A spoiler is a comment which discloses plot details of a book, play, video game, or film. In our present Internet – information at the speed of light – kind of world spoilers are big business. But people have very differing views about spoilers. Those who make their livelihood by revealing movie secrets on the web are all for spoiling Hollywood’s best kept secrets. The bigger the secret the better the pay out. But then again, there are those who can’t stand it when yet another surprise is ruined by the careless dissemination of information.
Then there are others, like me, who are somewhere in the middle. I have an uncanny knack at being able to guess the twists and turns of most stories. It drives my wife crazy. The height of her frustration came several years ago with the movie The Sixth Sense. She saw it before I did, and was so taken aback, she couldn’t wait to see how long this one would stump me. She was careful to guard me against any “spoilers” until I could see it. Well … she tried. One day a friend happened to say “That was some surprise ending wasn’t it?” That was enough for me to guess the plot five minutes in. It spoiled all of her fun (and mine too … it is a long movie when you know the secret right from the get-go).
But in our house, filled as it is by little ones, spoilers are a necessary part of any story with questionable or scary parts. I can’t begin to count the number of times we have had to begin a story, a show, or a movie with words of caution and comfort. Words that say although there will be scary parts they will not last long, and everything will turn out just fine. In such instances we find that it spoils the enjoyment of the work far less than trying to console traumatized children for days afterward.
In that sense God himself has provided a spoiler for us in the Transfiguration of Christ. (1-3) And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
On that mountain, in the presence of Peter, James, John, Moses and Elijah God lets slip an important part of the narrative to come. But He doesn’t do it to ruin the fun of what is to come, He does it for the sake of those not quite ready to take it all in. Jesus and Peter have just days before had sharp words over Jesus prediction of His coming death and resurrection. Peter couldn’t believe that Jesus either should die or would die. And so God gives Peter James and John a spoiler. You see the story is about to get scary. It is about to turn dark and ugly. There WILL be treachery, betrayal, torture, suffering and death. BUT everything will be fine because Jesus really is God! Everything will work out in the end, just wait and see.
(4-9) And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, Rise, and have no fear. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.
Knowing how hard things are about to become for everyone, God permits them this chance to see that things are not always as they seem. They are privileged to see the glory so that they may continue to learn that the cross and true glory are not mutually exclusive. Together they are part and parcel of God’s plan for salvation.
What is wrong with Peter’s request is not the substance but the timing. Before we can revel in the theology of glory we must experience the theology of the cross. It will spoil things to seek the glory before the cross, or to stay there when the cross is calling. This mountaintop experience is not meant to last, it is simply a spoiler for the story that is coming.
And in the same way the Transfiguration serves as a spoiler for us too. This Wednesday we begin the season of lent. It is a season of contemplation, repentance and consideration on the sacrifice of our Lord. As a season so intimately connected to soul-searching it can lead us to some very dark places. It can open up to us things we prefer to keep hidden away in dark shadows. It can take us down paths that no one in their right mind willingly wants to tread. Sin, guilt, complicity, suffering, shame, the death of Christ. It is a season in which it is easy to get lost in the dark, lost in ourselves, maybe even lost in despair. So God gives us this spoiler just days before we begin.
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, Rise, and have no fear. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Have no fear, everything will be fine because it is not about our failures. It is about God’s victory in Jesus! As dark as the soul-searching may get, everything will work out in the end, for there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just wait and see. That light is Jesus Christ who did indeed come to suffer and die because of sin – your sin – My Sin – but He did it willingly. He did it to lead you out of the darkness into the light. He did it to show the true glory of His love for you and all mankind. He did it so that He could rise again from the dead, the firstfruits of all who will go through death to life.
For transfiguration serves as a spoiler in that way too … eternal life is real. Moses and Elijah both long removed from this earthly life are still very real and very alive! They are still important in God’s kingdom. They are allowed to speak to Him face to face, to know His will and be part of His glory. The same will hold true for us. There is life even after death for God is the God of the living and not the dead. But you will have to wait for that bit of glory … at least for a while.
Before the dark He gives us a taste of the light. Before the death, a glimpse of the resurrection. A heavenly spoiler so we can better enjoy, and rightly understand, the story about to unfold. Indeed, the greatest story ever told!