Jesus Tells Fine Joke
Jesus poses a real problem. Particularly as he is presented in the gospels accounts. We go to the gospel accounts looking for a Jesus who totes moral platitudes diced with quick fixes to heaven. In exchange, we get a wild trickster, a dangerous story-teller and jokesman. Pointing his finger solidly at the powers that be who have founded themselves on the predicate of the way things are, Jesus tells a fine joke. He tells the sad and high joke of God who will not play by human rules, who will not work on fair exchange notions. He tells the comedic punch of powerful men who are like caskets painted by Michealengelo and garden rattler dens. He tells the kinds of jokes that get men killed. They are riddles twinged with tragedy, and puns dipped in the sad truth of the way things are.
The sadness in the laughter comes as we realize that the joke is on us. The joke is on us as we, the masters of the practical, attempt to barter with a God who will only barter in wild reckless impossibilities. The joke is on us as we realize that our short list of wants is rendered in the language of the only possibilities we know and leaves out an entire impractical list of those things we not only find ourselves incapable of believing, but unlikely of seeking because they are the wildest and silliest impossibilities of all. For on our great list of options we might include that our stocks come in or that the job market upturns or that the local school district will sign a referendum for new chalkboards. On our barter list to God, we find ourselves ridiculous as we strain for such ‘reckless’ beliefs as carburetors that don’t go out or short lines at the grocery store so that we might return home early enough to make our spouse’s favorite meal. Good and simple, not extravagant possibilities, we think. We collectively pat ourselves on the back for how successfully we’ve been reasonable children with reasonable wants that do not bother God too terribly to fulfill.
But then we must stomach the tragedy of cars that die before they’re paid off and dinners that burn. We suffer the tragedy of work days that end late or stock markets that downturn before Christmas. And it is in these tragedies that our eyes go numb to the great impossibilities that we are being offered, the strange and odd wonders that God seems to find it in Godself quite humorous to provide. This God who drives Mack trucks through keyholes and drags philandering, Armani-suited white bastards into paradise is the God with whom we are dealing. And in light of this God’s ridiculous list of impossibilities, our practical possibilities – so packaged and so fair (so as to not bother Him terribly) seem so trite and so strange. And as he speaks to us in the language of wizards and kings and ghosts who walk on water in the night, we wait for his voice of tit for tat and fairness for goodness. Our effort for His.
And it is no wonder that we find ourselves confused by the unfair generosity of this God. It is this God’s great desire that we might find ourselves available to the impossible fairy tale, to a world not where all things exist without danger, but where danger itself turns ultimately to the good. Where the darkness is not vanquished but rather redeemed, where the self-righteous ass in us all is not excommunicated but understood, welcomed and placed on stools of white satin. It is this – the tragedy in the comedy, the practically possible that dies for the sake of the ridiculously impossible – that brings the truth. The truth too good not to be true.
And in its wild ridiculousness fashioned by a God too ridiculous and wild to be contained, a fairy tale is born. A tale of mystery, wonder, darkness and danger. A tale that writes itself ultimately to love. Weak stories rewritten in extravagant detail. Smallness exchanged for a weighty glory. Children in prom dresses and diamond tiaras – comical and priceless. The fairy tale emerges where the greatest good is landed on the most unlikely of suspects and where it finds itself most fitting, most appropriate. It is the little boy in his uncle’s cowboy boots. The court fool at the right hand of the King. There is no reason, rhyme and no bartering here. Nothing but the extravagance of the most ridiculous of characters. This God. This writer of stories. The fairy tale of love. That is where the story goes, my friends. All the stories – they are about love.