Jokes in the Sermon?

I was talking to a friend last night and shared a proposition with him that I plan to write on at a later date. Tonight though, it’s awfully late and I don’t really feel like deep philosophy and theology at the moment, so I shall stick with a basic look at a text. I was telling him my idea that I hadn’t really thought about much before, but I was seriously thinking about now. That is the idea that God is funny. I don’t mean that in a mocking sense. I mean that in a serious and honorable sense. God is that which brings delight by being who he is.

I told my friend that I believed the Bible contains jokes. I mean that in a positive way the same way a good speaker such as a preacher will often mix jokes in with his message. It keeps the audience in a good mood and aids for the retention of what is being said. You can hear a joke just once and remember it well.

This will also mean we have to alter our modern conception of Jesus. I’m not speaking about that which is found in the creeds. We dare not abandon orthodoxy. I’m speaking about the Jesus in the media. If there’s one thing I just can’t get into, it’s biblical movies. They are usually entirely dry and boring. (In fact, my favorite scene in Luther is when he talks about 18 of the 12 apostles being buried in Spain, the joke part!)

Do you really see Jesus like that? Do you see Jesus as this purely solemn guy who walked around and never cracked a smile? When you think about him speaking as you read the gospels, is he always speaking in a monotone? Is all he knows in the area of theology and the Scriptures? If so, I ask you to abandon that view for awhile.

I took my friend to Matthew 7 with the plank in the eye passage. I reread that passage last night. I’d like you to think of Jesus smiling as he delivers this sermon and think of him fluctuating his voice or winking playfully into the audience or using expressive gestures to show absurdities. Much of Jewish humor was by exaggeration. Keep that in mind.

Picture Jesus talking about that example first. He’s made his point about judging and then he expounds on it. Grant me some paraphrase here. It sounds like he’s saying “Just look! You want to go to your brother while he has a speck in his eye and you,” and I picture him here holding his hands out in front of his eye as far away as he can as if to hold the plank. “have this loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong plank coming out of your eye!” You can just imagine the audience laughing. “Get that plank out of your eye! Then you can help your brother!”

Then he tells us not to give dogs what is sacred or throw pearls to swine. It’s a “Duh!” moment. Surely the Lord had to say that with delight. You can read the passage an think “Well obviously, I wouldn’t do that.” That’s Jesus’s point. This is so obvious that you wouldn’t miss it, and yet you do it every day!

We are told then to ask and it will be given. Knock and the door will be opened. Seek and you will find. Let me state something else obvious here. How else will you be given something unless you ask for it? How else will you get the door opened unless you knock? How else will you find unless you seek? Jesus is still using humor.

He then speaks about if your son asks for bread will you give him a stone or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake. He basically says, “A good father won’t do that will he?” Of course not! Obviously! Yet this is still Jesus’s point. You don’t approach God the way you approach a father. These fathers here are evil even and they give good. Have a little trust in the Father. Don’t you think you’re being silly?

He later gives an example of false prophets. Really think about this description he’s giving. They come like sheep but they’re really wolves. What a play this is! One can just picture the image of a sheep being replaced by a wolf. How do you know the real ones? Grapes don’t grow from thorn bushes nor do figs grow from thistles do they? Obviously not! Again the point! Good trees produce good fruit! Bad trees produce bad fruit! The obvious is the humorous!

He closes by teaching the parable of the two houses built. Think about the humor there. Obviously a house built on sand won’t make it! The absurd example makes the point. One can picture Jesus imitating the wind blowing and gesturing to indicate that one house stands while the other tumbles down.

All of this in what is said to be the greatest sermon of all.

Yes my friends. Our God is a God of humor. I encourage you as you read the Bible, read it with new eyes. This isn’t meant to be a boring book. It’s an enjoyable one. It’s not all fun and games of course, but there is humor hidden therein. It’s just waiting to be found. Now how do you find again? Oh yes! I remember! Seek!

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