"Did Jesus have a sense of humor?" The question sent me searching for examples that should have come to mind easily. Like most Christians, I typically study the Bible with a solemn mindset, earnest in my quest for the knowledge of God. Of course, I often read a passage that lightens the darkness of this world and makes me smile. I sometimes chuckle in prayer, mostly over my own clumsiness in praying as I ought. But this question led me to search for a proper answer.
I knew right away the answer had to be yes, of course, He did. He does. The first few verses of the book of John teach us that Jesus created all things.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
Jesus created the world. The weird and wonderful oddities. The funny things. He created the smile and the laugh. We’re made in God’s image. In that representation is joy, and a sense of humor. Because of the Fall, humor was sullied just like all good things made by God. Not all that we find funny is funny to God.
But some of the sayings of Jesus, which we might take as stern, or don’t understand in full, were funny to the people who heard the Creator speak with audible words. Think about a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Consider removing a log from your own eye. These teachings exhort us, but to the people in the Jesus’ circle of listeners, they must have brought a laugh. Then there was the nickname Jesus gave to the brothers, James and John. He called them “sons of thunder.” The name could also mean “sons of commotion.” The two may have been a bit overenthusiastic. So Jesus put sarcasm to use.
Other examples in the gospels indicate Jesus was not opposed to a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. He heard the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He answered, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Well, maybe we don’t quite get the humor in this, but the Jews there that day understood the sarcastic response. And when the Gentile woman interrupted dinner and asked Jesus to cast a demon from her daughter, He told her it wasn’t right to take food from the children and give it to the dogs.
Was He toying with her, teaching her something? The Israelites called the Gentiles dogs, but Jesus came for the Gentiles, too. He knew the woman would offer a quick comeback. And she did. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs under the table.” Jesus told her to go home—the demon had been cast out. The whole scene seems insulting to the woman, perhaps disrespectful. But the woman understood Jesus’ sense of humor. And the people around the dinner table probably got it too.
That inborn humor is part of the human experience, and Jesus shared our experience. He lived a man’s life, only without sin. His humor never turned ugly. In the modern world, humor certainly has taken a turn. But as Christians, we can follow our Lord’s example and appreciate the humorous moments. We can laugh because He laughed.