Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Was Jesus Ticklish?

Yanno, maybe this seems like an odd question to ask in Holy Week. But every once in awhile, I get to thinking about weird questions like this, and I think it’s a unique meditation in itself to give yourself a chance to think about it. In my personal files on the computer at work, I have some precious and wonderful pictures of Jesus laughing. Someone sent me one of those a long time ago, and I couldn’t resist going to the website where more are featured and just drinking them in. I especially loved the ones where Jesus is clearly teasing people, especially kids, and having fun with them. It’s a side of Jesus we don’t think about too much, but I think we could stand to. I do acknowledge and agree that when I see Jesus with my own eyes for the first time, as He is, I will not “teach Him to dance” or sing or shout or cheer (no, not even “Go Blue!”). I’ll be dumbstruck, as well I should be. I have a feeling that that first lightning-glance of Him will be something so terrifically wonderful that it’ll rob me of any capacity for speech. Hard to imagine as that may be, I really think it will. (!) But while we’re here on earth, it’s also not a bad idea to keep remembering that He was one of us. I have seen other speculation in other places, curiosity about how He lived as a human being. And there are some patently ridiculous superstitions out there under the guide of “reverence” that, were they not completely silly, might be utterly tragic. There’s one slice of devout Christians who actually, truly believe that Jesus’ life was earthly…but not really. They believe, for example, that Jesus’ clothes grew with Him. So Mary made the one outfit, maybe when he was walking, and it just kept growing. She never had to make more clothes again. (At that, I can hear Mary, in her best Jewish-mother voice, saying, “WHAT!?”) Some people don’t go so far as to attribute magical/miraculous qualities to His clothes, but they attribute them more to His person. As in…Jesus didn’t sweat. Or get acne. Or get dirty. Or skin His knee. Or fall out of a tree. Or spill, break, or mishandle anything. He didn’t go through the adolescent-boy stages of not being able to walk through a room without knocking things over. And heaven knows He didn’t have to put up with His voice squeaking at puberty. He lived a human existence…only not quite so gritty, up close and personal. Less messy. To which I would say, in my best Jewish-mother voice, “Horsefeathers!” I believe in a Jesus whose clothes got dirty, who outgrew His sandals, and who probably—yes—even got acne. I believe in a Jesus who knew what it felt like to have a tummy bug. I believe in a Jesus whose eyes watered in bright sun—and who even got sunburn. A Jesus who was chilled when the desert winds blew cold. Who got splinters, especially in His line of work, and knew how to dispatch an unwanted insect or snake from the house if Mom needed that done. Who got sore feet, even blisters, maybe, from walking all those rough roads. And—in my blatantly realistic moments—I find myself wondering why He came in an age and area of the world where there wasn’t even indoor plumbing. But I also believe in a Jesus who knew how to party. Heck, He had to have been fun to be around. How else would He have been at Cana, not to mention all those tax collectors’ houses for dinner? He had to be an “ordinary guy” in many ways—a carpenter’s son who knew how to mingle with the working people in the neighborhood. What did people fix for dinner when Jesus was coming? What were His favorite foods? What after-dinner games did they play in His day? (The image of Jesus playing charades is something worth contemplating in itself.) Did He help with the dishes? What kind of sense of humor did He have? Did He love puns or slapstick? Did He make plays on words? (I’d bet He did, considering how many of them there are in Scripture.) What tickled His funny bone? For that matter, what tickled Him? Maybe thinking about Jesus this way isn’t important. Maybe only picturing him as an infant, an itinerant preacher, and a Savior died and risen is all that’s important. But I don’t think so. We can certainly consign Jesus to a “human” experience that’s more ethereal than real. Some of us consider that Jesus’ humanity is best seen in those poor, wretched, ill, imprisoned, hungry, cold, thirsty, and naked among us…and we react accordingly. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But in our zeal to minister to Jesus as He appears indirectly, let’s not forget that He really was, directly, one of us. Personally. Human, in all its dirt and “ouchies” and irritating moments. Think of what a wonder that is! In the history of religions as we know them, this was, and remains, an act unprecedented in its impact. It’s actually considered sacrilege in many faiths to believe in a God made man. Yet we have Him. Like us, in all things but sin. All things. Which means that, as we sing Alleluias this Easter, we need to listen in between for Jesus’ voice joining in. For His cheering us on in our delighting in Him. That will tickle Him, for sure. So if we listen close, we just might hear His laughter. It’ll be there. Count on it. Janny


The Koala Bear Writer said...

I think sometimes we're too scared of being irreverent... so we don't even think too much about Jesus' humanity. Or we're so focused on His divinity we forget how He was like us. I like your thoughts here. It is fun to think of a Jesus who would have time to laugh and talk and joke with us. That He knows what we're going through because He went through it too.

Deb said...

I love this visual! Actually, I love all the "Jesus laughing" art. It brings Him a tad bit closer (rather, me a tad closer to Him--He never left).

And I'll bet there were kids who found His tickle-buttons, and they rolled together on the floor and roared! Thanks for that image, I love it.