her heart is shredded to pieces as she carries the hellish grief of her unimaginable loss.  Enter Jesus.  He stops the procession and chooses to reverse the irreversible.  Young man, get up!  What?  Get up?  You have got to be kidding.  No, he’s not.  The dead boy gets up.  Jesus smiles a smile of love to the woman and gives the boy back to her.  At first there was shock.  Then there was comfort.  Then there was joy—overwhelming joy provided by The Joy Giver.  That story has often made me laugh.  Stopping a funeral procession and raising the deceased.  It had to be fun for Jesus to trade the ashes of grief for the oil of gladness.  It’s philanthropy from another solar system.  Forget the brand-new gift car.  Forget the gift house.  We’re talking dreaming the unimaginable, getting back our dead.  A resurrection.  Replacing grief with joy.  And this is just the beginning for those of us who believe.  Go Jesus!

He makes me laugh.  Lots of times.  He’s a towering giant chasing away the spiritual bullies all around.

I hate it when the bully Pharisees push people around, tie them up with legalistic chains, and arrogantly tower over them in the misery they have caused.  I love it when Jesus shows up and comes between the oppressor and the oppressed.  He’s mad at The Joy Robbers.  Really mad.  Just read the stories.  He’s sick and tired of the liars who pretend that they’re hot stuff when they are stinky in their souls.  That’s what he says about them.  He calls them white-washed tombs.  Tombs are really smelly.  Just ask Martha and Lazarus.  And Jesus is sick of the stench that the Pharisees spread around the neighborhood.  He kicks some tail and leaves them scattered as the crowds cheer him on.  Go Jesus!  Get rid of those scoundrels!  The people laugh as Jesus manhandles their oppressors, confounds them, and tells them their daddy is the devil. 

No wonder they wanted to kill him.  No wonder they did.  Small wonder.  God raised him from the dead.  The Kill-Joys killed him.  The Joy Giver comes back and terrorizes the killers.  Actually, he forgives them.  But they can hardly believe it.  They find it exceedingly hard to receive joy because they are so reluctant for anyone else to have it.  Not Jesus.  He’s determined to dispense joy.

I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Jesus’ humor.  He had a way of wielding a sword that sliced into the hearts of oppressors—and at the same time hit the funny bone of the oppressed.  He said the Pharisees were swallowing camels even as they carefully avoided slurping down the mosquitoes.  That’s funny imagery.  Even a big glass of milk won’t help get a camel that down the shoot.  Jesus said the bullies had big logs sticking out of their eyes while they walked around poking at the dust in the eyes of others.  What a humorous image.  Jesus was pretty picturesque.  With his words he drew funny cartoons that told sharp truths.  He smashed social strongholds with his humor, much to the joy of the underdogs.  To the top dogs, Jesus’ humor wasn’t funny.  It was devastating.  Look at some of the pointed things he said to illustrate a truth:

  • The blind leading the blind.
  • Giving snakes to kids instead of bread.
  • Giving your underwear away after they take your outerwear.
  • Being born a second time.
  • Chopping off your hand.
  • Plucking out your eye.

His humor was rather serious.

And for the rich guys that scoffed at the starving people all around them, he had really bad news.  Before they were going to get into heaven they were going to have to squish a camel through a needle’s eye.  And, no, it’s not a Jerusalem gate so short that camels were forced to scrunch down in order to get through.  That wouldn’t be impossible.  And Jesus was talking about the impossible.

They asked, “Jesus, you don’t think you are greater than Abraham, do you?”

“Yes, I do.  Actually, I think I’m God.” Go Jesus!  Thanks for confounding the rude, the proud and the hateful.  Thanks for chasing away our oppressors and turning our mourning into laughter.

Do you dispense joy in your ministry?  Do you let The Joy Giver use your smile and your words and your hands to pass along his joy?

  • A knowing twinkle in the eye when someone wonders if anything is bigger than their problem.
  • A confident word of faith to the one crushed by despair.
  • A comforting touch or tickle that finds the spot that brings a smile and laughter. 

Dispensing joy is fun!  Sure, we can’t do it all the time—but we ought to do it as often as we can.  Jesus is in the joy business, and he invites us to be distributors of this hot commodity.  He wants us to feed the five thousand and enjoy that chatter and wonder as the crowd rejoices in the abundance of mysterious food.

Do you spread joy in your preaching?  Do you follow up your confrontations of sin with the unbridled grace of joyous forgiveness?  I’m not talking feigned joy conjured up by a misplaced joke at the beginning of a sermon (though a well-placed one can have quite an effect).  I’m talking about the “second” fruit of the Spirit flowing from a heart filled with God himself.  In his presence there is joy!  He insists on it.  He provides it.  We enjoy it.  Don’t you like to pass it along, too?

We are gospel preachers.  The gospel is about laughter.  Good news, remember?  It’s about shattering chains.  It’s about pardoning the condemned.  It’s about feasting on the generosity of God.  All to his glory and for his pleasure—and ours.  The gospel is about pointing a finger straight into the chest of death and declaring, “You are going to die!”  Now that’s worth laughing about.   

Originally published on SermonCentral.com. Used by permission.

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Ron Forseth
Ron Forseth is Editor-at-Large for SermonCentral.com and ChurchLeaders.com. He studied for two years with Wycliffe Bible Translators and has a passion to share Christ and see all people groups of the world reached with the Gospel. He served for several years as a college pastor in Colorado and in Christian service for most of the 1990s in China and Mongolia. He is Vice President of Outreach, Inc, an organization dedicated to inviting and connecting every person in America to a Bible-believing church so that they might have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Ron lives with his wife Carol in Colorado Springs, Colorado.