Did Jesus Ever Laugh?

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That is a question I have had come up in Bible study several times, and it is always fascinating to hear the debate around the table. At first glance it seems like such a trite question. What does it matter? How does the laughter of Christ have any bearing on my faith, on my service, or on my understanding of God’s Word? It is the kind of question which one would expect in a Sunday school or confirmation class, which as a mature adult Christian we are inclined to think of as childish.

But that could not be further from the truth. As with many questions posed to clergy by children there is a depth there that should not be ignored. It is a question that cuts to the very heart of our understanding of Christ and can inform much of our theology, if we take the time to consider it seriously.

I have heard arguments on both sides. Many reject the concept of a laughing Christ, feeling that it somehow diminishes the holiness and authority of Jesus as the Son of God. For those who love the sombre setting of a muted worship, the sudden giggle of a child which echoes about the hallowed halls may be a disruption of their tranquility. How much worse then if we imagine the laughter coming from the one on the cross?

If such describes you, then so be it. Faith takes on many forms and fashions, and you find comfort in it then I will not judge. But I do not agree.

I believe in a Christ that laughs. Is it not essential to our Christian faith that we understand Jesus to be both full divine and fully human? But if we deny his laughter, how can we understand him to have this second quality? Laughter is part of what it is to be human. We smile, we joke, we find humour in so many things. If we did not, much of life would become unbearable. I have never once met a person for whom laughter is completely absent. There is always something which will twinge our funny bone, sometimes even in the worst of circumstances. We laugh in the midst of joy, in the midst of sadness, and even in the midst of anger.

Our Gospels tell us that Jesus wept, and that he felt anger and despair. If we look at Christ’s humanity only through these three things, then have we not made him a “foul-weather friend”? One that we cling to in difficult times, but we fail to laugh with in the good times. When joy wells up in us at times of celebration, do we imagine the presence of Christ standing seriously off to the side and not participating in our happiness?

Even in the midst of our most solemn seasons, we must acknowledge our human capacity and need for joy and laughter. The forth Sunday of Lent, and the third of Advent are dedicated to the gladness we should feel in Jesus. Our delight is a gift from God. Can we truly imagine that this gift was denied to his own Son?

In all the difficulties we have experienced over this past year: all the isolation, the sickness, the struggles shared throughout this world, I have been grateful for the presence of a Saviour who understands the suffering, and who helps us in our burdens. But I am also grateful for every moment of laughter, every second of elation, and every smile I’ve seen or worn. And I firmly believe that in each of those precious seconds my Lord was with us, sharing in the laughs and delighting in the joy.

Let Jesus laugh with you. Amen.

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