According to the Gospels, Jesus was aware of the horrible way his life would end on earth. This might have put a pall on his thirty-three years. He could have spent each day dreading his future. Maybe that is why there is no record of Jesus laughing or even smiling. But when you think about it, Jesus had wonderful experiences that he wouldn’t have had being God alone. He knew the tender love of a mother and the care of a hardworking father. As a lad, he had the joy of racing the other boys in Nazareth and wrestling with them. He had the opportunity to share meals with others and to experience the fellowship of good friends. Because he had five senses, he felt the wind blowing through his hair and the warm sun on his back. He smelled his mother’s freshly baked bread and tasted it. He had the satisfaction of creating things out of wood, singing psalms, and teaching others face to face.
Living in the world, Jesus knew the beauty of creation up close and personal. The Sea of Galilee he beheld, sailed on, and walked over was called the most beautiful sea in the world. He walked over the green hills of Israel and through its fields of golden wheat. I think Jesus was happy being one of us. In fact, Proverbs 8:31 says of Wisdom, “I played over the world and had delight in the children of men.” That is true for Jesus.
As a true human being, Jesus surely had a sense of humor. I was going to write about this, but realized that in my book The Catholic Companion to Jesus I already did. Here is an excerpt:
“How could he [Jesus] not help but smile at seeing the height-challenged dignitary, Zacchaeus, perched in a tree, peering through the leaves to get a glimpse of him? It’s also easy to imagine that Jesus laughed heartily at the looks on the faces of the seasoned fishermen when at a “carpenter’s son’s” direction they lowered their nets and pulled them up loaded with fish, or when Peter tried to walk on the water but began to sink like a stone.
“No doubt some of Jesus’ illustrations in teaching were delivered with a grin and made people laugh. For example, there is his depiction of a camel trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle as the image of a rich person entering the kingdom of God. Then there is the image he used of the overly zealous Pharisees straining out gnats from their food but then swallowing camels. Even a few miracles have an element of fun, such as Peter finding tax money in a fish or devils being sent into pigs [symbols of the Roman oppressors] and running off a cliff. Also it’s a playful person who gives his friends nicknames. Jesus dubbed James and John “the Sons of Thunder” and Simon “the Rock.” Perhaps the ability to play is what Jesus meant when he said that “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3).”
I imagine that Jesus chuckles today when he sees us doing dumb things, being caught in funny situations, or surprised by unexpected happy turns of events.
When else do you detect his sense of humor in the Gospel stories?