A few weeks ago, one of my Merry Catholic essays discussed the time Jesus rebuked two of His disciples. James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven on some Samaritans, and Jesus was not pleased. I suggested that Jesus may have been even more angry than Luke described in his gospel. When I posted that essay on my blog (merrycatholic.com), I included a meme I found online that showed an image of Jesus from an old movie. In the still shot, Jesus appears to be shouting at someone, and there’s a fairly intense expression on His face. The caption reads: “You just wait till I tell my Dad about this!”
Obviously, that meme was supposed to be humorous. As you may have detected, at least once or twice a year, I attempt a little humor. As you also may have detected, the operative word here is “attempt.”
When I saw that “Wait till I tell my Dad” meme, my first thought was, “Oh, that’s funny. It’s perfect for this essay.” My second thought was, “And I bet someone will be offended by it.”
Sometimes there is a fine line between innocent fun and sacrelige. For example, when you do a search on the Google Image site for “Jesus angry meme,” besides the “Wait till I tell my Dad” image, there are many others that are plainly gross and blasphemous.
The key, in my mind, is to ask a variation of a popular expression. When I’m trying to decide if something has crossed the line from playfully funny to sarcastically offensive, I ask, “What would Jesus say?”
With many of the nasty images online, I know Jesus would shake his head sadly and say, “Wow, some people are just consumed with hate.” With those images, it’s clear the person who created it either hates Jesus, hates Jesus’ followers, or simply gets a kick out of shocking people. There’s no real attempt at humor, no real desire to share a pleasant laugh with another person.
When Jesus saw the “Wait till I tell my Dad” image, I’m pretty sure He smiled, rolled His eyes a bit, and said, “Yeah, that’s kind of cute. I like the way it uses a comment a child might say and applies it to me and my Father in Heaven.” When I decided to post that meme on my blog, my only goal was to share a laugh with others, along with sharing my love and devotion for the Lord.
I think when the topic is Jesus, a lot of people are afraid to laugh. That’s understandable. All the popular movies about the life of Christ usually depict the Lord solemning intoning “thee and thou” verses from the King James Bible. There might be a couple of brief smiles during the movie, but nothing resembling a laugh. And in parochial school decades ago, if you even suggested to the nuns that Jesus either cracked jokes or laughed at someone else’s jokes, you went home that day with throbbing knuckles.
But think about it: Jesus is fully God and fully man; that’s a core doctrine of our faith. When He walked the earth, He was like us in every way except sin. If He was a well-adjusted human being, then He certainly had a sense of humor. After all, God created us with a sense of humor for two important reasons, to help us joyfully bond with other people and as a mechanism to relieve stress.
Now, obviously, Jesus’ mission on earth was quite serious. I mean, paying the price for the sins of all mankind—and in a rather gruesome manner—is a pretty heavy task. However, there surely were plenty of joyful times during Jesus’ three years of ministry when He was relaxing with His disciples or greeting a bunch of boisterous children. I am convinced that plenty of laughter was present.
Whenever I attempt a little humor in these essays—with or without success—my goal is to share a joyful laugh with the readers. If it’s not very humorous, well, that’s no surprise. (If it is offensive, though, please let me know.) The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus has a sense of humor. And the more we laugh and enjoy the love and forgiveness of God, the more others will be attracted to the faith.
So, in conclusion, a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar … and the bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”