by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Actor and comedian Bob Hope has been in the news recently due to his emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding. (If you don’t know who Bob Hope is, go ask an adult.) However, he was in the news shortly before that for another reason. On May 9, 2000, less than three weeks before Hope’s 97th birthday, a Bob Hope exhibit opened at the Library of Congress which featured his 88,000 page collection of jokes. Let me show you how many jokes that is: If you told a page of jokes every minute, continuously, 24 hours a day, it would take two months to tell them all. Hope is one comic who certainly doesn’t have to worry about running out of material!
He has numerous Broadway shows, over 1000 radio programs (1145 for NBC plus many special broadcasts for the Armed Forces Radio Network), more than 50 movies, countless television specials and a dozen books to his credit, as well as numerous awards, 54 honorary doctorates, the U. S. Navy ship USNS Bob Hope named for him and more. In October 1997, both houses of Congress unanimously passed Resolution 75, making Bob Hope an "Honorary Veteran," the first such honor ever awarded. For many of us, the opening notes of "Thanks For The Memories" automatically conjure images of his distinctive profile.
Hope began entertaining troops in 1941, something that would form his most lasting legacy. During World War II and the Korean War, he traveled over a million miles and entertained more than 10 million troops. Nineteen forty-eight in Berlin marked his first Christmas Show for U.S. troops, a tradition that would continue for decades.
Many years ago, Jesus also began something that would continue for many years. He began simply enough, with a few fishermen (Matt. 4:18-22) and some other common people. His original 12 disciples were joined by 70 more disciples (Luke 6:12-19; Luke 10:1). Eventually, he was preaching to as many as 20,000 people at once (Matt. 14:13-21), as many as the number of spectators at some modern sports events. (Note that there were 5,000 men, plus women and children [vs. 21]. Assuming that there was one woman for each man and one child for each adult, there would have been about 20,000 people.)
Jesus never wrote a book but he inspired the 27 "books" of the New Testament, plus many more, and he continues to inspire them today. He came along before television, movies, radio, Broadway and even vaudeville, but he has inspired Broadway shows, and he continues to inspire movies, television and radio programs. He appeared in synagogues (Mark 1:21-22), on boats (Matt. 13:1-3a) and even on mountains (Matt.5-7). And he had something far more important to offer than entertainment. His message was initially confined to a relatively small area but it has spread to the entire world. He also reached soldiers (Matt. 8:5-13), as well as fishermen, tax collectors (Matt. 9:9-13), Pharisees (Luke 7:36-50; John 3:1-12), rulers (Matt. 9:18-26; Luke 18:18-23) . . . and me. "Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." (1 Cor. 15:8 RSV). I pray he has reached you as well.
When news of Bob Hope’s illness was released, he received well-wishes from as far away as Istanbul, many from former servicemen who wanted him to know how much they had appreciated seeing him and his shows when they were in foreign countries. Similarly, Jesus’ words and ministry have spread far beyond the people to whom he originally appeared. Jesus has come to us. We owe it to him to tell as many others as we can. There are people in the world who are in battlefields of their own, people who are battling sin, death and personal demons. They need to know that someone is there for them. They need to know that someone is willing to take the message to them, no matter where they are. They need the word of God. We have what they need. We can take it to them. Our message may start out small but God can take it and turn it into something that will touch lives far beyond our own. We may not know how far God will take our witness but we should be ready to continue until there are thousands of entries in God’s collection of souls.
". . . but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;" (1 Pet. 3:15 RSV).