We know Jesus wept, but did he laugh? Did a good guffaw or snort ever escape his lips? Did he swim with John the Baptist and make jokes, like, “Hey, J—no dunking!” Did Jesus ever have fun? Should we?
It’s true…we don’t read about Jesus jet-skiing the Jordan or paddle-boarding the Sea of Galilee, but that does not mean he didn’t relish the salt air clinging to his skin as they rowed over the water or lashed up a net flipping with fish. After sweating and heaving heavy wood, imagine his delight at finally sinking into a chair he crafted with his own hands. Or, picture him sitting with his friends around an open fire, the wood-smoke filling his nostrils, the disciples rehashing funny moments from the day, and the stars thrown like confetti overhead. We’re so acquainted with the Man of Sorrows that we miss the Man of Merriment.
Jesus so joined the celebrations and feasts of his day that the religious leaders denounced him as a gluttonous drunk who partied with sinners. He scoffed at their indictment and childish petulance because they had cast John the Baptist as demon possessed. The Pharisees found fault no matter what end of the lifestyle spectrum—restrictive or relaxed—John or Jesus chose. Yet, in both their ways of living, people heard and experienced the good news and became disciples. Without a whiff of sin, Jesus literally was the life of the party. If we keep his glory in mind, we can be too.
We can pursue fun with our friends with freedom because enjoyment and celebration are appropriate responses to the gospel. Listen to the directive to God’s people after they heard his word in Nehemiah 8:10: “Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’” God instructs us to express the relational joy we have with him in concrete, relational ways: Go eat and drink and share with others!
In fact, joy is a fruit of the spirit, and rejoicing reflects our relationship with God. Psalm 144:15 says, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” God crafted us from elements—clay, dust, water. He puffed our lungs with breath. He wrapped our bones in muscles for movement and action. So, experiences that take our breath away, make us weak in the knees, or tingle our skin with excitement reflect his glory, and are tangible demonstrations of friendship. Certainly, God didn’t create the first friends—Adam and Eve—to sit in the Garden of Eden glumly playing pinochle night after night. He pulled mountains from the depths of the oceans for them to climb; sent flocks of songbirds into flight for music to fill the air; and gave them sight so they could appreciate his daily paintings at sunset. Before everything fell apart—and even after— wonder, exploration, and joy continue to be God’s house rules. Every time we tell a corny joke, sip ice tea on a patio in July, or throw our heads back and laugh until our bellies hurt, we reclaim our birthright— small pieces of paradise.