Was Jesus funny?

Matthew 19:24 – “…Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Have you ever thought about Jesus as being a funny guy? Maybe or maybe not, but the Bible says Jesus was both fully God and fully human and, to be fully human, He would’ve had to have a sense of humor. 

There are 17,000 books about Jesus in the Library of Congress and, from what I can find, there’s only one about His sense of humor called The Humor of Christ by Elton Trueblood. One part says “Christ laughed, and he expected others to laugh. A misguided piety has made us fear that acceptance of his obvious wit and humor would somehow be mildly blasphemous or sacrilegious.” (1) The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says, “If there’s a single person within the pages of the Bible that we can consider to be a humorist, it is without a doubt Jesus.” (2)

Here are a few instances throughout Scripture where you can see Jesus’ humor in His actions and teachings. 

  1. In Matthew 16, Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you think I am?” and Peter says, “I think that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” So, Jesus says He’s going to name Peter the Rock. Now, the Catholic Church didn’t get the joke, so we ended up with a papacy instead of a good laugh. They thought the point was that Peter was the rock on which the Church’s foundation is built. But then a few verses later, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan”. Right, so, you know the foundation of the church is Satan? No. A little later, Peter totally denies Jesus and says he’s never met Him. Peter isn’t a rock, he’s an itty bitty pebble that Jesus is kind of making fun of. It’s like walking up to a really skinny little computer programmer guy and going “What’s up, tough guy?” It’s kind of funny. Peter isn’t a rock, he’s very unstable. 
  • There’s an occasion where Jesus says before we judge someone, we should first take the plank out of our own eye before trying to get the speck of dust out of their eye. You’re supposed to deal with your own thing before you deal with their thing. It’s an issue of sin and hypocrisy. If I had sawdust in my eye and there’s another guy with a toothpick in his eye and he’s saying “Dude, seriously, you gotta deal with that, it’s embarrassing, you’re a bad witness. People are talking about it and you’re totally oblivious to the fact that you have this obvious issue you need to deal with.” It’s kind of funny.
  • Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”. There was a place on the wall in Jerusalem with an itty bitty door that they called the eye of a needle. Think about a camel getting down on his hindquarters and shimmying through like he’s a marine in bootcamp. Have you ever seen a camel shimmy? They can’t do it. It won’t work. It’s a joke, it’s funny. So, Jesus is saying it’s more likely for that camel to shimmy through this tiny little hole than for a rich man to enter Heaven. 
  • Jesus’ favorite target was religious people, and He tells them that they’re a bag of snakes and that their mom slept with the devil. You might think tithing isn’t funny, but it can be. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law…” He’s saying, “You guys are tithing out of your spice racks.” These religious people are so serious. They’re like “Ok, nine peppercorns for me, one for the Lord. Nine mint leaves, one for the Lord. Here’s a 10th of my cinnamon, it’s all yours, I love you.” He’s saying you guys are no fun, you’re not nice to people, you’re not very pleasant, you’re being ridiculous.

One of the religious people’s biggest criticisms of Jesus was that He hung out with sinners and all kinds of crazy people, but did you ever stop to consider that maybe everyone loved spending time with him because He was really fun to hang out with? Sometimes we become so familiar with Bible stories or context is so situational that Jesus’ humor goes right over our head, but there’s no doubt that Jesus had a sense of humor.

Where are other instances you see that Jesus used humor in His teachings? 

  • Elton Trueblood. The Humor of Christ, 1964, Harper & Row, San Francisco.
  • Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin, Duriez, Douglas Penney, Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.  

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