Was Jesus Funny?

Considering how important Jesus is to human history we really don’t have a lot of information about him. Out of his 33 years of living we basically have 3 years of information and at least half of that is spent on the last week of his life. Even John says that the world doesn’t have enough room for the books that could be written on things that Jesus did that aren’t in Scripture (John 21:25). So we tend to focus on the essential things about Jesus because what we know about him is limited. I think this absolutely agrees with God’s pattern of revelation in that he feels it necessary to only give us essential information instead of burdening our tiny brains with specifics about his plan. I can understand the Gospel. I can’t understand the dual nature of Christ, creation out of nothing, or the Trinity. And frankly, I don’t care if I ever comprehend those things. We have what matters and that’s all that matters.

However, what little we do have, we can probably make a good educated guess as to what kind of communicator Jesus was. And this guy guesses that he was one of the best communicators to ever live. As you read throughout the gospels do you ever catch yourself going “wow” after reading something Jesus said. I do…a lot. And not just the profound stuff either. When the Pharisees would go off on long diatribes about religious nonsense Jesus would respond with a sentence or two and then they would shut up and walk away. I would then go from “wow” to “Dang, he got them good.” Jesus had a way with words and he had a way of captivating an audience. He sometimes did this with his humor. I think that’s  something that gets overlooked about him. People don’t like to think of Jesus as having a sense of humor because they might be bordering on blasphemy. The mistake they make is that they equate their own humor with Jesus’. I know this can’t be the case for myself. I could laugh for weeks at scatological jokes and armpit farts. Jesus would not have been very effective with my sophomoric humor. His wit was displayed just at the right moment so that his message was definitive and it opened eyes to insights of the divine.

Speaking of eyes…

Irony

Jesus was a master at irony. Nowhere is this more true than Matthew 7:3-5:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

If you just read the verse and picture this in your mind, it’s kind of funny even for today’s standards. I guarantee you Jesus’ audience thought it was knee-slapping, gut-busting hilarious. Just think about it long enough and you’ll start to chuckle, too.

 

Hyperbole

Probably the best known use of hyperbole in pop culture is the “Yo Mama” series. For example:

Yo mama is so fat that she went to the movie theatre and sat next to everyone.

You see, now, that is degrading humor. Jesus was much more edifying in Matthew 19:23-24:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some people have gone to great lengths to identify the eye of a needle as something other than an actual eye of a needle. Just look at a camel, then look at the end of a needle and use your imagination. If you’re confused then you’re halfway way there to getting it. If you come to the conclusion that the imagery doesn’t make sense then congratulations, Jesus has just taught you a valuable lesson. Albeit in a very entertaining way.

There, that wasn’t so hard. 

Sarcasm

Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor in today’s culture. I’m not real sure that was the case in cultures of yesteryear. Paul was great at using sarcasm and most of it is absolutely comical. Jesus even used sarcasm when talking to Peter in Matthew 16:

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Jesus calls Peter a name that translates to rock or rocky. It’s basically the equivalent of calling a really short guy, “stretch”. Shortly after that episode Jesus called Peter Satan and Peter denied and cursed Jesus so Peter was anything but a rock. I’m sure the disciples were snickering as Jesus was telling Peter this. However, like always, Jesus knew what he was saying. Peter did become stable later on and started many churches in the Mediterranean area.

I use these examples to say this: Was Jesus a stand up comedian? No. Was Jesus a captivating communicator? Yes. And a great way he did that was through his humor. I can’t relate to a robot Jesus who never laughed or smiled. I can relate to a human Jesus who laughed and smiled and was comforting to be around. Even though he literally had the weight of the world on his shoulders I believe his joy was unimaginable. And I’m glad he shares that joy with us.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Quotes Mistakenly Attributed To The Bible

You may have already known this but people are fooled rather easily. What you may not know is just how easy it is to fool someone. There’s no need to show fine print in .0005 font or talk really fast when discussing disclaimers. No, you could present all the information that is possibly available and give them enough time to read it and some people still wouldn’t have a clue. That’s just the way it is. It’s not because they’re stupid; at least not every case. It’s a combination of a lack of observation and a lack of comprehension-otherwise known as laziness. But that’s okay; people have a right to be lazy. Why did our fathers construct the constitution other than to protect our right to laziness? It’s a pillar of our society, along with obesity and welfare. I love America.

There’s no better way to observe this phenomenon than when listening to others quote “Bible verses” in Sunday School classrooms across the country. One of my favorites, that is misquoted a lot in our church, is when the topic of pride is brought up in discussions. Before we even crack open the Bible, I hear no less than 5 people say simultaneously, “Pride goes before the fall…”. The verse they are trying to quote is Proverbs 16:18:

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Is that being a little too critical, especially when both mean essentially the same thing? Absolutely. Sometimes it’s better to look over mistakes than try to cause a dispute and look like a know-it-all. But here’s the thing when overlooking misquoted Bible verses: when a person says “x” is the word of God but “x” is not the word of God and that person starts getting others to believe that they’re speaking God’s word, that can lead to potentially dangerous things. We end up preaching our own words instead of the words we accept as infallible. So make sure you check your Bible before you go saying things like:

# 5:     Cleanliness is next to Godliness

One of the wisest sayings by King Solomon, right? Or was it Peter? I can’t remember.

Try John Wesley, from one of his 1791 sermons:

“Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.”

Wesley, more than likely, got his idea from Francis Bacon who wrote:

“Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.”

What possessed Wesley to say this? He was preaching a sermon on how to dress appropriately. So next time your wife gets on your case and quotes this because you’re leaving your dirty underwear in the living room, tell her until she starts throwing out Bible verses, there needs to be less talking and more sandwich making. Then duck.

 

# 4:     “Money is the root of all evil.”

Some of you may know the verse and realize we’re just parsing words here. The actual verse? 1 Timothy 6:10:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

So for all you college students, realize it’s not those $40 in your bank account that are evil. It’s that stupid tattoo you plan on using that money for that is evil.

 

# 3:     “This too shall pass…” 

This one would probably fool a lot of people. It even sounds like it would be in the Bible. But alas, it’s not. It comes from a saying passed down in Jewish folklore.

If you have more time than you know what to do with then read this.

 

# 2:     “The lion shall lay down with the lamb.”

It seems like with most of these we’re just arguing semantics but, again, we want God’s word, not our own. The verse in question is Isaiah 11:6:

 “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

I can see why the lion/lamb image stuck though. Would you rather have this:

or this?:

 This looks like a shirt you would buy in a gas station…only with a few more full moons.

# 1:     “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

This has to be in the Bible, you say. You’re close. Proverbs 17:28:

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

No one ever uses the Bible verse, though. They always use the former one, coined by none other than Mark Twain. Some people argue that Twain was using the Bible as his source when he said this but considering the following quote, I doubt it:

“We were good boys, good Presbyterian boys, and loyal and all that; anyway, we were good Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did wander a little from the fold.”