The Buddha has many incarnations that are labeled after a significant trait, and one of the most popular ones being the laughing Buddha. But, have you heard of a laughing Jesus?
The Laughing Jesus is an old Christian story that was, obviously, not included in the New Testament. It is found in the lost writing of Basilides, and we know of it thanks to it’s retelling by Irenaeus. It is a “re-imagining” of the walk to Golgotha sequence.
As you may remember, during the long walk to Golgotha with the cross over his shoulder, a “passer by”, Simon of Cyrene, heroically offers to bear the burden of the cross for Jesus. The whole exchange is summed up in one verse in Mark.
They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.(Mark 15:21)
According to the Laughing Jesus story, when Simon takes up the cross, Jesus uses his divine ability to transform his appearance to look like Simon, and he changes Simon’s appearance to that of him. The Romans then crucify Simon while Jesus stands to the side and laughs. Pretty funny, huh?
There is a scene in the fabulous movie the Life of Brian that mirrors this story. During the walk to the hill, all the condemned men are dragging their crosses down the street when a man steps out of the crowd and says, “Let me shoulder your burden, brother”. The condemned man then takes the opportunity to run, for his life (quite literally) while the do gooder, attempting to explain the mistake, gets whipped by the Romans and told to get back in line.
Funny as the story is, it does send up some brands of Christianity that focus purely on the grizzly bloody death of Christ, ignoring any positive impact he may have had during his ministry. Perhaps it is asking, if Jesus did not die, would he still be God? That may be a significant question for some.
Anyhoo, I’ll sign off with “I’m Brian … and so’s my wife!”