Did Jesus have a sense of humor?
I know you don't read this column expecting any comments about theology. After all, I have the same background in theology you do: none. Nevertheless, even those of us without training have questions now and then. So when a question arises that the theologians haven't answered (maybe haven't even pondered), we ponder ourselves and speculate.
So here's the question: Did Jesus have a sense of humor? As far as I know, the Bible doesn't raise the question or suggest an answer, so let us begin with what we know and go from there. We do know that Jesus was a human being. One of his friends was a guy named Lazarus. Jesus was out of town for a few days and while he was gone, Lazarus died. When Jesus heard it, he did what friends do. He cried. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35: Jesus Wept.
Now let the speculation begin. I suggest that Jesus did have a sense of humor and I have three good reasons for my conclusion.
First of all, human beings laugh and they cry. Why would Jesus, who had it all, miss out on one of the great human gifts -- the gift of laughter and a sense of humor. His funny words have never been recorded, but you can bet there were plenty of them. After all, he worked with 12 roughnecks, his disciples, doing difficult, challenging work and if they didn't have some laughter they'd have been at one another's throats.
I have known some modern day disciples of Jesus and they use humor daily and very effectively among their tools and skills in feeding their flocks. Names like T.C. and Earl come to mind. Once Earl was in the nursing home visiting Bernice. He looked out the window and saw Charlie walking by. He shouted out a hello to Charlie and then told him he had just given Bernice her bath. Bernice and Charlie love the joke. Earl was just doing his ministry. Of course, Jesus had humor -- his disciples had it and they knew how to use it.
Secondly, Jesus was a healer. When the chemistry of human beings was designed (and after all, Jesus was co-chairman of the planning committee) the design included a chemical trigger: laughter produces serotonin, a brain altering chemical and interleukins which are immune-boosting chemicals. As a result, a laugh is a healing mechanism that reduces chronic stress, boosts the immune system by moving lymph (which has no separate pump) and oxygenates the organs by producing oxygen in big gulps (also good for stomach muscles). Laughter also protects your nervous system -- and your sanity. In other words, when you are laughing you're giving your health a shot in the arm -- healing.
Third, there has always been a tradition of Jewish comedians. Our funniest entertainers have been Jewish. We all remember names like Groucho Marx, Henny Youngman, Albert Brooks, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Milton Berle ("A doctor gave a man six months to live. He couldn't pay his bill, so the doctor gave him another six months."), Rodney Dangerfield, Sid Caesar ("The guy who invented the wheel was an idiot. The real genius was the guy who invented the other three.") and Jerry Seinfeld. Since we don't know much about Abraham or Moses, it is possible Jesus was the original.
You can imagine Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. When he got to Peter, just to give the guys a laugh for a good gulp of oxygen, he might have said, "Those are the ugliest feet on the face of the Earth -- and believe me, I know." Then Jesus, after miraculously making six stone jars of wine out of water, each one holding between 20 and 30 gallons (a total of 120-180 gallons) asked the host "or did you mean white wine?" But, as Jesus knew, sometimes laughter has nothing to do with humor. He knew we laugh when we're happy (examples: when we catch a fish, when our team hits a homerun, when we win at bingo), even though there is nothing funny. After a long day of getting skunked, he told the disciples to drop their fishing nets on the other side of the boat -- and behold, the nets were filled. Just imagine, all the hooting and hollering and laughter -- even though there was nothing funny. It is not humor, but it's healing.
So I rest my case. I believe Jesus had a sense of humor. Maybe the greatest one ever. Here ends the theology lesson for the day.