I remember the first time I ever saw a painting of Jesus laughing. Not smiling; laughing. I grew up with a pretty stern Jesus. Most of the early artists who painted his portrait apparently did, too. Not angry but often sad. With good reason – He had the weight of the world’s sins on His shoulders. He knew pain. He saw when those He loved were in pain; He saw people who should have known better inflicting pain on others. It’s not easy to laugh in the presence of pain.
And I know the Bible says, “Jesus wept,” though nowhere does it say “Jesus laughed.” Let me tell you what makes me believe He did.
First, the kids climbed all over Him. He held them in His arms. He patted them on the head. Kids clamor to laughter. I sense He laughed at their antics and they were drawn to His chuckles. Every grandparent knows – kids love laughter.
Second, Jesus told funny stories. I mean, “Strain a gnat out of your water and then swallow a camel…” Who in the crowd could keep a straight face, and I’m pretty certain when they laughed, He laughed.
Third, He was healthy. Laughter is healthy. Show me a person who doesn’t laugh and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t get it. Look in the face of a camel and tell me there is nothing to laugh about. Let me play you a brief video off my phone of our youngest great grandbaby giggling and tell me there is nothing to laugh about. Watch a pen full of baby goats with their straight-legged bounce and tell me there is nothing to laugh about.
Some form of the word joy or rejoice is used nearly 400 times in the Bible record. In fact, it is used more often than any other emotionally descriptive word. It is also interesting to note that the word is almost never used in secular writings of that period. It’s almost like you didn’t really know about joy until you stepped into God’s story.
Just watch: Everywhere He went there was joy. He specialized in resurrections, rebirths, and reunions. That’s the stuff of joyous laughter. Joy in His presence is a theme, in both the Old Testament and the New. To the early church Peter passes on a promise from the time of King David: “…you will fill me with joy in Your presence.”
So how about your church? I hunch it’s a place of irrepressible joy. Most vibrant place in the city. I mean I’d guess those who worship there come away with a multi-layered, rehabilitating joy that grows out of a deep new look into His face and a welcome into His warm hug. You and Jesus, wrapped in laughter. Gotta love that picture.
By Don Jacobsen