I was completely overwhelmed by the dozens of articles, e-mails, interviews, conversations, and opinions on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” so I entered the room where I write and came across – relieved! – with my “Laughing Jesus”. This is a photo I got when I was in the State of Michigan, USA, about eight years ago. It is a drawing in crayon, in which Jesus gives a good and loud laugh. When I got it, I was told it was made by a “truck rider”, a sort of truck cartoonist, who paints his works on a trailer or van. Sometimes, cartoons are just on the rubber covers that protect the spare tires on utility vehicles. Gradually, as I was told, the image I had became popularized and known as “The Laughing Jesus”.
In an attempt to chronologically follow the life of Jesus, I decided to place side-by-side the Newsweek Magazine’s cover of the week, Mel Gibson’s depiction of Jesus bloodied, wounded, crucified, suffering, and the framed picture of the laughing Jesus. Together, the two pictures led me to meditate on the Risen One who passed through the Cross and the Crucified who rose again. What a contrast! What a great mystery! What an impressive reality!
With the photo of the “Laughing Jesus” on the left, we see Jesus who laughs like a man, among men, with the little children, with the stunts of Peter. He laughs at dinners, at weddings, at religious festivals in Jerusalem. He laughs with Mary, with John, with Joseph. He laughs with his Disciples, around the fire that drives away the cold of the night. Jesus laughs, laughs, laughs!
Then Mel Gibson’s Jesus on the right: Jesus suffers, suffers, suffers. Physical suffering – an inner, moral, spiritual, deep suffering – impossible to be portrayed by any man. This is a suffering from taking on sin, the source of all pain and death of man that He loves. It is also a suffering to see Himself, humanly, estranged from the Father in assuming our sin, since God and sin are entirely excluded. Suffering from loneliness, from the abandonment of His loved ones.
In a second. I move the photo of Jesus to the right and behold: He is Risen, happy, filled with the joy of the new life, a gift of love from his Father. Happy, indescribably happy to have obeyed and humbled Himself to the end: the man, his beloved, was saved! He would rise like Jesus! The man would have eternal life with Him!
Happy, Jesus laughs, laughs, and laughs! Laughing at Peter, jumping, hurried and naked, from the boat at night: “It’s the Master!” Laughs at Magdalene, who was so clever she was confused by the pain: “Maria!”, “Rabboni!”. He laughed at the disciples who thought he was a ghost: “Put your finger on my wounds … give me something to eat … ghosts do not have muscles and bones, ghosts do not eat!”
I laughed, happy, from Thomas’s amazed face: “Do not be disbelieving, Thomas!” I laugh, happy, happy, with the immense, indescribable, loud, uncontrollable joy of the disciples hiding in the upper room: “Shalom! Peace to you!”
Jesus laughs. Jesus suffers. Jesus laughs. Photo on the left, photo on the right. Left, right. Life, death, Life. The Risen who passed by the cross, Crucified, who rose again. Right, left, right, left. How can we not remember that “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy”? (see Ps 126:5). How can we not believe that those who humble themselves freely will be exalted by the Father? (see 1 Peter 5: 6). How can we not have hope, certainty, trust, faith?
As I write by my side is my “Laughing Jesus”, my Jesus who laughs, thus, in Easter time, alive, resurrected, happy, laughing at me too, who like a foolish girl, I am playing – in life and on my bureau – to make Him laugh, cry, laugh again. It is decided: on the bureau at Easter would stay my Jesus who laughs. As for life? Well, He takes care of laughing and crying with me, in this friendship dance, always in two, always beautiful, to which he usually invites those who love and want to share his life, pain, death, resurrection.
Translation: Jhoanna Climacosa