Easter Laughter

April 12, 2013

April Fool’s Day this year fell on the Monday after Easter. Perfect! I laughed to think that, on April Fool’s Monday, Orthodox Christians in Greece and elsewhere were gathering to tell jokes and enjoy God’s great victory in Jesus with humor. My colleague Tim Tsohantaridis reminds me that in Greece, at least, they celebrate every day of the week after Easter. In the same spirit, this past Sunday many American congregations observed “Holy Humor Sunday.” The Joyful Noiseletter, edited by Cal Samra, reports each year the creative variety of ways that Christians have found to use humor to delight in the story of Easter.

One early way of explaining how Jesus’ death and resurrection set things right uses a funny picture, one that uses trickery. Basically, God baits a great hook with Jesus and when Satan goes for the bait, God reels him in. (Not elegant, exactly, but the current favorite atonement theory isn’t either.) Also using humor, a modern song by Carmen, “Sunday’s on the Way,” depicts Satan after Jesus’ burial as panicky, worried that Jesus won’t stay in the tomb. So Satan keeps phoning Grave to make sure Jesus is still dead. Carmen’s audiences howl with joy and laughter when, on the third day, Grave desperately reports, “No! OH NO! OH NO…SOMEBODY’S MESSING WITH THE STONE!”

In preparing for Easter, I read the four Gospel accounts of the disciples’ experience that day. Their responses at first are what we might expect – surprised, stunned, dismayed, confused, heads swimming, full of wonder. But things change as seeing Jesus alive sinks in. For example, the King James Version of John 20:20 reports, “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” Glad. That’s pretty tame. “Hi, I’m glad to see you.” Contrast the reading in Peterson’s The Message: “the disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant.” Peterson’s reading is spot on. The Greek verb that is used here is a word for exultant rejoicing, for loud, festive joy. And this same word is used in two of the other Gospels. Again Peterson, “They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy.” (Luke 24:52) Similarly, in Matthew 28:8: “The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples.” Exuberant. Bursting with joy. Loud and festive.

Sometimes, when you get news that is too good to be true, you laugh and you cry, maybe staring in stunned silence or muttering, “No, this can’t be happening.” All at once. Jesus’ disciples on that first Easter day heard and saw the best too-good-to-be-true news ever. It puzzled them and dazzled them. They couldn’t believe it. But by the end of the day, I’ll bet they laughed out loud while tears ran down their cheeks.



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Living in Fun

"Walking Cheerfully" is place to think out loud about how to use and enjoy humor in positive, life-giving ways. We’ll explore how following Christ in all of life can shape, not scuttle, laughter and creative play. What might it mean to laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you?

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