March 21, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      Life can be funny. Not funny as in "ha-ha;" rather, funny as in unpredictable, unstable, irrational, unexplainable. "That's funny" isn't usually a commentary on humor; it is, more often, a post-assessment on out-of-order occurrence. Life can be funny ...

      Like ... when your approval ratings are off-the-chart. I talked with a friend recently who went into his year-end meeting with his boss (an annual custom, in his organization) expecting to receive his exceeded-your-forecast bonus ... and, instead, got his walking papers. "Funny," he told me, over coffee, "I never saw it coming. I know he wasn't laughing as he left his now-former president's office; it wasn't that kind of funny. You can misread the polling data, if you're not careful.

      We've just experienced an historic reminder of this frightening principle. We call it Palm Sunday ... though, if asked as a game-show trivia question what that term means, it might be a stumper. Some would try to Google-link "desert resort" + "spring break," not knowing that it was a first-order story in elementary Sunday School curriculum.

      What a great day that must have been. Jesus - poor-born, lacking a classical education but commanding great audience acceptance, rumored to be capable of superhuman acts at the drop of a hat - was one of thousands of out-of-towners coming into Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover Week celebrations. His arrival was the buzz; in the midst of the walking crowds, he was on his way to the city gate riding on an understated donkey. The reaction of the throng was immediate and exuberant: they laid their garments on the ground in front of him (a 1st Century "red carpet" treatment) and grabbed branches from the trees to wave at him (think "confetti" and " New York City"). It was huge; his approval ratings were at an all-time high. The Twelve - who had put their careers on hold to join his crusade three years earlier - were probably writing postcards to their hometown friends (pre-internet) to boast of their insider-status in this emerging movement ...

      The Jews were looking for a political savior; someone to stare Caesar down and see their sovereignty restored. Their hope was for immediate resolution of the Roman occupation. "The crowds went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!' When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, 'Who is this?' The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.'" (Matthew 21:9-11) Great expectations ... but a case of mistaken identity. Wonderful ratings in the overnight surveys ... but they were based on a misunderstanding of who he really was. A prophet from Nazareth? Try again, sports fans: he was "... the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16) Big difference.

      Life can be funny. Not funny as in "ha-ha;" rather, funny as in unpredictable, unstable, irrational, unexplainable. They cheered on Sunday; by Friday, their cheers turned to jeers ... and they changed their tune: "'What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?' Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him.'" (Matthew 27:22) Unpredictable, unstable, irrational, unexplainable.

      In the short run, that is. What made no sense to the man-on-the-street made perfect sense to the Man Upstairs (not one of God's names for God, but one of the man-on-the-streets favorite monikers for Him). If you try to make sense of Sunday by Friday, it's funny. If you wait until Sunday to make sense of last Sunday - and listen for the clarification from the Man Upstairs, instead of the man-on-the-street - you get a different perspective: tragedy can turn to triumph, just that fast.

      That's what I shared with my friend who lost his Monday-Friday life in December, when they held a private career crucifixion, just for him. He's "in the tomb" right now, professionally; as a classic sermon once said, "... it's Friday ... but Sunday's comin'!!" I told him that God has a profound recovery waiting for him, but morning has not yet dawned ...

      There's a big, big thing on the schedule for next Sunday. Don't miss it; more news then ...

Bob Shank


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