Meditations on Luke: The Last Laugh

Luke 8:49-56

“They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.”

The ministry of Jesus is such a ridiculous thing that it draws laughter. Everywhere he goes, he says and does things that are so out of step with what seems to be obvious reality that people think he is crazy. Imagine what the neighbors said when Jesus, somewhere around the age of thirty, walked away from his father’s vocation as a carpenter, choosing instead to strike out on the road with a band of hapless misfits to preach about something called “the kingdom of God.” Imagine what people thought when Jesus told them the story of the good Samaritan, which in our day would be akin to a story about the good terrorist or the good transgender woman. Imagine what the Romans thought when Jesus road into Jerusalem a week before Passover on a donkey.

“What a fool,” they likely thought.

In today’s story Jesus walks into a room where a little girl has just died. “‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’” Those in the room laughed at him. It wasn’t the kind of admirable laughter that comes when someone tells a funny joke. This was the laughter of derision and scorn, the kind of laughter that is hurled at the kid on the playground when he wets himself in front of his friends, the kind of laughter that is tossed at the coworker when he embarrasses himself in front of the woman he so desperately wants to impress, the kind of laughter that is meant to call into question someone’s competency and worth.

We know, of course, that in the end Jesus gets the final laugh. His is not the laughter of derision but the laughter of triumph, the kind of laughter that comes when life and death have taken their best shot at you and failed. In the end, Jesus invites everyone, even those who laughed at him, to laugh with him.

But let us not be fooled. We cannot get to that point with Jesus unless we are willing to endure a little ridicule along the way. “Just believe,” Jesus said to those in the room. To follow Jesus is to dare to believe—to believe that enemies can become friends, to believe that truth accomplishes more than deception, to believe that generosity really is the way to abundance, to believe that giving away your life really is the way to find it, to believe that love is stronger than hate, to believe that death really has been defeated. Such ideas are severely out of step with what everyone else sees as the obvious reality, but they are the path of eternal life.

Holy God, help me today to have the laughter of your gospel in my soul. Through Christ, Amen.

This post originally appeared in Meditations on Luke: Daily Devotions from the Gentile Physician by Chris Cadenhead.

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