He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!
Luke 4:20-21 (NLT)
Saturday morning, February 20, 1971. I was watching cartoons on TV (back when we had three channels to choose from—woohoo!) when the program was interrupted with the following special announcement.
This is a message from the Emergency Broadcast System. This is not a test. Repeat, this is NOT a test. Normal broadcasting will cease immediately as we await further bulletins. Again, this is NOT a test…
I was old enough to know that this was not normal, so I sought out Mom in the laundry room. I recall her pausing, but then going right back to folding the towels. “Don’t worry, honey. I’m sure it’s a mistake.”
It turns out my mother was right. At the National Emergency
Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, a civilian Teletype operator named Wayland Eberhardt was preforming a routine EBS test. Though Mr. Eberhardt was a fifteen-year veteran of the job, on this particular morning he accidentally plucked the wrong tape off the rack (computers ran on tapes back then) and fed it into the machine.
But on this particular morning, no one knew that. The ‘This is Not a Test’ message rippled through the entire United States. Most people, it turns out, either disregarded it or thought it was a mistake. The station I was watching was the only one in Milwaukee that took it seriously.
Now, imagine it is two thousand years ago, in the synagogue at Nazareth, and a nice young man you have know from childhood suddenly and inexplicably announces that He is the Messiah. Isaiah’s prophecy is supposed to foretell a mighty warrior who will drive the Roman oppressors from Judah. But Jesus, the simple carpenter’s son, doesn’t even know how to swing a sword.
On that particular morning, I suspect that many people thought God had also plucked up ‘the wrong tape’, and sent us the wrong savior.
But back to poor Mr. Eberhardt’s epic fail. Though it started out as a mistake, it
pointed out flaws in the EBS communication network (and broadcaster’s response to it) that could never have been found by normal testing. It eventually led to a new, improved EBS communication network. Mr. Eberhardt’s mistake turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
And that iterant preacher? Well, Jesus may not have known how to swing a sword, but He wielded the Holy Spirit. He didn’t immediately topple Rome, but His message of salvation spread throughout the world, liberating countless enslaved peoples. And most important of all, He died to redeem our sins, conquering not only our fallen
nature but death itself.
Sometimes things that appear to be an epic failures turn out to be the exact opposite. Ask Mr. Eberhardt. Or the elders in the synagogue. In both cases, what seemed to be utter disasters were blessings in disguise. The ‘wrong’ EBS message made our
country stronger. And the ‘wrong’ savior not only fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, but still walks with us today, protecting us with His mercy, grace and love.