31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
Today I will be doing something a little different than normal. Instead of it being strictly exegetical, I will give a brief exposition of the text, and then move to preaching a thematic sermon from the text. And that theme, I will call A Theology of Making Fun. But first, the brief exposition of the text.
Exposition of the Text
In the previous verses, Jesus has again said that He and the Father are one, claiming to be God. The Jews respond by picking up stones to stone Him, as they have tried to do before. Jesus responds, quite humorously as we will see in a moment, “for which good work are you going to stone me?” The Jews say that it is not for a good work, but for blasphemy which they want to stone him. Stoning of course was the punishment for actual blasphemy according to Old Covenant Law. But we know that Jesus did nothing of the sort. Jesus responds to them by quoting from Psalm 82, which calls certain men by the title “gods” and then says that if the Scripture does that, then it is not blasphemy for Jesus to call Himself God (especially since he actually is and was consecrated and sent by the Father). Then He basically says that even if you have a hard time believing what I say, then look at my works, and if they are of the Father, then believe them. The Jews then try and fail to arrest Jesus, as Jesus escapes to the place where John was baptizing at first, and many people believe in Him there, because although John the Baptist performed no signs, everything He said about Jesus was true.
Jesus’ Humor and the Very Serious Jews
So that’s the brief overview of the text, now where do I get the idea of making fun, as I have mentioned? I think it is often very hard for us to see humor in these New Testament narrative accounts because we just have the words of the text and we are not watching it play out. But also because our default thinking is just to assume that everything is serious. Since we understand the suffering of the cross and the pain and agony Jesus endured we just assume that He was always completely serious. I think it’s certainly better to err on the serious side of things if we are going to err, rather than making light of serious matters. Nevertheless, we should see the humor where it is. I think you will see it with me here today.
So it begins in verse 31 with the Jews, once again picking up stones to stone Jesus. Now this is already kind of funny because this is not the first time the Jews have attempted and failed at stoning or arresting Jesus. It’s always funny when you have a group of people being alluded by one man that they can’t capture. They are so mad and so serious, yet they are the ones to chuckle at. That’s the way God tells stories. It’s quite like Psalm 2, where the nations rage and scheme against the Lord’s anointed, yet the Lord holds them in derision while He sits in heaven and laughs. You see God thinks it’s funny when the ungodly try to obstruct God’s plan and set themselves up as their own gods and rulers. He thinks it’s funny because it’s silly to seriously think you can do and everyone should know that it’s silly. If God thinks that’s funny, we should too.
But the main point of this interaction I want to make is that Jesus makes fun in this situation, and that is what I want us to learn from Him today. Jesus sees that they are picking up stones to stone Him, and He says, “For which good work are you going to stone, me?” This good work or that good work? Which is worthy of death, feeding hungry people or healing sick people? It’s kinda like the Amish guy a few years ago who was arrested for selling unlabeled soap. It’s like, “for which am I being arrested for, selling soap or offending the crown?” Jesus of course has done nothing but good works, yet they want to stone Him. So Jesus’ answer of “which good work will you stone me for?” humorously shows that it is hilarious that they think they have any reason at all to stone Him.
Well the humor continues as the Jews, very seriously assure us in a very serious voice, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy.” So basically it’s, “yes Jesus, your works are good, but you said something that offended us.” So it’s not something He did, it’s something He said that hurt their feelings. Now it is true that Israel had good God-given blasphemy laws that required death as penalty, so I do not make light of that at all, but since Jesus clearly never came close to committing blasphemy, it is quite funny they are offended at something He said, that was nothing but the truth. And it is quite funny how much of a similar problem we have today.
Happy Christians versus the Very Serious Meanies Today
Now to be sure, there are categories of truly offensive, inappropriate, sinful speech that Christians should not participate in, and should repent of, but we are talking today about a culture which has invented terms like “hate speech” and “violent speech” to describe saying things like “men can’t be women and women can’t be men.” And in a culture that describes such obvious biological statements as violent, we should respond with a good old fashioned belly laugh till our cheeks hurt. They will then assure us that they are being very serious and it’s not funny one bit. But when we see them demanding so-called equal rights for women, while being entirely unable to define what a woman is, since anyone and everyone can be a woman, we should just keep giggling to ourselves.
We will also have people tell us very seriously that black lives matter, and while we as Christians are the ones that can actually say that the lives of black people matter because they are made in the image of God and are precious in His sight; we don’t need to believe that they actually believe what they say, because they will go out and destroy black businesses, work to dismantle the Christian home of a father and mother, and murder their babies in the womb.
We also have people today who told us back in March “15 days to flatten the curve,” who now want to tell us “no more church until we have a vaccine.” And again much of the same hypocrisy lies here as well, as these same people tell us that if it saves one life its worth it, while allowing abortion clinics to remain open.
They will also tell us that the earth is going to be destroyed in 12 years if we don’t pass a billion dollar green bill and all stop driving cars and eating beef, all the while flying their private jet plains all over the planet to give these speeches. It’s pretty funny.
They will also tell us that 2+2 does not equal 4 because that is a white european construct of white supremacy.
Now these same, advanced, progressive, science-affirming people would mock the idea of the blasphemy laws in the Bible as extremely archaic and a big mean God. Now I would assert to you that blasphemy laws are unavoidable and if you look, they have blasphemy laws of their own. If you say the wrong thing that offends the gods of this age, you will receive a swift ban on social media. If you tweeted something 10 years ago that offends the gods of this age, the mob will dig it up and you will quickly be fired from your job. Not too long ago there was a man in Illinois who was sentenced to over 10 years in prison for burning a rainbow flag. He broke the blasphemy laws. Another example from just this weekend: a lot of the protests that have been going on have taken to painting words on streets like Black Lives Matter. Even mayors and politicians come out to join in, in order to appease the gods. However, a young man and woman were arrested this weekend for writing in chalk on a public sidewalk outside an abortion clinic “pre-born black lives matter.” They were people who go there every week to minister outside the abortion clinic. But they offended the gods of this age. This is much like what’s going on with Jesus. He committed no actual blasphemy law, but he committed blasphemy against the gods of the age and broke the made up laws by the Jews. And so He made fun in such a situation. The world will tell us, in a very serious voice, things that are not true. There will be times when we have health directors, like in Pennsylvania, who is a man that seriously pretends to be a woman, and wants to lecture us about our health.
So, when the world comes to stone us for something we said, we should learn to find the humor in such a situation and have ourselves a good laugh, while they are very seriously very mad. If they want to throw us in prison for being lawful Christian citizens, our cells should be full of laughter and singing.
Now in the face of this and so much more, we, as Christians, can either become spiteful and bitter, or we can laugh and be happy. And I would contend that being happy Christians in the face of some big serious meanies, can be a very persuasive witness. This of course is not to say that we shouldn’t say serious things and give grave warnings and hard preaching – we should. But a good belly laugh need also be in our repertoire.
Our Fun Making Should be Persuasive (many believed), while Knowing Many will Still be Offended
Now there is certainly a line where our fun making can become sinfully harsh and inappropriate and we ought to stay far away from that line, but that doesn’t mean we stay away from the good fun-making. Our fun making should be persuasive. At the end of our passage, Jesus escapes the Jews, but where He went, many believed in Him. Persuasive fun making doesn’t mean no one will be offended. Someone will always be offended, but it means some believe. To be persuasive our fun making shouldn’t be mean-spirited, but with a true jollyness to it. Fun-making that comes from bitterness loses its tastefulness and persuasiveness. If we are bitter we are not ready to make fun. We need to repent first. Our fun-making should come from an already present happiness in God. That’s persuasive. I also love a good meme and find them persuasive, so meme hard, church.
The Worldview Basis for Making Fun
You see, the foundation of our good fun-making comes from a consistent Christian worldview. As Christians we have every reason to laugh and be happy. Since Jesus rose from the dead, and this world is His, and History belongs to Him, and our sins are forgiven, we have every reason to laugh and be happy. And this comes from our Triune Creator God, who is a happy God. Because our God is happy, and His Son rose from the dead, we should be happy too. There is pleasures and joy forever more at God’s right hand. But you see, the unbeliever, has no worldview basis to laugh and be happy, for the God who is the source of fun-making, is their enemy. You will notice today that in general unbelievers, and the farther left you go, the more they can’t joke or take a joke. Their memes are super lame, and their comedians keep getting cancelled for old jokes they made that don’t please the gods of this age. They are becoming more consistent with their worldview.
So what does it take to have this happiness in God? What does it take to be able to make fun like Jesus? Because it doesn’t come naturally. We prone to bitterness and sinful anger. How can we have this persuasive fun making like Jesus? A few things.
What it Takes to Make Fun Like Jesus
First it takes identity. We have to know that we are God’s, bought with the blood of Jesus, firmly in His hand, such that none could snatch us out of His hand. And we have to know that as God’s sons and daughters, we are in God’s world. This is His world, that He created, owns, and knows. We have to know who we are and it is our Father’s territory which we are standing on. This is our Father’s world. And if we know these things, then we know that our God sits in heaven and laughs at the raging of the nations, so we can do the same.
We also have to have a knowledge of God’s law. You can’t laugh at made up blasphemy laws if you don’t understand the real one. You can’t make fun at the inconsistencies of the world, if you don’t understand what’s right and wrong yourself. Part of this is understanding that God made the world to operate in a certain way. There are certain principles that lead to prosperity and happiness, and others that lead to destruction and death. We have to know the way God set up this world, that the wicked are like chaff, but the righteous man is like a tree firmly planted by the water.
A third thing we must have is courage. It is amazing how many people actually disagree with the blasphemy laws of this age, and don’t believe in the gods of this age, yet are too afraid to say anything or have a laugh. We need courage. I think of John Macarthur in southern California, who just opened his church back up last week, despite the governor continuing to demand they be locked down. Well, that Sunday the place was filled up, thousands of people. Most people are looking for someone with a little courage to lead them. It does, after all, take a little courage to make fun in the face of someone who has a stone in their hand to stone you.
There’s a little anecdote I like that says imagine you are taken down to the middle of a football field and the stands all around you are filled up with thousands and thousands of people and someone is down there with you with a mic and he asks you, what is 2+2? And he puts the mic in your face. You then answer “4.” The crowd of thousands of people then erupt in laughter, mocking you and having a good time. Then the guy with the mic after a good chuckle whispers to you and says, “just say 5.” Then he asks again what is 2+2? And you again answer “4.” Well this time the crowd erupts in anger and booing and jeering and they are mad and throwing things down on the field at you. And now, the guy with the mic is very upset and he looks at you and says away from the mic, we’re going to try this one more time, the answer is 5. So he asks again, “what is 2+2?” and he points the mic to you. Well now, at this point, it is no longer a math question that he is asking, instead it is a question of courage.
And you see that’s what we need. We need the courage that no matter how they respond to us, that when they want us to give a little nod to their gods, we have the courage, confidence, and Christ-like happiness to see that they are the loony ones and refuse to give in, with a smile on our face.
A Victorious Gospel
Another thing that we need, and where this courage comes from is a victorious gospel. This gospel tells us in 1st John that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. This gospel ensures us that the wicked will perish. This gospel is the defeat of God’s enemies and trampling of the serpent of old and all his offspring. The death, resurrection, and ascension, and enthronement of Christ is the clinching of victory. We must be confident that the gospel is triumphant and will overcome the insanity of rebellion against God.
Forgiveness of Sins
But the most important thing that we need in order to make fun like Jesus, is the forgiveness of sins. This of course also comes from the gospel. If our sins have not been forgiven and washed away in the blood of Jesus we cannot have true happiness and joy in order to laugh and make fun. Psalm 32:1-2 says, “Blessed [happy] is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed [happy] is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Guilt Free Conscience
One of the things that cripples, neutralizes, and weakens men is a guilty conscience. They feel the condemnation of guilt and thus have lost their strength to fight and be potent Christian’s in this world. What we need is a guilt free conscience. That only comes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The washing away of our sins, the removal of guilt through his death and resurrection, and then believing that to be true by faith. We cannot just believe the facts that Jesus died and rose to forgiven sin and remove guilt, but by faith we must appropriate that to ourselves, believing our sins to be forgiven and our guilt removed. We must believe that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. To a man who has had his guilt and condemnation removed in Jesus Christ is an untouchable man, the world can more condemn and guilt trip that man. The world points fingers of accusation, he says “yes, and I have confessed my sins and Christ has forgiven me and condemned me much more, and besides that I am far worse than you think me to be, but I am freed and made new in Jesus Christ. What can man do to me?”
So, if you want to have fun in this world. It begins with confession of sin. Confess your sins, trust in Jesus to forgive you, and receive His forgiveness. We are not ready to laugh and make fun until we are forgiven for our ugly and hypocritical sins. But once we are forgiven, we are free. We are free to laugh and live as God’s Sons in our Father’s World.