Not Funny, Jesus

“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” – Charlie Chaplin

Webster’s Dictionary defines “laugh” as:

intransitive verb

1a :  to show emotion (as mirth, joy, or scorn) with a chuckle or explosive vocal sound

b :  to find amusement or pleasure in something <laughed at his own clumsiness>

c :  to become amused or derisive <a very skeptical public laughed at our early efforts — Graenum Berger>

2a :  to produce the sound or appearance of laughter <a laughing brook>

b :  to be of a kind that inspires joy

Preston Harold observes…

Out of man’s struggle to describe life’s good and evil has come this reward, this divinely human attribute: laughter, which Meister Eckhart projected to be the impetus that brought man into being: “When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten.” There is no deeper mystery than laughter. Is it lust innocently expressed? Is it passion so sublimely warm that tears must cool it, do cool it? In the view of this study, laughter is an expression of empathy. Laughter comes as saving grace in a host of situations.

Yet if laughter is a saving grace to us, why don’t the Gospels ever record a situation in which Jesus laughed? Sure, many people (including myself) can’t imagine Jesus not laughing and enjoying life to the full. Many artists have even depicted a “laughing Jesus.” We know Jesus wept, but we do not have an account of Jesus even smiling, much less laughing. Why is this?


Jesus did not laugh – did not smile so far as the record is concerned. The Gospel of St. John states that Jesus knew “what was in man.” Thus, he would have known what prompts laughter and the mystery of why He did not laugh is resolved… Jesus could not laugh; He could not risk that a fragment of the profound paradoxes He posed would be taken in jest.

So any laughing that Jesus did was “off the record.” But although Jesus didn’t officially laugh, he did offer up…

…that which has come to be identified with humor: salt. He said, “Salt is good…” and “Let there be salt between you…” Jesus calls God love and good; He calls salt good; it must follow that aggression gentled through humor constitutes an essential ingredient of love, and that hostility will in time lose itself in laughter…Jesus said, “every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” These words give promise that man shall become immune to that which corrupts and that humor is playing a redeeming role in life.


Salt is also a preservative. I like to think that our laughter is what preserves our divine humanity. Until next time, peace…

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