old friend once put it this way: “There is only one question: Who do you say
that I am?” Your answer to that question determines your eternity.
do you say that I am?
should be noted that Christ asks this question after leaving the contemporary
boundaries of Judea, perhaps so that his disciples might answer freely.)
Mat 16:13-28 NIV
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (14)
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still
others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." (15)
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" (16) Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (17) Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son
of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
(18) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not
overcome it. (19) I will give you the keys of the kingdom of
heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be
bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (20) Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone
that he was the Christ.
(21) From that time on Jesus began to explain to his
disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of
the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed
and on the third day be raised to life. (22)
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said.
"This shall never happen to you!" (23)
Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling
block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of
men." (24) Then Jesus said to his
disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take
up his cross and follow me. (25) For whoever
wants to save his life will lose
it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (26)
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his
soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (27) For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory
with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has
done. (28) I tell you the truth, some who are
standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his
is a contemporary ring to the answers the disciples give. See if you recognize
some of the answers likely to be given today.
is someone good. The names mentioned are great ones from the Old
Testament; to be called such would be a great honor for ordinary mortals.
It’s easy to see Jesus this way. It’s also false. This is a common view,
for though one must honor a good man, we needn’t worship and obey him.
is someone powerful. These men had miraculous powers and great
message. We see even today those who carry talismans related to Christ,
convinced that good luck is the limit of his power. Good luck never
incites fear or awe.
these are far below who He really is. The gospels make it clear that Christ
did not present himself as either good teacher or lucky charm, but as the Lord
of all creation. “Liar, lunatic or Lord,” as C. S. Lewis put it.
difference between the two views is obvious. But perhaps not so obvious are
disciples know Jesus much more closely than the crowd does. Their answer
is therefore hits the mark. But do you not see that a closer knowledge
also implies a greater responsibility? The crowd may be excused; the
disciples could not.
in the kingdom of God, is first revealed, then taught. You cannot know
God unless he wishes to be known, and reveals himself. After revelation,
then comes teaching. Experience will confirm the teaching – but the
revelation comes first. The son of Jonah is mortal; the Son of God is
immortal. This is revealed, then taught and ultimately will be
Father reveals the Son – just as the Son reveals the Father. Even in
revelation they are one.
when you get it, is a blessing.
is well for us to state just what has been revealed here:
that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, prophesied of old.
Chrysostom put it, “On this faith and confession I will build my Church.” The early church had no idea of
Peter as Pope.
Peter’s objections, the establishment of the church requires the
crucifixion of Christ.
of them with him will see the kingdom come. This could mean either that
some will see the Transfiguration, or that “some” means “all the apostles
except Judas” will see the start of the church.
Christ will return and reward all for what they have done in this life.
Mat 17:1-9 NIV The
six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and
led them up a high mountain by themselves. (2)
There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his
clothes became as white as the light. (3)
Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (4) Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for
us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for
Moses and one for Elijah." (5) While he
was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud
said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to
him!" (6) When the disciples heard this,
they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. (7)
But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be
afraid." (8) When they looked up, they
saw no one except Jesus. (9) As they were
coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what
you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
was there a transfiguration at all?
noted above, some hold this is the fulfillment of Matthew 16:28, that some would
see the kingdom. Perhaps more important, however, is that the Transfiguration
is a confirmation of the great confession Peter has made; it certainly was
powerful evidence that Peter got it right.
important, perhaps, there is this: the Transfiguration is the assurance needed
to know per crucem ad lucem, “from the Cross into the light.” The
disciples were about to go through hard times of mental anguish and despair;
this incident grants them the insight that God’s purpose will prevail.
these three apostles?
first and obvious answer is that they were preeminent among the apostles.
They are always listed in the first group of four names; they play prominent
parts in the early church.
Peter, however, there is a special reason. He is the one who challenges Christ
concerning His death. Christ has rebuked him for this – and now provides a
better reason for His death.
number itself has significance; the Old Testament calls out that matters
subject to testimony require two or three witnesses to be made sure. There are
three witnesses to the glory of God (Peter, James and John) and three witnesses
to the apostles concerning Jesus (Moses, Elijah and the Father).
most important is this: the apostles needed the mountain top experience, but
they also needed to learn to come down from the mountain top. They wanted to
stay, but there was work to be done in the valleys below.
Moses and Elijah?
answer would have been clearer to them than to us:
represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Thus, they are the
complete Old Testament witness to Christ.
represent the living (Elijah, who never died but was transported to
heaven) and the dead (Moses). Thus, they are the witness of all humanity.
bring unity to the disciples. No longer does the Old Testament say this
and Christ say that, but they now know that Christ is the ultimate end of
the Old Testament. Everything they knew from the Law and the Prophets
points to Jesus Christ.
glory of God
glory of God is revealed in the Transfiguration. It remains for us to see why
this should be so:
Php 2:8-11 NIV
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross! (9) Therefore God
exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, (10)
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11)
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Transfiguration tells us of the glory of Christ – glory he earned at the
Crucifixion. Praise is due Him by right, for what He has done for us. We can
well understand, then, why Peter could say, “It is good for us to be here.”
course, we see this in the light of the Resurrection. It wasn’t so obvious at
Mat 17:10-21 NIV
The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that
Elijah must come first?" (11) Jesus
replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. (12) But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and
they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the
same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." (13) Then the disciples understood that he was
talking to them about John the Baptist.
(14) When they came to the crowd, a man approached
Jesus and knelt before him. (15) "Lord,
have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering
greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. (16) I brought him to your disciples, but they could
not heal him." (17) "O unbelieving
and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with
you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." (18) Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the
boy, and he was healed from that moment. (19)
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we
drive it out?" (20) He replied,
"Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith
as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to
there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (21)
down the mountain
you want to understand the second coming of Christ, it is best to look at the
first as the model and example. The disciples are puzzled; they have been
taught from youth that Elijah would come to prepare the way for the Christ.
Jesus tells them they got it right; they just didn’t recognize the one who
played the part of Elijah – John the Baptist.
scholars hold, therefore, that Elijah will precede the second coming of
Christ. How so?
could be that there will be one who will play the part of John the
Baptist, a great preacher who will put the choice of heaven and hell
before the world.
– remember that Elijah never died – it might be Elijah himself. Some hold
that he and Enoch (never died either) are the two witnesses spoken of in
what should you do about all this? The same things as before:
in the grace you have been given.
and pray, so that you will not be taken unawares.
out to those who still have not believed.
important to note that the disciples with insufficient faith are those who were
left behind, not Peter, James and John. Christ addresses himself to the crowd,
whose faith evidently the problem, as Mark puts it:
Mar 9:21-24 NIV
Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. (22)
"It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do
anything, take pity on us and help us." (23)
" 'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who
believes." (24) Immediately the boy's
father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
problem has not disappeared; even within the ranks of Christians there are
many whose faith is placed in many things before it reaches Jesus. Like then,
we are a “perverted generation.” The word means, in the original,
“distorted.” We have things out of proper perspective.
answer: Mustard seed faith. Much has been written about this, but we can see
is faith that lives – and therefore grows. But only when in contact with
its nourishment, Jesus Christ.
seed is small, but living. Large and dead means dead.
to some accounts, this faith includes prayer and fasting (verse 21, omitted
in most modern translations, taken from Mark 9:29).
shall we do?
short summary is in order – just what does Christ expect us to do about all
up your cross and deny yourself (Matthew 16:24).
so in faith and hope.
and pray for his return.