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WHATLEY COLUMN: The caterpillar and the butterfly

Two of my favorite symbols of the resurrection are the caterpillar and butterfly. They are very different and yet they are the same creature … the scientific term is metamorphosis. For years, we used caterpillars from Insect Lore to illustrate the change from crawling, ugly caterpillar to flying, beautiful butterfly. We’d put the caterpillars into a small container of caterpillar food and over time they would grow larger and larger until one day they’d curl up and cover themselves with a silky cocoon … much like a web. At some point, it seemed the caterpillar literally melted and then dried into a cocoon. Then we’d transfer that cocoon into a larger container.

Something very similar happens in the gospel of Luke chapter 8 GNT, “[1] Some time later Jesus traveled through towns and villages, preaching the good news about the Kingdom of God. The twelve disciples went with him, [2] and so did some women who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (who was called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had been driven out….”

The last step I’ve only seen twice, the dried-out cocoon splits open and suddenly, after a few minutes of stretching and wing-drying, a magnificent butterfly begins to explore his new home and after a day or so, we’d release the butterflies into the wild.

John 20 GNT picks up the story, “[14] Then she (Mary Magdalene) turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. [15] “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” [16] Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher.”)”

She’d gone from demon-possessed to resurrection witness! And I wish I had the words to better describe what happened to the caterpillar/butterfly and to Mary Magdalene. The movie “Chosen” has her saying, “All I know is, before I was one way and now I’m another way.”