Laughter. This topic started stirring in my spirit about a month ago when I began incorporating The Jesus Storybook Bible into my morning still time, hoping to embrace a child’s simple way of seeing and being. I want to grow in the perspective and positioning that Jesus encourages throughout the Gospels – “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3)
The Storybook Bible, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago, is a colorful children’s version that has pierced my heart with the unique way it unites each Old and New Testament story into the overarching narrative of God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” Step by step, its pages walk kids and adults alike through God’s ancient “Rescue Plan” that continues to unfold each day. This book is a treasure.
During my first read, I was struck by the way God’s laughter is woven throughout the chapters. Wait, wait, wait. Jesus is lighthearted? I mean, I always figured so much, since he was wholly human and thus must have known humor. But my mind and heart sure err toward viewing him as serious, earnest, determined, focused. Surely the majority of his speech was stern or solemn, to ensure that his followers grasped the extreme gravity of the matters at hand. Right? I imagine a Jesus who takes a fellow by his shoulders, shakes him a bit, and urges, “Wake up!” After all, Jesus held in his hands history’s most important to-do list, and it needed to get done pronto. Right? Who had time to sit around and laugh?
But Lloyd-Jones turns this notion on its head completely. She by all means includes the serious side of God’s nature, message, and the many events that proceeded his son’s joyful resurrection. However, she also depicts him as a jokester who knows how to kick back and use humor to connect with people. Jesus is silly! Jesus laughs! Jesus plays! And since he’s an image of the invisible God, that must mean our heavenly Father does too. “Amen to that,” I found myself thinking as I flipped the pages.
For example, the story of God caring for the birds and flowers:
“See those birds over there?” Jesus said.
Everyone looked. Little sparrows were pecking at seeds along the stony path.
“Where do they get their food? Perhaps they have pantries all stocked up? Cabinets full of food?”
Everyone laughed – who’s ever seen a bird with a bag of groceries?
“No,” Jesus said. “They don’t need to worry about that. Because God knows what they need and he feeds them.”
“And what about these wild flowers?”
Everyone looked. All around them flowers were growing. Anemones, daisies, pure white lilies.
“Where do they get their lovely clothes? Do they make them? Or do they go to work every day so they can buy them? Do they have closets full of clothes?”
Everyone laughed again – who’s ever seen a flower putting on a dress?
“No,” Jesus said. “They don’t need to worry about that because God clothes them in royal robes of splendor. Not even a king is that well dressed!”
Lloyd-Jones also included some banter in the account of Jesus reappearing to his doubting disciples:
Jesus’ friends were afraid. So they were hiding in an upstairs room with the door bolted shut. But that didn’t stop Jesus. He just walked straight through the wall.
“It’s a ghost!” Thomas screamed and hid under the table. But it wasn’t a ghost.
“I’m hungry,” Jesus said. “What’s for lunch?”
Peter gave him a fish. They all hung back and watched him eat it. This can’t be, they were telling themselves. It’s impossible. It’s not happening.
But it was – right in front of them.
“Delicious!” Jesus wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and grinned. “Can a ghost do that?” He winked. And then they all laughed.
“I’m really here!” Jesus said. And he really was.
As we’ve all learned with the rise of email, social media, and text messaging, tone sure plays a vital part in communication. It’s interesting how even mentioning a smile alters the whole story, which raises the question: why are there so few explicit descriptions of people laughing in the biblical narrative? Some laughter appears in the Old Testament, but it only seems to show up in connection with mockery in the New Testament – and that’s definitely not the pure, carefree type we all crave.
And thus, Lloyd-Jones’ simple interpretations – aimed at children and infused with both wit and wonder – walked me through a finger-painted door into a whole new world. How much more I want to know and experience God’s lighthearted, laughter-loving side. God, grant me the grace to change, become like a child, and enter your kingdom in a fun-filled way… grinning, chuckling, and perhaps – gasp – even howling! (Is that blasphemous to pray!?)
Does your God laugh?