I don’t know that there’s much difference between “reveal” and “expose” technically. They seem to be synonyms. Maybe they’re interchangeable, but it sure feels to me like there’s a different connotation. Doesn’t it? Especially when it involves people.
Reveal sounds so much more positive. Revealing something sounds like you’re sharing something that ought to be seen or known. Exposed sounds like something that ought to have remained hidden or was hidden for a reason (and probably not a good one). Reveal feels like it was willingly shared and exposed feels like it was something done without permission or consent, either in the doing or receiving.
Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I’m thinking it because of a couple of stories about Jesus. Maybe even all the stories about Jesus and us.
We’re coming to the end of the season of Epiphany. An epiphany means a sudden revealing or perception of something or someone’s essential nature or meaning. It’s a season of light and being enlightened, full of stories about how Jesus is revealed but, more than that, it’s about how the stories speak to Jesus being revealed in us.
Epiphany begins with the arrival of the magi who followed the star to the infant Jesus, revealing him to be the promised one. But the first story of the adult Jesus is his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. That includes a moment of revelation when a dove appears and a voice is heard saying “this is my beloved in whom I am pleased.” Jesus heads off into the wilderness for a time and then into his ministry. The bookend to that, closing out the season, is the Transfiguration story. Jesus on the mountain top with Peter, James and John, appears a vision of light, then standing with Elijah and Moses, revealed not only by that appearance but again by a heavenly voice saying “this is my beloved, listen to him.” Except, this time, Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone about it until after the resurrection. I wonder if maybe Jesus felt it wasn’t time yet to be so exposed. I don’t know, I’m just wondering.
I believe that Jesus, in his life and ministry, in his essential being, is showing us that we, too, are divine and of the earth. Just like him. That’s what Jesus is revealing to us, encouraging us, even - as John says - commanding us to do: to love just as Jesus does. Not for a moment do I think that Jesus is expecting us to be perfect at it, but simply to live it. Maybe Jesus worried that people would see him as something beyond their reach if they heard this story.
See, as one of us, Jesus reveals how to be vulnerable. In his ministry he made himself vulnerable healing the sick, spending time with outcasts, eating with sinners. He made himself vulnerable in loving, that we might learn to love. Jesus’ moment of transfiguration was revealed and lived out - mountain top experiences and the lowest of valleys - in his life. Ours can be, too.
We’ve learned, I think, that vulnerable is a weakness. It leaves us exposed, yes, but it also leaves us open to empathy, to connection, to building relationships. I think Jesus reveals it to be one of our greatest strengths. A divine one, even.
Sure enough, even now, we might hear the transfiguration story as something that sets Jesus apart from us, something that exposes what Jesus is that we aren’t. I think it reveals a connection to the divine light in all of us, if we’re just willing to be vulnerable enough to be open to it.
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