His Playfulness

Does God have a sense of humor? Do you think Jesus does? How you answer the question reveals a lot about what you think he’s really like.

About a week after his resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples in a very playful way. They’ve been out all night fishing, with no luck at all. Jesus appears on the shore, but they do not recognize him. Now—instead of shouting in a commanding way, “It is I, the Lord! Come thou unto me!” he simply stands on the shore, hands in his pockets like a tourist, and asks the question curious passerby always do of fishermen: “Catch anything?”

What is he up to? Is this how you would spend your resurrected life?! You’ll need to recall that three years ago, he'd met these men while they were fishing; actually, they were skunked, and he'd produced a miraculous catch of fish. That’s how the whole thing got started. Here it is, years later. They've seen him die; they've met him raised again. But he’s been gone a week now, and they don't know what else to do, so they’ve pulled another all-nighter. Off that same beach. Skunked again. What a set-up for what follows.

“Try the other side,” the guy on the beach says. Bam—the nets are bursting. Only then do they realize who it is. Do you see the playfulness of Jesus? His timing, the tension, his hiddenness, a tourist-like question, the same lame suggestion from someone they think knows nothing about fishing, then bang!—the catch. And the boys are hooked again.

A beautiful story. Playful, funny, so human, so unreligious. The man is not religious. If he were, Jesus would have gathered them for a Bible study or prayer meeting. He doesn’t even show up at the temple after his resurrection. He’s at the beach, catching his boys fishing and hosting a cookout.

It’s an answer to a question we didn’t dare ask—that God himself knows how and when to be playful. With us. It’s like a breath of fresh air.