Tuesday, February 09, 2016

"The Lowest Form of Humor"

Matthew 27.27-31 NKJV

“Then the soldiers... stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand.

And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’

Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.”

The soldiers did not believe Jesus was a king even though “they bowed the knee before Him” and proclaimed, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They were being sarcastic. Their ritual of mock worship was purely cheap entertainment for weak-minded prison guards who had nothing better to do than kick a Savior when He’s down. Their shameful display was intended to get a few crumby laughs at Jesus’ horrible expense. After scourging the Lord to a shredded and unrecognizable mass of blood and flesh, they jammed thorns into His scalp, spit on Him, and beat His head with a stick. Pilate’s thugs not only tortured Jesus physically with spit, whips, thorns, and sticks, they also added insult to injury with sarcasm.

Sarcasm is a nasty form of wit. Sarcasm comes from the ancient Greek word sarx (σάρξ) which means ‘flesh’. Sarx is associated with circumcision in the New Testament, which is, of course, the cutting of the flesh.[1] Sometime in the latter part of the 16th century the word ‘sarcasm’ began appearing in English literature and was considered “the lowest form of wit”.[2] Its original meaning was to “tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly”.[3] Those who use sarcasm as it is designed figuratively tear the emotional skin off their victims. Sarcasm is painful for the object of its cruelty. 

Sarcasm is no way to make a point. Those using it are no better than the soldiers who abused Christ. They should resist the temptation to grab a laugh at someone else’s expense. What may seem funny to the sarcastic is not funny to the victim of its low level, flesh-tearing wit.

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[1] “Paul… speaks of the ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2nd Corinthians 12:7) to express that he is a person plagued by the body. Circumcision is performed ‘in the flesh’ (Gal 6:12,13; Phil 3:3,4; Rom 2:28). Σάρξ ‎has an unspecific meaning in these OT-influenced passages; only from the context do we discover that Paul rejects circumcision ‘in the flesh.’ ” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament © 1990 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.)

[2] “Sarcasm”, Wikipedia, Notes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcasm. See also, Online Etymology Dictionary at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sarcasm.

[3] “Sarcasm”, The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, edited by C.T. Onions, Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 788.

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