Was Jesus the Jerry Seinfeld of his day?

Was Jesus the Jerry Seinfeld of his day?  Not really.  His ministry on earth—to announce the Kingdom of God—was more important than being a stand-up comic or poking fun at surly soup vendors.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On the other hand, the prevailing image of Jesus as the grumpy, dour, depressed prude who spent most of his life suffering is inaccurate.  When you look carefully at the Gospels, you find a man with an obvious joie de vivre, a preacher who told funny stories to make a point, a leader who gave his disciples nicknames and a former carpenter who enjoyed a good joke.


So why do we often think of Jesus as gloomy, and why do all those statues, paintings and mosaics portray him as downcast?  For one thing, it’s a reflection of the historical emphasis on the Passion and Death of Jesus.  For the early Christians, the fact that Jesus was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified was appalling and confusing.  So the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) took care to explain this period of Jesus’s life, at great length, to help the early Christians make sense of what transpired before the Resurrection.  But as a result, those passages tended to dominate the rest of the Gospels.

Think of it this way: the time from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion represent only about aweek in Jesus’s life.  Most of the rest of his ministry—which lasted from one to three years–was often spent doing joyful things: sharing meals with disciples, welcoming those on the margins of society, healing the sick and preaching the “Good News.”  Along the way, he showed some good humor.

Where?  Read the rest here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Robert Killoren
6 years 2 months ago
Great article, Fr Jim. I also caught your whole talk on humor and the Church that's posted on YouTube... brilliant. High Christology tends to downplay the human aspects of Jesus almost to their exclusion; and high Christology seems in vogue right now in many conservative quarters, which makes your foray into the Wall Street Journal almost missionary work. Keep up the good work - you're doing a heck of a lot of evangelizing with your outreach to the media... especially on Stephen Colbert's show on Comedy Central. 
david power
6 years 2 months ago
Fr Martin,

I don't know what tribe you run with but hardly anyone I know has such a miserable  vision of Jesus and I run with some grumpy gits.Did you just write it up as a straw man Jesus to cast greater light onto the obvious winning character of the Jesus you were then going to reveal? Apart from that it was a very nice article . Did the God of the Old Testament have any humour?Was he more of a Groucho Marx or a Larry David?Is the voice of  Jesus consistent with the God of the Old Testament?Too many questions for now.
Looking at the picture above I ask myself did Vikings have humour?   
ed gleason
6 years 2 months ago
David P. "Looking at the picture above I ask myself did Vikings have humour?'
Yes... Vikings  discovered humor after landing on the Irish coast.... among other things.    


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis and Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stand outside the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, Jan.19.(CNS photo//Mariana Bazo, Reuters)
“The degradation of the environment...cannot be separated from the moral degradation of our communities.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
The U.S. bishops had an unusually busy year issuing positive and negative statements about the new president, but some hoped for more decisive action against his policies.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 19, 2018
Transgender patients “need to know they are welcome and they will not be looked down upon” if they come to Catholic institutions seeking treatment, says Sister Carol Keehan.
Kevin ClarkeJanuary 19, 2018
Francis is the first pope to come to the Amazon region, and he insisted that his first event and major speech of his visit to Peru should be to this place.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 19, 2018