A light hearted question has been bouncing around the church for the last several weeks. Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Did He clown around and crack jokes with the disciples? This intriguing question is made more interesting by the absence of any direct Biblical statement on the subject. Care must be taken to avoid carelessness or irreverence in attempting to answer this question. However, from this seemingly silly question can be drawn some reasonable conclusions about the character of Jesus.
Laughter is not evil. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Provers 17:22) Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to laugh. In Luke 6 Jesus promises those who weep now will laugh in days to come. Jesus was fully human, but without sin. Laughter and humor are not sinful things. One can reasonably assume Jesus found humor in life.
Some important disclaimers must be made about what Jesus’ humor may have been like. Jesus never said anything that was trivial or pointless. Everyone will give an account of every idle word spoken. (Matthew 12:36) Jesus never said anything that was idle or would bring Him into disfavor with God. Jesus never found sin amusing. He did not joke about immorality or idolatry. He did not find amusement in any wickedness. (Ephesians 5:3-4) He did not make fun of others or find amusement at their expense. (Ephesians 4:31-32) Jesus’ humor was always a holy humor. (Hebrews 4:15)
Many of Jesus’ parables present situations which are ridiculous, ironic, absurd or unexpected. These shocking statements may have been humorous to some of his hearers. The statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” is a ridiculous statement. It’s absurdity is humorous- and pointed. The parable of the men who were invited to a feast but offered a bunch of lame excuses has an element of humor because of the ridiculousness of the situation. People that swallow camels whole but struggle to choke down gnats are a humorous example of great folly. The ludicrousness of lighting a candle and hiding it under a basket is evident and may have caused some of Jesus’ hearers to smile at its obvious absurdity.
Care must be taken to not confuse humorous situations or ridiculous comparisons with comic joviality. Jesus was not a humorist. His teachings and works were earnest and serious. Nor should we read anything as if Jesus said something merely to be funny. Every parable and contrast taught eternally important truths.
Despite all that has been said about the possibility of Jesus having a sense of humor, the Bible never describes Jesus as laughing, telling a joke, or pulling a prank. A person can safely assume Jesus had a sense of humor but the Bible is completely silent about it. We have the definite statement, “Jesus wept,” but nothing comes close to stating, “Jesus laughed.” Why the silence on Jesus’ humor? The Bible doesn’t tell us that either. The best answer seems to be found in the statement that Jesus was “A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” A jesting Jesus has little place in the New Testament record of His tragically serious work to redeem men through His death on the cross.