Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
There are plenty of reasons to laugh at Stephen Colbert.
I typically get most of my news from either him or Jon Stewart.
My thinking on this is that they actually do report the news…the difference is they make it palatable by using humor. They add a bit of sugar to the medicine, so to speak.
They also represent the common person. You can basically predict what will happen when a lawyer guest walks in, looking a bit like a Brooks Bros. model in their too-expensive suit.
They ride in on their high horse, seemingly unaware that they are going to be leaving on their hands and knees.
They come in riding the coattails of their supposedly earned respect, and leave refusing to join the fun being had at their expense.
Serious situations cast a very real burden onto our shoulders. And the life of the believer is going to hold plenty of serious situations.
But although the Bible never directly points towards the humor of Jesus, it certainly doesn’t cast Him as too serious either.
Spend any amount of time watching most movies about Jesus, and you come away feeling as if He had two facial expressions: sadness and concentrated thought. He either looks like He is about to weep or like He is so deep in thought the disciples would never think to disturb Him.
Mark Driscoll once noted that among the 17,000 books on Jesus in the Library of Congress, he could only find one directly speaking towards the humor of Jesus.
In the words of the Joker, “Why so serious?”
If we step back from our preconceptions for a moment, we can realize that Jesus did not come in utter seriousness…He came to bring us a more abundant life, and to help alleviate the more serious parts of our journey…sometimes with humor.
A surface-level example can be found in Matthew 23:24:
“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
Speaking to the Pharisees about their hypocrisy, he likens their actions to people eating soup, trying to strain out a gnat but swallowing a camel in the process.
Now there may be some disagreement on this method, but if you look at the Aramaic, it can be argued that Jesus is using a…
…wait for it…
In Aramaic, the word for gnat is “galma” and the word for camel is “gamla”! We serve a witty God.
But overall, I think that Jesus used His humor in much the same way as Stephen Colbert.
He presented what was happening, but often used humor to soften His listeners’ seriousness. Like in Mark 7, when Jesus exorcises a demon from a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter:
“The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (v. 26-30)
Jesus’ initial response could be seen as harsh, if we read it as Him responding seriously. He had only been healing Jews up until this point, after all. Was He really calling Syrophoenicians “dogs”? But if we read it as if our Lord was smiling as He said it, utilizing irony to playfully show the woman that He cared for her just as much as the Jews, then her response that ““even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” can be seen as her playfully jabbing right back. She got His humor.
And, ultimately, Jesus can be compared to Stephen Colbert in that every time we see someone that gives off an air of respect, wearing fancy clothes, spouting off their merits…
…well they too typically leave refusing to join the fun being had at their expense. But to those willing to hear it, Jesus has made a very clear point.
The rich man unwilling to give up his possessions and follow God was unwilling to listen to what Jesus had to say. He saw his earthly things as far too serious to even consider giving them up. What does Jesus do?
He simultaneously lightens the mood and offers a huge truth:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.” (Matthew 19:23-24)
You can almost hear Him smiling when you read this.
Ultimately, we should be careful in seeing Jesus as humorous, simply because our humor has become so tainted by sin.
But just as He perfectly represents all other traits, He perfectly demonstrates how gentle humor and having fun are part of who we are in God’s image.
In faith, hope and love, we can joke with each other in bad times because we know that our ultimate destiny is finally good.