The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, which only reads, “Jesus wept.” However, did Jesus ever laugh? Did he have a sense of humor?
If you read Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose,” you know that a monk’s loathing of humor or laughter is a significant plot element. The Scriptures record Jesus as a man who wept, but they never show him as a man who laughed. Or do they?
Making the Case for a Divine Sense of Humor
Ecclesiastes 3: 4 says that there is a time for weeping and one for laughing. Since we know that Jesus was fully human but also fully divine, it makes sense that he would cry and laugh as other people do. But it is his compassion and depth of care that we see mentioned time and again in the Bible. Could the absence of verses indicating his laughter have something to do with the idea that laughter is a lot easier than compassion, and thus it is the latter that needs to be stressed more?
To be Clear
No scripture records Jesus as laughing. Nevertheless, there is a verse that talks about Jesus interacting with children (Matthew 19:13-15). If he were a dour person with no smile on his face, it is unlikely that the kids would have wanted to come near him. Moreover, people were moved to follow him and interact with him (Luke 11:26-27). Without a sense of humor and a winning smile, it is unlikely that his ministry would have succeeded.
Wit and Repartee
Reading through some of the exchanges between Jesus and others, it would be fair to say that Jesus’ sense of humor appears to have been one of sharp wit and repartee. Although some scholars suggest that Christ used sarcasm, I disagree with the analysis based on the classical definition of the term.
Consider Jesus’ meeting with Nathanael (John 1:46-48). Suggesting that the Messiah could not possibly come from some backwoods place like Nazareth, Christ retorts later that Nathanael was an Israelite without deceit. Israel refers to the patriarch whose given name was Jacob, which, when translated, alluded to the unflattering quality of slyness bordering on deceitfulness. Witty, isn’t it?