A Pirate’s Epiphany

By Amber Noel

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 12:14-21 

14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

15 When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, 16and he ordered them not to make him known. 17This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
21   And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”


In the movie, Hook, a grown-up Peter Pan, who goes by the name Peter Banning and is deeply in denial of his powers, tries to rescue his children from a self-doubting, past-his-prime Captain Hook. Dustin Hoffman is hilarious as the depressed, waxed-mustache captain, who constantly needs Smee to give him pep talks. One of my favorite gag lines comes when Hook is down in the dumps about his vocation as a pirate, and about Peter’s unenergetic rescue attempts, and Smee suddenly gets inspired. Smee’s bright idea is to get Peter’s children to love the captain and the pirate’s life, so that when Peter next tries to rescue them, he has to fight not only the pirates, but the wills of his own misled children. “I’ve had an apostrophe!” he tells the captain. Massaging his temples, Hook only groans, “I think you mean an epiphany.”

The Epiphany of Jesus is the “aha moment” of God’s will for the world, and in some ways, it is the opposite of Smee’s “apostrophe.” It is the beginning of the age in which the Son of God reigns hiddenly, his rescuing work marked most by its gentleness and discretion, and its unwillingness to give up on what looks unpromising. His reign is just, inexorable, and universal, yet he does not force it or yield it harshly. In this age, he does not even separate the wheat from the tares, but lets them grow up together to maximize his mercy. The Lord is neither the tyrannical Hook nor the weak-willed, halt-footed Peter Banning. He is the Lord of the repentance that leads to becoming sons and daughters of God. Epiphany reveals that we are not only rescued — again and again — from Satan’s piratical schemes, but turned in our deepest hearts toward the things of God, so that the flag of the Lord’s gentleness and justice toward all, even now, would unfurl wherever his children venture.

Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.

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Diocese of Abuja (Nigeria)
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