Sometimes the cross we bear can obscure our view of heaven. God knows that. That’s why He gives us encouragement along with the difficult commands He issues.
At the foot of Israel’s highest peak, Mount Hermon—near Caesarea Philippi—Jesus told His disciples that He would die in Jerusalem and rise again (Matt. 16:21, 24). Shocked that the Messiah would die, the disciples outright rejected Jesus’ words. On the heels of His unthinkable statement, Jesus made another just as fantastic:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Matthew 16:24
The cross exposed the disciples’ expectations of what they thought following Jesus would bring.
What do you expect from following Jesus? The lessons Jesus gave from Mount Hermon are two we must never forget.
A Lesson Below Mount Hermon
Jesus’ prediction that He would die, as well as His command that all who would follow Him must bear their own cross in this life, revealed that His disciples expected nothing but their own privileged positions in the Kingdom. But Jesus revealed that following Him also included the obligation to crucify selfish desires.
But Jesus immediately offered them encouragement.
A Lesson from the Slopes of Mount Hermon
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John from the region of Caesarea Philippi to a “high mountain,” most likely the nearby snow-capped Mount Hermon (Matt. 17:1). There, Jesus’ appearance changed. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became dazzling white—a sight made even more glorious with the snow.
These two scenes—Jesus’ death and Jesus’ glory—side by side, seem like a wild contradiction. But Christ revealed these extremes so that one might strengthen the other.
He provided assurance of His coming Kingdom to the disciples He had commanded to take up their cross in the meantime.
We need this same encouragement (see 1 Pet. 5:1, 10).
What’s for Now and What’s for Later
Jesus didn’t remove the hope of His kingdom (which is all they wanted); He simply put it in its proper place. That comes later. The cross is now.
As with the disciples, the cross reveals our expectations too.
- How can we respond to the harsh reality of self-sacrifice?
- How do we deal with the fact that this life is a cross to bear, not a paradise to find?
By principle, Jesus’ lessons show us that only the promise of heaven—the next stop for all believers—provides us the stamina to follow a crucified Savior and to put aside our selfish ambition. We can shoulder our own cross today only by gazing on the glory of One who bore the cross before us—and for us.
With His death on the cross, Jesus was not only our sacrifice . . . but also our example of how to live.