I had something of an epiphany (little ‘e’) a while back. I had been struggling with certain passages in the New Testament in which Jesus says things that seem totally bizarre or incongruous. Then, it finally hit me: duh! He was JOKING! Everything fell into place. How come nobody ever let me in on this? Perhaps we are all so familiar with these passages that we fail to see the humor but it’s inescapable once you finally realize it. I like Jesus better every day.
Try reading Matthew 15:24-28 where Jesus essentially calls a foreign woman a “dog” and imagine Jesus with a sort of teasing smirk. Now THAT’S the same guy who told the parable of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus was obviously being sarcastic when he called on the scribes and pharisees to kill their children (Matthew 15:1-9). Another possible example of Jesus’ humor is on the cross when He cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I don’t believe for one instant Jesus ever thought that God had truly forsaken him. He *was* God, after all. Instead, he was making a rather obvious reference to the prophetic Psalm 22 in something of a “Hey dimwits, check this out” sort of way. Even on the cross, his humor remained intact. And let’s not forget Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. This really only makes sense in an ironic sort of way. Jesus himself would not actually be ascending to “paradise” for another 43 days.
Some more obvious examples are “Camel through the eye of a needle” (Matthew 19:24), “Straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel” (Matthew 23:24) and “Picking at a splinter in your neighbor’s eye with a log in your own” (Matthew 7:3-5). Imagine hearing that for the first time ever. You couldn’t help blowing wine out your nose! Assuming Jesus was the originator of these sayings, he *had* to anticipate the comedic effect he would have on common folk. I think the first person to say “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” got a few loud guffaws, don’t you? Once phrases like that get into common usage, they tend to lose all humor, but just imagine the general reaction the first time they were ever uttered. I think that such hyperbolic phrases actually catch on at first because they are so ridiculously funny. But after a while, they simply become figures of speech.
There are a few more things that don’t make a lot of sense to me unless I take it as Jesus joking around:
Appearing as gardener to Mary (John 20:11-18) and hiding his identity on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). I picture him at the table saying, in effect, “SURPRISE!” Poof! And then he’s gone. And let’s not forget that “Do you love me?” shtick which really only makes sense in Greek (agapas vs. phileis). (John 21:15-17) I suppose the humor may have been lost in translation.
I believe humor was created by God. Sure, the devil can use it for his purposes such as mean and degrading jokes. But for the most part, humor “lifts your spirits”. How can that not be from God? It only makes sense that Jesus would have ‘inherited’ that sense of humor as well. Also considering the best public speakers usually intersperse their message with humor, I can’t help but believe that Jesus did so as well.
Once last comment before I let this post rest: The part where Jesus told Peter “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23) right after giving him the responsibility of the church can either be taken as a mercurial temper or the ancient equivalent of “Get outta here!” as friends often tell each other. I prefer believing the latter.
'I didn't exist at Creation,
I didn't exist at the Flood,
And I won't be around for Salvation
To sort out the sheep from the cud-
'Or whatever the phrase is. The fact is
In soteriological terms
I'm a crude existential malpractice
And you are a diet of worms