Did Jesus laugh?

In Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, the famous preacher and Bible teacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues that Jesus never laughed.

Here’s the relevant section:

It is of the greatest importance, then, that we should know exactly what our Lord means when He thus says, `Happy are those who mourn.’

A Christian is one who is to be like the Lord Jesus Christ.

Very well; let us look at Him. What do we find?

One thing we observe is that we have no record anywhere that He ever laughed. We are told He was angry; we are told that He suffered from hunger and thirst; but there is actually no record of laughter in His life. I know an argument from silence can be a dangerous one, and yet we must pay due attention to that fact.

There is, then, no record of laughter in His life.

We are told also that He wept over Jerusalem as He looked at the city just before the end (see Lk. xix. 41-44). That is the picture which you find as you look at our Lord in these Gospels, and we are meant to be like Him. Compare it, not only with the world, but also with this assumed brightness and joviality which so many Christians seem to think is the right portrait of the Christian. I think you will see at once the amazing and striking contrast. There is nothing of that in our Lord (Kindle Locations 750-766).

I’ve skipped over a few sentences in this section, but nothing that changes the meaning of what he writes here. In fairness, he goes on to argue that when we fully give ourselves to mourning over our sin and the sin of the world, then we will find joy. For instance,

If we truly mourn, we shall rejoice, we shall be made happy, we shall be comforted. For it is when a man sees himself in this unutterable hopelessness that the Holy Spirit reveals unto him the Lord Jesus Christ as his perfect satisfaction. Through the Spirit he sees that Christ has died for his sins and is standing as his advocate in the presence of God. He sees in Him the perfect provision that God has made and immediately he is comforted. That is the astounding thing about the Christian life. Your great sorrow leads to joy, and without the sorrow there is no joy (Kindle Locations 820-824)


The Christian is not superficial in any sense, but is fundamentally serious and fundamentally happy. You see, the joy of the Christian is a holy joy, the happiness of the Christian is a serious happiness (Kindle Locations 851-852).

I’d appreciate your help in thinking through this argument.

It seems to me that Lloyd-Jones has taken a good idea and pushed it to the point of breaking.

The good idea is that Christians do mourn over our sin, and the sin of the world, and this does affect our hearts, inclining us to a serious, sober-minded attitude. And as we consider the salvation that Jesus gives us, including not only the forgiveness of our sins, but the transformation of our lives and communities, and the hope of life everlasting, we enter into a joy that defies all circumstances.

And yet, this preaching also seems terribly flawed. Jesus never laughed?

First, this denies that Jesus was fully human. Unless we are to suggest that laughter is not part of our humanity!

Second, Jesus had close friends. How could he walk down the road with twelve disciples, and many others, for days at a time without laughing together? How did they eat dinners together without cracking a single joke? It would be miserable to see the stern face of Jesus every time one of his disciples sinfully laughed at the amusements of life.

Third, when Jesus attended the wedding at Cana, did he manage to get through the entire occasion, including turning water into wine, without a moment of laughter? Did he spend time with tax collectors and “sinners”, who adored him, without laughing at any of their jokes?

Fourth, it seems that Jesus interacted with other people in a way that was intended to get people laughing. In Matthew 22, Pharisees and Herodians come to trap him, and ask if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not. Jesus shrewdly asks if they have a coin used for paying the tax, so they bring him a denarius. Jesus asks, wait, whose image is on the coin you brought me? They admit, “Casear’s.”

It’s already funny. They look ridiculous, arguing with Jesus about giving Caesar money, when they themselves use Caesar’s money.

Then Jesus says, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” He’s saying, if you’re so concerned about paying Caeasar taxes, go ahead and give back all his money. Then, take what bears God’s image - your very being - and give yourselves entirely to God.

It’s absurd, because there’s no way they are going to impoverish themselves. They want Caeasar’s money. Yet they want to appear to be too righteous to pay taxes in an effort to embarrass Jesus. But they only end up embarrassing themselves. Attempting to trap Jesus, they walk into a trap of their own making. When this story gets told, people will laugh.

Do you think Jesus laughed? Do you think Jesus wants his disciples to laugh?

I do - and I think if we deny this truth, we have a God who might love us, but doesn’t really like us.

What’s your take?


I see truth in Martin Lloyd-Jones statement that sorrow leads to joy and without sorrow there is no joy. Sorrow can lead us to soul searching and lead us toward the true path that can ultimately lead to lasting joy.

However I too disagree with his rationale. To preach that we must not laugh because we dont have a record of Jesus’s laughter is a weak argument for all the reasons that you have articulated so well. It can even lead to a legalistic way of expressing our emotions, which can be harmful to our spiritual and mental well being. Emotion is only an outward expression of our inward condition. It would have been better if Lloyd-Jones expounded on the motivation behind the emotions.

Eccl 7: 1-6 addresses this very topic of how sorrow is better than laughter at a slightly different angle. It states that its better to go to a house mourning death than a house of feasting.

While there is nothing wrong with feasting, death reminds us that joy from the momentary pleasures of this world are all fleeting. We all have to one day face the reality of death. A house of mourning can lead to godly sorrow if we have sought joy in momentary worldly pursuits. And such godly sorrow can lead us to repentence and come to the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor 7:10). A house of feasting on the other hand may feel great, but that joy is a poor indicator of one’s true spiritual health.

Whether I talk to Christians or non-Christians, a prevailing belief is that genuine believers must be joyful in all circumstances. While its a good ideal to aspire for all believers through faith in God, Christians can go a little further and pay attention to what exactly is contributing to a believer’s joy and not elevate a person spiritually because of appearances of joy.

I also appreciated another piece of wisdom related to this in Eccl 7:14. In the day of prosperity, we can be joyful but we must never forget where our true joy comes from. We dont feast in the same way as those who dont know this true joy. And in the day of adversity, we can continue to have hope remembering the joyful times God allowed and how He may have a purpose through adversity for our lives.

So the point is not about whether we laugh or not as Jones seems to have put it, but how we respond in faith to both sorrow and joy.


:thinking:I think Martin Lloyd Jones says a lot of good things, but he seems to be more in line with the artists of the Renaissance period in his depiction of Jesus right now: a portrayal of a serene, ethereal, judgemental and unrelatable Messiah.

The reason that I find his line of argument flawed is the specific examples he uses to illustrate Jesus’ range of emotions. He only highlights some extreme cases, for example, the destruction of Jerusalem. Of course Jesus wept (death of Lazarus), was angry (selling in the temple courtyard), was hungry (temptation in wilderness). These are very specific events and examples that require the appropriate emotional response. Unfortunately, the gospels don’t go into detail about every single conversation that Jesus had, or every meal time, or every walk along the road. If they did, I’m sure we’d find equal appropriate emotional responses of laughter and joviality.

Col 1:15 tells us that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”. So what do we know about God’s view of laughter? We are also told that in Genesis, Sarah said that God made her laugh (Genesis 21:6). Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there’s an appropriate time for weeping and laughter. I think that Matthew 5:4 puts laughter forward as an ideal that will be reached one day if not always now.

Many references to laughter in the Bible seem to be warning of foolish or godless behaviour e.g. Job 39:7, Prov 29:9, Ec 7:6 etc. Perhaps there should be more distinction made by Martin Lloyd Jones as to what sort of laughter he is referring to? Of course, we don’t want vain, empty laughter that mocks the word of God. But there is another type of laughter that reflects Godly joy and purity. This is the sort of laughter I believe that Jesus would have exhibited.