The funniest thing in the Bible

“And He told them a joke: ‘Two scribes went into a bar mitzvah…”

Okay. There’s nothing like that in the Bible.  And that is all good, believe me.

The Holy Scriptures are not about the humorous side of life and was not given to entertain us. It deals with issues grander, more urgent, deeper, more lasting.

But, since God is the Author of the human personality, and since He used humans to pen the Scriptures, we are not surprised to find humorous–if not outright funny–incidents and aspects to this great book.

Here are a few of my favorites….

1) I hear laughter in Jesus’ voice when He ate lunch that day in the home of Zaccheus. (Luke 19)

Suddenly, in between courses, the diminutive host, chief tax-collector Zaccheus stood, got everyone’s attention, and said, “Lord, I have an announcement to make.”

“Half my goods I am now giving away to the poor! And furthermore, anyone whom I have defrauded, I’m repaying them fourfold!”

I can hear the Lord laughing, “Today, salvation has come to this house!”

It was a joyful moment.

There’s excellent teaching value in this story…

When the Lord gets you, one of the first places to register the change is your bank account.

Want to see what a man’s priorities are in life?  Get his bank statement and see where his money is going, and you have all the answers you could ever require.

Does money get you into Heaven?  You and I are quick to put that little myth to bed, but history supplies plenty of examples of unscrupulous preachers who taught it and gullible people who bought it.

It’s a subtle thing. Let’s say you are raising funds for an orphanage.  The ongoing burden for financial support keeps you hopping in the day and sleepless at night. Then one day, an elderly couple informs you your institution will inherit their entire estate, a sizeable fortune.  You are thrilled and your boss, the director of the children’s home, is elated. You are commended for doing a great job. It’s all you can do not to attribute great Christlike traits to this couple for such a gesture.  Never mind that they’re not actually giving anything out of their pockets, since they will be dead when the bequest is made.  At a banquet in their honor, the executive director cannot praise them too highly for their great kindness and he cites scriptures about generosity.  The orphanage names a cottage in their honor.

The Lord knows the heart. He knew as no one else does that one can give without surrendering his life to God, but no one can surrender his life to the Lord without giving.

To this day, I believe, the Lord laughs with joy when someone gets this right and uses his fleeting riches to do something eternal. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

2) The devil has a sense of humor, although a wicked one.

In Acts 19, where Paul has been ministering in Ephesus, the Lord was performing amazing deeds, things not seen before or since. “Handkerchiefs and aprons were carried from his body to the sick.”  (Yes, I say this has not been done since, all the manipulative radio preachers notwithstanding.)  In the middle of a near-circus atmosphere of excitement, seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva decided they would pull “one of Paul’s tricks,” an exorcism such as they had seen him perform.

The young men gathered around the helpless victim and said, no doubt, in tones that would impress a Shakespearean actor:  “I command you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches to come out of this person!”  That ought to do it.

The demon refused to budge.

“Jesus I know,” it said. “And Paul I know. But who are you?” (19:15)

Ah, who indeed?

There’s teaching in this….

There is no power in derived or second-hand knowledge of Jesus.  His power is given only to those in a saving relationship with Him who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you….” (Acts 1:8).

The blessing of Heaven is not conferred on those who hear the Word, or those who love it, appreciate it, enjoy it, study it, memorize it, teach it, spread it, or dissect it. “If you know these things,” Jesus said, “blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17)”  The wise man who built his house on the rock was the one who “heard the word and did it” (Matthew 7:24).

Furthermore, there is no teaching in Scripture that Satan knows those who are his.  The saved, we are told, have a personal relationship with Jesus, who said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). In contrast, the devil does not know those who are his and cares nothing at all for them.

The devil sure knew who Paul was. Paul had given him nothing but trouble, and sat at the top of his most wanted list.  To be “known in hell,” as the saying goes, may be the highest compliment a believer can receive.

3) Many other things throughout the Old Testament…

–A lot of my friends think the funniest thing in Scripture is the donkey rebuking the prophet in Numbers 22.  What language did that animal speak?   My professor said it was either ASSyrian or He-BRAY-ic (Hebraic).

–When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, they mistakenly thought they had Israel’s God, and set Him up in their house of worship alongside their god Dagon, a half fish, half man.  The next morning, Dagon was lying on the floor, his posture indicating he is bowing before the Ark (“We’re not worthy!”).  An accident, no doubt, the Philistines thought, and picked up their deity and repositioned him on the shelf. The next morning, Dagon is back on the floor, and this time he’s broken in half.

The Philistines decided this Hebrew God was not safe to have around, particularly when their people began breaking out in hemorrhoids (the KJV calls them “emerods”). (I Samuel 5-6).  It’s a great story.

–And who doesn’t love Elijah’s mocking the priests of Baal who are having trouble getting fire to fall from heaven and consume their offering?  The man of God spares them no mercy, but taunts them, even to the point of suggesting that perhaps Baal is off in his toilet relieving himself. (See I Kings 18:27).

–Oh, and another favorite is Exodus 32:22-24, which reveals Aaron’s talent for improvisation.  Moses confronts his brother to ask why in his absence, Aaron has allowed the people to lapse into debauchery and idolatry. Aaron says, “You know what a headstrong bunch these people are. Well, sir, they came to me asking for a god like the ones they’d seen in Egypt. They gave me their gold, and Moses, you’re not going to believe this, but I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”  Oh yeah, Aaron.

–One of my friends loves the irony of Pharaoh’s answer in Exodus 8:9-10.  Suffering from the plague of the frogs, Egypt is desperate. Moses asks the king, “When would you like me to entreat the Lord to remove all these frogs from you and be destroyed?” Pharaoh says, “Tomorrow.”  What?!!

–Another friend likes the bathroom humor of I Samuel 24 where King Saul is searching the hills for David whom he has turned into an outlaw. “There was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself.” (Literally, the Hebrew expression is “to cover his feet,” a reference to what happens when a man who wears a dress–sorry, my own little humor there!–does when he does his business in the outdoors.)  Saul’s bodyguard would give him privacy for this act, which left him exposed. David was in the rear of the same cave, and he slipped up and cut off the border of Saul’s garment.  Just to show him he could, and to show him what he could have done, of course.

–The last one from the Old Testament. A friend suggests that he would loved to have seen Israel’s reaction when Joshua told the people the battle plan for taking Jericho.  “Wait a minute, Josh! We’re going to march around the city in silence. We’ll do that once a day for six days. And on the seventh day, we’ll march around it seven times and then blow our horns. Is that about it?”  What about weapons? What will we do then? (That’s Joshua 6)

–“And when they woke up, they were all dead.”  I forget at the moment where that famous line is located in the Old Testament, but it’s a keeper.

4) And there is humor in the New Testament….

–In Acts 12, Peter who had been miraculously released from prison in answer to the prayers of God’s people, knocks at the door of the house where his friends are praying. The servant girl opens the door, sees who it is, and is so shocked, she slams the door shut and runs inside to tell the prayer warriors, who scoff at the report. It’s a great story.

–One of my friends loves the irony of Matthew 8:23-34 where the townspeople seem to be telling Jesus, “Sorry, Lord, we can’t have you destroying our supply of bacon just to save one poor guy from demon possession!”

–Have you ever noticed the streaker in the gospels?  It’s Mark 14:51-52. A friend commented that he loves this, and finds it odd that Scripture included it.  Some scholars believe this is a cameo shot, that Mark has just put himself into the story, that this is what he did that night.

–When the Apostle Paul dragged his sermon out to midnight, one listener had trouble staying awake. A fellow named Eutychus had been sitting in the window, and as Paul droned on, he fell asleep. Before anyone knew what had happened, the poor guy had fallen three stories to the ground and by all appearances, was dead. Paul somehow (we’re not given the details) restores the boy to life, goes back upstairs and eats supper, then says, “Where was I?” and goes right on with the sermon “a long while.” (Acts 20:7-12)

5) Finally, I find a tiny bit of humor in what is NOT found in Scripture.

–The United States of America is not found in the Bible at all.

Now, I posted a note to that effect on Facebook one day a while back, and the prophecy nuts came out of the woodwork with torches and pitchforks.  We are so all-fired important, we think, how could Scripture possibly not have mentioned us?  The answer is given in Isaiah 40. “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded (by Him) as a speck of dust on the scales” (40:15).

I love that the USA is not found in Scripture. All those with an answer for everything prophetic and God’s timetable figured out go into contortions trying to squeeze out an explanation for this great omission. The answer is simple: “The God of the universe is impressed by no nation. We are a drop in a bucket to Him. A speck of dust.”

A wonderful remedy for our pride.

I keep remembering a certain televangelist saying, “The work we are doing worldwide is the greatest thing the Living God has going on this entire planet.”  At the time, I thought of the 5,000 Baptist missionaries who cover the globe bringing the message of Jesus, and all the other good and faithful men and women of other denominations, and wondered at such pride.  Not long afterwards, that evangelist was found to be engaging in immorality and the proud was brought low in a New York second.

What was it Erma Bombeck–or was it Phyllis Diller–said? “If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.”




5 thoughts on “The funniest thing in the Bible

  1. Humor? How about reading most of Ezekiel. I’m sure the Israelites thought HE was in his right mind swiping at his own facial hair in the wind with a sword. He was prophecying a serious message but… have you ever tried to put that image in your head?

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