A pastor once told David that humor within a sermon makes the serious more serious. In other words it creates the emotional highs and lows that helps us remember the point of the sermon as well as create receptiveness that inspires change or endurance in doing well.
I have wondered as others have whether Jesus had a sense of humor and said funny things. (Googling ‘Did Jesus have a sense of humor?’ yielded 10.6 million hits.) As it turns out, many scholars think so. Jesus’ use of hyperbole to make a point, the colorful descriptions in his parables, and the fact that he liked hanging out with “sketchy” people at dinner parties probably spoke to a winsome and intelligent humor as well as an appreciation for the delightful in some folks, especially the little ones. And, we all know that Jesus would have laughed at the crazy viral YouTube, titled, “Charlie bit me.” YouTube link here if you are one of the only three English speaking people in the world who have not seen this. (Dave’s note: Actually there is an Indian and Arabic remix.)
As an aside, my time over the last decade with Palestinian Bible Society staff in the West Bank and Gaza has taught me to expect a lot of laughing, hilarity, antics and teasing (without the booze) when they get together socially; in spite of being a group that has endured much hardship and tragedy.
My personal favorite “funny” from Jesus
About two thirds through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he uses a ridiculous image to drive home his point about hyper criticalness. David was reading Matthew 5-7 out loud to me the other day. I laughed out-loud when David read Jesus’ famous ” get the log out of your own eye before trying to get the speck out of your brother’s eye” within the Sermon (Matthew 7:1-5). Scholars of Biblical studies and culture think I responded like Jesus’ Galilean listeners and it would have been by design. Think about it for a minute. Jesus just told people to stop hating, lusting, divorcing, swearing and revenging. He tells his audience that they not only have to love their neighbor but also their enemy and do it with their actions. And He tells them that they should give to the needy but not let anyone know about it, quit acting so religious, quit storing up wealth on earth, quit worrying and replace worrying with trust – all things we need to hear but when you pile them up all together they can seem a little overwhelming. Just when people were probably finding themselves emotionally and mentally flooded (a psych term) Jesus injected humor. I like to think that Jesus thought something to the effect of, “hmm, let me break this up with a witty image that will last centuries and prepare these folks to hear even more challenges before I finish off ‘The Sermon’ that will inaugurate a new understanding of God’s ethical standard of living within the Kingdom of God. I know they will laugh but it will only enhance the point that I have little patience with hypocritical judgmental-ism..
Jesus was no stand-up comic but he used humor to drive home some tough sobering points that had barbs.
Some interesting facts about laughing from the Mayo Clinic.
In the short term:
Laughter doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body:
- Stimulates many organs.Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activates and relieves your stress response.A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothes tension.Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
In the long term
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long haul. Laughter may:
- Improve your immune system.Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain.Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
- Increase personal satisfaction.Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood.Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.
Laugh a lot. Look for things to laugh about. Be appropriate and sweet about it so watch out for superior sarcasm and passive aggressive teasing. Laughing with others increases our affection and emotional connection with them. Above all, take yourself less seriously while taking God, very seriously – then you will be emotionally and spiritually ready to read the Sermon on the Mount. It’s no light read but then again we can handle it if we” first get the log out of our own eye.”