Scripture: Matthew 17:1-13
Key verse: (2) “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.”
Reflection: One of my favorite movies is “Big Fish.” It’s a Tim Burton film — so it’s an acquired taste, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace. Filled with echoes of Homer’s Odyssey and James Joyce’s Ulysses, not to mention numerous Biblical stories, it’s about the power of story to shape and define our lives. The first story in the film is about Edward’s encounter with a witch who lives in a swamp outside of his hometown of Ashton, Alabama. Legend has it that those who gaze into the witch’s eye will see the way they die. Edward musters up his courage and strides to the front door of the witch’s home. The door swings open to reveal the witch, who stands there with a patch over her right eye. “Mam,” begins the young Edward, “my name is Edward Bloom and there are some folks who’d like to see your eye.” He leads the witch out for his friends to gaze into the magic eye. Young Edward goes last. Looking into the camera as if it is the eye, he says, “Oh, so that’s how I’ll die.” Armed with the knowledge of how his own story ends, Edward takes on the world with reckless abandon. He saves his hometown from a giant by negotiating with him to join the circus. He becomes a hero in the Korean War. He even tames a savage werewolf. He was able to do all these things because he knew how his story ended, so he wasn’t afraid of a giant or a war or a werewolf, because he knew that’s not the way he died. That’s not the way his story ended. That glimpse of the end at the beginning of his own story gave him courage to live his life to the fullest.
The transfiguration of Jesus is an other-worldly story. It provides Peter, James and John a glimpse of the end of Jesus’ story in the middle of the gospel. They see for a moment the glorified Christ talking with Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets. As Jesus has mentioned, he embodies the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. His face shines “like the sun” and his garments are “white as light.” If we turn to Revelation 1, we see there the glorified Christ whose eyes “shine like fire” and whose head and hair are “white as wool, white as snow.” Revelation concludes with God’s ultimate victory, the transformation of creation into the kingdom of God. God wins! That’s the end of the story. These apostles are given a glimpse of the end in the middle. It is intended to sustain them as they head to Jerusalem. There they will witness their Lord be betrayed, beaten, tortured, and crucified. But given this glimpse of the glorified Christ, they know that the cross is not the end of the story — or at least they should!
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is another favorite film of mine. It’s a lot easier to love than “Big Fish” — who doesn’t love Dev Patel? His character utters a wonderful line in the film: “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.” That’s true for all of us. The Transfiguration offers us all a glimpse of the end in the middle. May it give us confidence for the journey ahead, the journey toward that day when God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done on earth as it is even now in heaven.
Prayer: Your word teaches us that in the end everything will be alright. Your way of love and grace and truth will ultimately prevail. Your kingdom will come and your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So if things are not alright in our lives today, help us trust in your sustaining presence. Give us a glimpse of your tomorrow to sustain us through today, and give us courage for tomorrow. In the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].