Jesus the jokester

[Jesus] speaks in parables, and though we have approached these parables reverentially all these many years and have heard them expounded as grave and reverent vehicles of holy truth, I suspect that many if not all of them were originally not grave at all but were antic, comic, often more than just a little shocking.  I suspect that Jesus spoke many of his parables as a kind of sad and holy joke and that may be part of why he seemed reluctant to explain them because if you have to explain a joke, you might as well save your breath.  (Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy & Fairy Tale, p. 63)

If that’s too unsettling for some of you, as I imagine it might be, he carries on:

I don’t mean the kind of godly jest the preacher starts his sermon with to warm people up and show them that despite his Geneva tabs or cassock he can laugh with the rest of them and is as human as everybody else.  I mean the kind of joke Jesus told when he said it is harder for a richer person to enter Paradise than for Nelson Rockefeller to get through the night deposit slot of the First National City Bank.  And then added that thought for man it is impossible, for God all things are possible because God is the master of the impossible, and he is a master of the impossible because in terms of what man thinks is possible he is in the end a wild and impossible god.  It seems to me that more often than not, the parables can be read as high and holy jokes about God and about man and about the Gospel itself as the highest and holiest joke of them all.  (Ibid.)

9 thoughts on “Jesus the jokester

  1. Marc

    Isn’t he, though? I think I’d read him just for the way he writes, even if his content was crappy (but thankfully it’s not).

  2. Anonymous

    Yeah, you will be upsetting some of us by your comments – accept the Scriptures for what they are, Mark, not for what Mark says they are.Jean

  3. Marc

    Hi Jean,

    Are you commenting on this post (which is quoting Frederick Buechner, not my own words) or on a discussion on another post? I’m just not sure what you are referring to.

    If it’s a discussion elsewhere on this blog or on another blog, it’s probably best if you leave a comment there. If it’s a personal issue, then maybe email me by clicking here and just change the DOT to a dot and the AT to an @.

  4. Linea

    It is challenging to realize that Jesus was a real human – even told jokes and stories that probably had a twist to them. We spiritualize everything and try to forget that we were created to laugh and play with words and tell stories and enjoy the life we are given.

    I haven’t read any Buechner but he is on my to read someday list.

  5. Marc

    Linea: Buechner is excellent in terms of reading. My first was The Alphabet of Grace and it’s probably still my favourite. I have several of his books, which you are free to borrow any time.

  6. Anonymous

    Marc: I’m referring to the blog you just mentioned, however, upon reading it again , I realize that it wasn’t your writing.. My apologies.I don’t too often read your blogs as I don’t think we think too much alike regarding spiritual things. Again, I apologize. Jean

  7. Dean

    Hey Jean, I don’t think Buechner, or even Marc for that matter, are suggesting that we read the scriptures differently at all. I think he/they are suggesting we put a little more thought into the context in which the parables were spoken, and how they might have been perceived back in the day. Which, if you ask me, is closer to an ACTUAL literal reading of the scriptures than just taking our English equivalent and applying it verbatim.

    Just a couple of cents worth of thought.

  8. Ang

    Dean, I couldn’t agree with you more about your comment. We need to interpret scriptures by using the context and the culture to which they were written instead of putting them into our context and culture…we miss so much of the actual meaning if we use “our world”.

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