“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’
And he said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.”
There are three realities you should expect if you decide to truly follow Jesus: You must die to self! You should expect suffering! You should live with the hope of coming glory!
Jesus took His disciples up to Caesarea Philippi to the foot of Mount Hermon for a reason. He wanted to prepare them for the Cross that was waiting for Him. He led them here, because it was a place that contained many idols to false gods. Furthermore, there was a marble temple there dedicated to Augustus. Here, all citizens were required to declare: “Caesar is Lord!” But that confession could not save them. The only confession that will save a man is “Jesus is Lord!” This is where the Christian life begins – with this confession.
In this idolatrous setting, Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say I am!” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Peter understood who Jesus was; however, neither he, nor the rest of the disciples, understand what Jesus’ real mission entailed. Thus, Jesus began to prepare them for His path, which would also be their path. The path that would take Jesus to His cross would also take them to their cross.
This is the path of the Christian life. It begins at the cross. However, for the faithful, it will end with a glorious crown. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
What do we learn from the Transfiguration? Four words: A word of truth. A word of encouragement. A word of warning. And, a word of hope.
- Truth: Jesus did not have to die. He did not have to go to the cross. But He chose too. He submitted to His Father’s will. He was willing to say, “Not my will, but Thy will be done!” His transfiguration proves that Jesus could have asserted His power any time He chose to. He could have defeated His enemies at any time, even while hanging on the cross. Yet, He chose not to. He chose to die.
- Encouragement: What really happened at the transfiguration? Jesus reversed what happened in his submission (Phil. 2:5-8). Momentarily, he transformed himself back to his former glory and power. His transformation revealed that He is the great I AM! At His ascension, Jesus returned to Heaven where He exists in eternal glory. One day, He promises to share His glory with those who belong to Him.
- Warning: After the Transfiguration, Jesus returned to His earthly body. Then, as they were walking down the mountain, He warned them that He faced rejection, suffering and death. He also warns us that we too will suffer because of His name (John 15:18-21). Suffering, persecution and perhaps even death, are what face those who follow Jesus in this world. However, we live with great hope in the midst of life’s trials.
- Hope: The transfiguration was and still is a foreshadowing of coming glory for every man who puts his trust in Jesus. One day and perhaps soon, our bodies will be transfigured (transformed) just as Jesus’ body was. Paul writes of this in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53:
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the imperishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”
Does this not give you great hope? It does me! When we go through life’s trials, which we all will, we should cling to this hope that we have. It is a great hope. It is a sure hope. And one day when we see Jesus, our hope will be realized as we shall be like Him in that moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 John 3:2).