Phil Cullum – November 1, 2021

There is a linguistic term I recently learned, “paraprosdokian”. It means “a statement with an unexpected ending.”

For example: “Where there’s a will…I want to be in it.”

Paraprosdokians often use puns, and frequently rely on a word with two meanings, but the primary requirement is surprise.

  • “Think of Henny Youngman’s famous joke “Take my wife – please!” You expect that he is going to use his wife as an example of a laughable habit or tendency, but – boom- he changes the subject.
  • I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. –Groucho Marx
  • “War does not determine who is right—only who is left.” —Bertrand Russell
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.
  • I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. –Will Rogers
  • When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them. –Rodney Dangerfield

As it happened, Jesus used paraprosdokians in his teaching.

  • The world says, “Nobody ever remembers who came in second. Only first place matters” Jesus says, “The first shall be last.”
  • The world says, “The go-getter is the one who gets ahead.” Jesus says, “Luke 22:25-26 (ESV)

And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

That’s worth thinking about. The world says, “The way up is to toot your own horn, get your name and picture in front of people as often as you can. Scramble and claw your way up the greased pole until you reach the top.” Jesus says, “The way up is down. Become a servant if you want to be great”

The world says, “He who hesitates is lost. Shoot first and ask questions later.” Jesus, in John 7:24 (ESV), says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

The world says, “The rich are clearly the best. They have God on their side. They must be his favorites” Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus finishes many of our sentences differently than we, or at least most people, would.

But not only did Jesus have surprising endings to his teachings, he also lived a paraprosdokian life.

When he was captured by the Sanhedrin and subsequently condemned by Pilate to death., the end to the story was a foregone conclusion. The leaders who found him so pesky thought they finally had him out of their hair. Satan and his minions thought they had finally thwarted the plan of God to redeem mankind to himself. But Jesus turned their assumed ending upside down when he rose from the grave. A paraprosdokian victory, if ever there was one.

In our day, the world seems to be growing more and more secular; Christians and their beliefs are often sidelined and silenced. The countries of the world that were once informed and influenced by Biblical values and principles seem to be drifting (and often, running) farther away from God.

But the end will be paraprosdokian in ways never seen before. The power elites, who seemed to ascendant for so long, will no longer have their accustomed power. Indeed, many of them will cry out to the rocks to fall on them when the true victory, the ending of time planned before time, a victory hidden from the “wise”, will surprisingly end this age.

It’s best we recognize God’s paraprosdokian ways now and not be surprised at the end of time.

Phil Cullum