Stand-up comedians will tell you that most people laugh at the ridiculous, at a “twist” of meanings and a surprise outcome to the end of a story. This is why jokes are funny, they surprise us and it is why some jokes are not funny, the punch line isn’t a surprise. Or sometimes the images conjured up are so ridiculous that we laugh no matter how many times we've heard the joke. Other people laughing is contagious. A merry heart does good like medicine, but sorrow dries the bones. Solomon said that. What was it that made you have a mind-cleansing, soul shaking belly laugh?
The key for finding funny stories in the Bible is to look for the ridiculous, the incongruous — strange, odd, bizarre — and the surprise ending and/or surprise statement of one of the people in the story. Most of the time, we are so serious when studying the Bible, that we overlook these aspects in the stories. Things like a donkey talking, lead floating, a king's right hand man dipping in muddy water to be cleansed of leprosy and a prophet's servant being punished with leprosy, and four lepers saving a city. Paul causing a huge fight in the Sanhedrin so he could slip away with the Roman guards. Rhoda slammed the door in Peter’s face when he was an escaped prisoner. The list goes on and on.
My friend Rocky loves this story from Exodus 32: The golden calf. “When people got restless of Moses being gone too long and demanded something be done about it. Aaron had people give him gold and he formed an idol of a gold calf to worship. When asked about it –
'Moses, it's not my fault, really! I just took this gold jewelry see – I threw it into the fire. And you won't believe this – you really won't. But when I took this out of the fire you know what I found? It's totally unbelievable man – out came this gold calf! I sat there and all I could do man, was like, say wooooow!'
OK, OK – so it was a bit of license taken on the paraphrasing….
One of my favorites is found in Mark 5:30-31: “And knowing instantly within Himself that power had gone out of Him, Jesus turned Himself around in the press and said, “Who touched My clothes?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing on You, and do You say, Who touched Me?”
Can’t you just see this mob of people squishing Jesus and His disciples? Jesus feels the power go out from Him. He looks at Peter and asks, “Who touched me?”
Peter, the typical Jewish male, shrugs up his shoulders, throws up his hands and says, “What? All of a sudden I’m the answer man? Why don’t you ask Andrew! You never ask him the hard questions! There’s a million people right beside You and You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’
So why did Jesus ask the question? He knows everything. He healed the sick, that’s a job that He took on from the very beginning. Why was a little power going out of Him to heal a woman who’d been sick for 12 years such a big deal?
There is nothing secret from Him. He knows all the secret sins, but more importantly, He knows all the secret acts of faith.
Just as the Holy Spirit immediately convicts of sin within the Christian’s heart, so does He also immediately acknowledge the acts of faith of His children. He wanted the woman to acknowledge her faith publicly as well as proclaim what had happened not only for God’s glory, but also as an affirmation of her faith, because faith does bring God glory. Faith that God can do the impossible, brings Him even greater glory.
But, more than that, Jesus wanted all the people to know how much her faith had to do with her healing, most especially His disciples needed to know this. He had called them Little Faith, they needed to soak this in. This was huge, and so many of those people who pressed in so close to Jesus never “got” it. They kept asking for signs and more signs. Even John the Baptist when in prison sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he really was the One. Jesus told them to go back and tell him, “The blind see, the lame walk, the sick are healed, and the dead rise.” It was enough of a reminder of the Old Testament prophecies that John was reassured.
The Gentiles not only understood, but knew it in their hearts. The centurion understood. He said, “Just speak and it will be so. I command men and when I say do this, it is done.” The centurion understood the far reaching authority of Jesus. The woman understood Jesus’ healing power and had hope and faith that she would be healed.
Whose faith was greater?
Jesus said many times, “Go. Your faith has healed you.” He also said to the centurion, “Never have I seen such faith as this.” Yet, God doesn't need our faith to work. He desires us to work with Him much like the Israelites did when they went out to gather manna for their daily meals. God could have had it appear in their bowls. But what kind of whining would that have started? It was a lesson in obedience which is basically what the centurion was talking about: Recognizing God's authority over everything in our life.
Should we do any less?