Updated: Feb 1
The Hollywood movie Groundhog Day is an excellent allegory of repentance, faith, and a transformation of character in the Christian tradition. In Groundhog Day, the leading figure is a weatherman named Phil, who quickly becomes known to his viewers as a self-centered, self-absorbed, egotist who is in pressing need of character adjustment.
If you have watched the movie, you know that the weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, begins to live the same day over and over again. He makes it known at the beginning of the story just how much he hates going to Punxsutawney to cover the "Groundhog Day" festival. He is afraid it will hurt his career. Reliving that particular day makes his dilemma that much worse in his mind; he sees no way of selfishly capitalizing upon the day in which he is living.
Eventually, he asks a couple of men he meets at a bowling alley, "How would you feel if you had to relive the same day over and over again?" One replies, "That would mean there would be no consequences; we could do whatever we wanted." It was that sinful suggestion that revealed to Phil a way to get what he wanted and seize the moment or day in this case. We all wish that we did not have to deal with the implications of our sins. But God, in His great wisdom and love for us, has seen fit to reveal the error of our ways through consequences.
In one scene, Phil sits at breakfast with Rita, his producer, and gorges himself with fatty foods because, as he says, "I don't worry about anything anymore." She perceives his self-centeredness and quotes Sir Walter Scott.
"The wretch concentred all in self, Living, shall forfeit fair renown, And, doubly dying, shall go down to the vile dust, from whence he sprung, Unwept, unhonored, and unsung."
As the story progresses, Phil takes advantage of his growing knowledge of the day's recurring events and manipulates people and circumstances for his selfish ends. He can use an unsuspecting and naive woman, but when he tries the same on Rita, she sees right through him and calls him out once again. She says, "I could never love you because you could never love anyone but yourself." At this point, the movie deviates from the Biblical reality because Jesus always finds people in a sinful and wicked condition. Jesus said, "I did not come for the righteous but to bring sinners to repentance." However, Jesus's unconditional love is short-lived because when He saves a person, He calls him to Himself, sanctifies him, and begins the process of transforming him into His likeness. One day in death or at His second coming, all His saints will be made entirely whole in sinless perfection; that is the love and righteousness of God.
In the matter of Rita as a picture of Christ, there is nothing special about her that would make us think of Jesus. She is simply an object of Phil faith, which in the course of the story has a transforming effect upon his life.
Our story begins the process of transformation, as the Bible does through brokenness over sin. After repeatedly trying to manipulate her, he always fails. He becomes so discouraged and depressed; he begins a quest to commit suicide. However, each morning Phil continues to wake up on Groundhog Day. For Phil, what started as a quest for selfish and self-serving living ended up in self-hatred, discouragement, and depression. Eventually, Phil tells Rita what is happening to him, but this time it's not to take advantage of her but because he has come to an end of himself. She goes through the day with him, and a very telling line is when Phil says to her, "I have killed myself so many times that it's almost like I don't exist anymore."
It is a beautiful reality in the Christian life that a sinner is transformed (Metamorphosis in the Greek or a caterpillar changed into a butterfly) into the image of the Son of God. 2 Corinthians 3:18 states this truth in this way,
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."
"We" in this verse is speaking of those, who by the grace of God, have received Jesus Christ as the only way to enter into God's presence. It is then that the blinders then come off, and they can behold the glory of the Lord. Therefore they see the sufferings of the cross for what they are – pleasing to God as an atonement for sin. Thus, the sinner becomes acceptable to God in Jesus Christ. This entrance into God's presence begins the process by which a transformation occurs and the sinner is slowly changed into the very likeness of the Son of God. And so it is with Phil of our story.
Shortly afterward Phil is reading to Rita who has fallen asleep and he tells her that he loves her and he will continue to love her for as long as she lives. Even though the day remains the same, something new happens to Phil; he completely turns around and begins to live for others. He takes piano lessons to please Rita and begins serving people wherever he might find them in need. The Christian life begins when a person realizes his obligation as a poor wretched sinner. He is without hope in the world. Jesus started the beatitudes or attitudes of true Christianity with "Blessed are the poor in spirit…" or those who realize their poverty and out of desperation look to the Lord Jesus for salvation. Such an attitude of debt, which by the grace of God turns the sinner from his wicked ways, is what the Bible calls repentance, without which no one can be saved. Repentance is then followed by saving faith.
Our story concludes when Phil tries one last time to save an older man's life who he finds in an alley and who dies of old age. He comes to realize that he is not God and that he cannot change things even though he has been given a gift to see how some things will turn out. He begins the last Groundhog Day with a weather report filled with hope and love, and for the first time, Rita sees the new Phil. The Hollywood allegory falls short in a few areas. Phil and Rita do not wed on the final evening of Groundhog day even though we are led to believe that they become intimate.
The Bible concludes with the marriage feast of the Lamb. Jesus is wed to His bride, the Church whose garments have been made white through His blood. The sacrifice of the Lamb is life for life. The righteous life of the Son of God became a ransom price for the life of sinners. Thereby the Church is made acceptable to the Father of all righteousness through the only Begotten and beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.