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…
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.
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 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.