Not long ago, I had a week where I did four funerals. I said, “God, that’s enough. I’m done with death. I’m ready for Easter.” After a long Lent - and a long two years - we need some levity and laughter. So I have a book of Dad jokes . . .
Why can't a T Rex clap its hands? It's extinct.
To whoever stole my copy of Microsoft Office, I will find you. You have my Word.
Last night, my wife and I watched three movies back to back. Luckily, I was the one facing the TV.
We just celebrated Easter. Why is it a big deal? Because something funny happened. Resurrection is a form of God's laughter in the face of evil.
The women rush to the disciples and tell them what they found - an empty grave. And Luke says that for the men, “these words seemed to them like an idle tale.” (Lk. 24:11) "Are you serious? Is this a joke?"
Who are the first witnesses of the resurrection? Women. That shouldn’t be funny, but in a first century patriarchal society, a man’s testimony would have been more credible. If God was smart, he would have had Peter and John be the first to find the empty tomb. But God is funny. “The girls are going to be first.” I think God laughs.
Later on that Sunday, two of Jesus’ friends are walking the road home to a town called Emmaus. Jesus plays a little prank. He walks with them, but in disguise. They don’t know it’s him. Just another dude on the road. He asks them, “What are you talking about?” They respond, “Are you the only traveler to Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened?” And he said to them, “What things?” (Lk. 24:18-19) Ha! “What things?” I think God laughs.
Psalm 2 was written about 1,000 years before Jesus came. But from the earliest days, it was always believed to be prophetically about Jesus. In Psalm 2, the rulers and forces of this world set themselves against God and against his Son, the anointed King. Everyone is against him! And what does God do? “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” (Ps. 2:4)
I Cor. 15 is a famous chapter on resurrection. At the end, St. Paul shares a little verse that might have been the chorus of a song or poem. It laughs at death, mocking its futility. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:54-55)
A German theologian named Jurgen Moltmann (it's a funny name) once wrote:
Easter is the beginning of the laughter of the redeemed . . . Since the earliest times Easter hymns have celebrated the victory of life by laughing at death, by mocking at hell, and by making the lords of this world absurd.” - Jurgen Moltmann
It seemed like hell won. Jesus was dead. Executed. A corpse in a grave. So God chose the wildest and most absurd response. A dead man peeled off his grave clothes, sat up, and walked out of the cemetery.
What does this mean? “Death, you don’t have the last word. You don’t have power over my God. You don’t have power over me. God gets the last laugh!”
Laughter is a protest against evil.
Laughter means we are not anxious for this world.
Laughter means God’s grace is greater than my sin.
Laughter means we do not fear death.
I want to be careful, though. I don't want to minimize evil or make light of death. You still feel the sting. “Nothing will change.” “I’m stuck.” "I’m losing all my friends.” “I’m alone.” “He’s never coming back.” “I see the age around my eyes.” It’s hard to laugh when you’re staring at evil or at death.
I've been in a few rooms to watch a person die. There are most certainly tears of grief. But I've observed that Christian hope has a strange way of bringing laughter. I remember my friend Marcos by his wife's side as the cancer constricted her life. Between tears he told stories about her life. We laughed and cried. And when she breathed her last, he and his family joyously sang hymns around her body. The the entire hospital floor was in awe.
You may be weak, battered, and bruised. You may feel like an old weathered flag shredded by the wind. But if Christ is alive, it means that your worst moment is not the end. Death is not defeat.
So we can stare down death and say, “Christ is risen!” We can laugh at the devil and say, “Christ is risen!” We can touch a coffin in a cemetery, and say, “Christ is risen!”
If you're facing a particular evil or form of death, employ these words. Claim this Name as your antidote. With joy and laughter, call out, “Christ is risen!"