In the fantasy musical, The Wizard of Oz, the title character hides behind a curtain and uses special sound and lighting effects to intimidate and impress his audiences. His hiding is also to cover up the fact that he is a small, pitiable man, unsure of himself and totally incapable of doing any of the boastful things he says. Tornado-displaced Dorothy, and her dog, Toto, arrive, accompanied by an unlikely grouping – the cowardly Lion, the Straw man, and the Tin man. They are each in search of help from the mighty Wizard who bellows and threatens and does his utmost to cause them to quiver in fear. That is, until Toto latches onto the curtain and runs with it in his teeth, exposing the impostor. The Wizard is humiliated and obligated to confess his trickery.
In the non-fiction book, the Bible, the main character, too, hides the full nature of his being. He does this in order not to intimidate and impress his audiences. His hiding is also to conceal the full truth that he is infinitely more than how he presents himself to ordinary folk (like you and me, for example). His arrival, his upbringing, his backwater anonymity, all position him to speak to thousands with a special message of love and hope without terrifying them with a full display of his glory, his power. Jesus chooses a super-abundant kind of dialing down so as to come close, to touch, to comfort, to love.
There is only one recorded instance where God chose to pull back the curtain so to speak, to reveal Jesus’ beautiful, blinding brilliance – the time he took Peter, James, and John up on a mountaintop to pray. That brief unveiling was still partial, carefully orchestrated, so as not to completely, and permanently, overwhelm his friends. As it is, the three of them left the indescribable encounter without speaking, unable to find words to tell the others what they’d seen, heard, and experienced.
In our ongoing discipleship journey in 2023, we can be grateful for two (main) things: first, that Jesus still invites us to join him, to learn from him, to talk with him, without condemnation, without disgust, without the threat of his abandoning us along the way; second, that Jesus continues to reveal himself as relatable, welcoming, loving, and only on the rarest of occasions does he open our eyes to see glory beyond what our eyes can see. These two things make it possible for us to be able to come to him as we are; not presentable, not fixed, not sinless, not pure. It is the richest of blessings that the Kingdom is both now and not yet; here, yet still so very much more to come, glory already revealed yet exceedingly beyond all that we can imagine still waiting for the Father’s OK. And so here we are in between, lying safely cocooned in Eternal Love as in a backyard hammock where the ‘tree’ at one end is the Now, the Already, and the ‘tree’ at the other end is the Not Yet, the ‘Best is Yet to Come!’ Aah! Now for a gentle breeze! PD