I have a bas relief wood carving hanging on the wall of my office. It was carved by a prisoner in Belarus (in the former Soviet Union). It is an amazing work of art, so much so that when I gaze upon it, it seems to be in motion. The scene is of Christ fallen on his knees under the weight of the cross and Simon of Cyrene taking it up to carry it. Behind them are other prisoners and Roman soldiers, on their way to Calvary.
In this season, leading up to Resurrection Sunday, we are encouraged to reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, and such works of art as I have described help us to do that. But other objects do as well, becoming metaphors or symbols that help us appreciate this greatest event in history. Objects such as butterflies. I saw one just a few days ago, and I immediately thought of the excellent sermon preached by Bishop Vernon Lambe at our Sunday morning service, which kicked off this year’s annual spring convention.
The theme was “Metamorphosis—Called, Transformed, Sent.” Butterflies are the end result of a biological process of metamorphosis, which transforms a lowly caterpillar into a butterfly. To appreciate the treatment of the theme by Bishop Lambe, I would recommend that you check out the website www.churchofgodchapel-ga.ky or the Facebook page of the George Town Church of God Chapel to hear him for yourself. I can’t come near to doing him justice here, not even in an in-depth review of the five sermons.
What I would like to do, however, is to point out the relevance of this theme to Jesus himself and to us. In Matthew 17 we have a description of a significant event in Christ’s earthly ministry. In verses one through five of that chapter we have what is described as the “transfiguration” of Jesus. The scene is of Jesus with three of his closest disciples on a mountain. And while there (Luke states that he was praying), “he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” The word that is used in the original Greek text that gives us “transfigured” is “metamorphoo”—obviously a derivative of metamorphosis. Literally metamorphosis means a change in form. But there is more to metamorphosis than simply a change of form or appearance. It also involves a substantial change—so that form suits function. We see that most clearly in the resurrection of Jesus.
In the various gospel accounts of Jesus appearing to his followers after his resurrection, we find him suddenly appearing in a room, unhindered by physical realities such as walls or time. He leaves their sight (and presumably presence) in the same manner. His resurrected, glorified body is visible, tangible, and as solid as those of his followers. But no longer is it subject to the laws of this physical universe. That is real metamorphosis, because his glorified body is an eternal one—and since form fits function—his body fits the function of timeless, matter-less eternity. And that is the kind of body we are promised in Scripture, when it says of Jesus: “who will transform [metamorphose] our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippian 3:21, ESV). Yes, we also will experience a final metamorphosis that will fit us for eternity as well. Praise God!