Did Jesus laugh?


Laughing Baby

I recently listened to a program on Christian talk radio debating whether or not Jesus ever laughed. After all, doesn’t the book of Isaiah tell us that Jesus was a “Man of Sorrows?” Does that imply that He was serious all the time he walked on the Earth?

Many non-believers view Christians as a solemn, dull bunch of people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I grew up a Southern Baptist. A big part of Baptist culture, especially in the south where I lived, centers on shared meals—not just eating but reveling in the joy of sharing a big meal with a group of fellow believers. These gatherings tend to be loud, happy events full of smiles and laughter.

When I was growing up, Sunday afternoons after church frequently consisted of friends and family gathering at my grandparent’s house. Most of the ladies teamed up to prepare a grand southern feast while the rest of the folk conversed, shared family news and stories, discussed the weather and politics, told jokes and simply enjoyed being together. Of course there were many smiling faces and much laughter. It was a noisy, joyful place to be as a young child.

If we accept the Biblical accounts of Jesus life as a fully human child, we must at a minimum concede that He smiled, even though the Bible never mentions it. Following His conception Jesus grew in Mary’s womb, as any baby grows and He was born in a normal fashion. Anyone who has cared for a baby knows that babies smile. High resolution sonograms have shown that some even smile while in the womb.

We also know that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). The shortest passage in the Bible is an account of Jesus becoming overwhelmed by emotion while standing before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who had recently died.

Jesus also displayed anger. John 2:13-17, describes Him becoming outraged at the moneychangers and those selling animals in the courtyard of the temple. John describes how Jesus improvised a whip and went on a rampage, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and chasing away those selling the animals.

How could anyone with such normal human traits not laugh? Just look at some of those who Jesus chose as his first disciples. They included a bunch of roughneck fishermen, a conniving tax collector, a hot-headed Zealot and a manipulative liar—a motley crew if ever there was one! It must have made Jesus chuckle when he considered what the Jewish leaders must have thought about this unlikely team.

How He must have laughed when hearing some of his disciples debating which one would hold the most honored position in heaven. I can just see our Lord turning to them and saying, “Are you kidding me? I can’t believe how dense you guys are. Please start paying better attention.”

To put things in a modern perspective, imagine that Jesus had come today instead of two thousand years ago. If he had appeared in the area where I live near Pittsburgh, Pa., I imagine he would have chosen a few mill workers to be on his team of disciples. I can almost see Him walking into a neighborhood taproom, going up to the bar, and speaking to a couple of local fellows sitting there enjoying a few bottles of Iron City beer.  Follow me!

Unlikely disciples perhaps, but not so different from some of those he chose two millennia ago. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I pray that Jesus can find a little humor in the way I live today. I hope I can make him laugh now and then.

Click the link to listen to Thomas Rhett’s “Beer with Jesus.”

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