Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Unhinged Eastertide Hope | Why is Jesus Laughing?


Laughing Wine Jesus (Isaiah 25:6, 55:1-3, 62:8-12) by Rochelle Walden, 2018 A.D.,
similar to 
Jesus Christ, Liberator (often referred to as Laughing Jesus) by Willis Wheatley, 1973 A.D.


What would have made Jesus throw his head back and laugh so hard? And do we dare to ask him to give us joy like this even through tears as we wait, watch, and hope in the midst of all that is going on in our world in 2021?


In the past year, a close friend of mine and I have had some thoughtful discussions about Jesus, and the question we both smiled at when it came to us was, "Why is Jesus?" A previous post featuring a similar question was: Unhinged Eastertide Hope | Why Is Jesus Resurrecting?

This post features adapted excerpts from readings I have been enjoying that have made me smile even more in exploring the answer to the question, "Why is Jesus?" particularly around the hope He offers in His divinity and humanity (for similar glimpses, check out The Chosen Series posts titled: Jesus Welcomes Children, Jesus Heals the Leper, and Jesus Says, "Follow Me.").

Exploring the unhinged hope of God during a time when laughter may seem scarce or happiness based on our feelings or circumstances has run dry occurs regularly in the Scriptures. In the Story of God in the Bible, when Israel was in a time of captivity, helplessness, and sadness, these words were shared to remember how the Lord of heaven and earth comes to offer us hope that we cannot conjure or earn ... 

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. ... “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to Me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. ... Go out through the gates! Prepare the highway for My people to return! Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders; raise a flag for all the nations to see. The Lord has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, He brings His reward with Him as He comes.’” They will be called “The Holy People” and “The People Redeemed by the Lord.” And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place” and “The City No Longer Forsaken.”  
+ Isaiah 25:6, 55:1-3, 62:10-12

So how do we sit with God in the everyday stuff of life and welcome His presence in such a way that we can cry with Him, but we can also laugh with Him?


Why is Jesus? | Jesus Laughs, Filled with Unhinged Hope that He Doesn't Hold Back from Us


What attracts me to the Jesus Christ, Liberator artwork by Willis Wheatley (similar to the one above) is the image of Jesus' head thrown back, with his eyes closed and his mouth open in unrestrained laughter.

Jesus laughing. I love it.

I typically disdain pictures of Jesus. I find them hokey. Too often they portray Jesus as expressionless, staring off strangely into some distant horizon ... looking apathetic about being on earth as he stands rigidly among a crowd of people. 

But this picture is different. This picture is human. Sometimes I look at the picture and imagine what would have made Jesus throw his head back and laugh so hard. Maybe it was the children who ran to him (Matthew 18:1-5Luke 18:16-17) ... Maybe it was simply sitting with his friends around a table, and the conversation went as conversations go, and everyone was laughing (Matthew 9:9-13, 11:19; Luke 12:37, 14:23, 24:41). ... 

Jesus' face is full of emotion. He isn't stoic; his face is filled with a joy that cannot be contained (Luke 10:21; Hebrews 12:2). The closed eyes and wide smile suggest a comfort and freedom with expressing his emotions. In every one of the possible reasons for the laughter, I can relate — and this blows my mind — to God through the very human Jesus. This is the beauty and profundity of the incarnation (John 1:1, 4-5, 14). ... The holy otherness of the ineffable God became tangible and describable in the humanity of Jesus (John 1:14Hebrews 1:1-3).

Why is Jesus? | The Image of Christ is the Recovered Image of True Humanity


Jesus, as the model for both men and women, calls all toward one singular end, namely, Christlikeness (Romans 8:29). Men and women are to embody meekness, gentleness, self-control, and humility (Galatians 5:22-23), as well as strength, courage, resolve, and boldness, as they grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). Humanity needed a human, fully alive, to show us God's intended design (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). Through his relationship with God, interactions with others, and action in the world, Jesus shows what a human looks like when they are fully restored, sanctified, and freed from the brokenness brought about by sin (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). We discover that strength is defined in the quiet resolve to endure suffering as Christ suffered (2 Corinthians 1:5). What Jesus demonstrated with his life is that strength is found when one's body, mind, and soul bear the scars that come from the gritty work of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). 

Jesus is more complex and more human than we can imagine, which is why both men and women can grow into his likeness (Romans 8:29). God incarnated himself in Jesus to restore humanity — both men and women (Genesis 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18). The Church needs men and women to fulfill its mission in the world. Inclined toward action, we help keep the mission of the Church moving forward when women and men take action in the world alongside one another, not in conflict with each other (Romans 12). If we are to fight, then we need to be clear what it is we fight for. Peace. Reconciliation. Grace. Justice. But let's be clear: We are made not for conflict but for action. There is a deep and profound difference here. Too often we equate not fighting with being a pushover, but one would have a hard time making the argument that "pushover" defines Jesus. His redefinition of strength forces us to reimagine how we take action in the world. So by all means, bloody your knuckles as you beat swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4; Joel 3:10). Show off your scars, but may they be scars you received from turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39-45). We can even embrace competition in the gospel-sanctified way: "Outdo one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:10). Even defending truth, while looking like conflict, is about taking Christlike action in the world (2 Timothy 2:15Jude 1:1-5). Some are attracted to faith that is demanding and requires sacrifice, but we ask each other to die to ourselves so that Christ might live in us (Galatians 2:20). ...

Jesus makes real demands on our life. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him, dying to ourselves so he himself can live in us (Matthew 16:24-25; Colossians 3:3). Jesus never says he will not burden us, only that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). The end goal of Christianity is not to become a good, moral person. Don't get me wrong, morality is part of holiness, so yes, following Jesus will lead us toward being moral. But that is not the point of following Jesus. We follow Jesus to become like Jesus (John 13:14-17, 34-35Romans 8:29)

Jesus, then, becomes our focus. He defines reality, how we should live, and what we should do. ... So if we want to know what it means to be a son or daughter of God, we look to Jesus. If we want to know what it means to love others, we look to Jesus. If we want to know what it means to be human, we look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Why is Jesus? | We Get to Hope in the One Who Gives Us the Freedom to Laugh


What if we gave up our independence in exchange for dependence on Christ? What if we saw our dependence on Christ as a reason to be interdependent with each other? What if we found a reason to be sacrificially concerned with the cause of others (Philippians 2:1-5)? What if we found in Jesus permission to be fully authentic about our weakness and mistakes (2 Corinthians 12:9)?

Maybe we would find the freedom to throw our heads back in laughter ... We might look like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

+ Excerpts adapted from Nate Pyle's Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood; Pyle, pastor of Christ's Community Church, is also the author of More Than You Can Handle: When Life's Overwhelming Pain Meets God's Overcoming Grace

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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