Jesus had just dropped the bomb. At Caesarea Philippi, the Lord informed His star-struck disciples that He, the Messiah, would soon die and rise again. Amazingly, that didn’t hit them as good news.
To these men—who only understood the Messiah in terms of providing the good life of God’s kingdom—news of Jesus’ death came as a sucker punch to their dreams. It’s no wonder Peter blurted, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22).
Jesus’ reply should cause us all to pause and ponder:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Matthew 16:24
In wake of their confusion, Jesus took these disappointed disciples to a nearby mountain for a good dose of hope. They needed it.
As we struggle with our own disappointments, we can use that same hope today. We need it too.
First Things First—A Cross, then a Crown
Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain—likely Mount Hermon—and there revealed His glory—the glory they would see one day in the kingdom they wanted to begin immediately.
But Jesus had told them a cross came first. It would come first for Him—and it would come first for them.
Following Jesus requires a denial of the will.
- Biblical self-denial means more than denying yourself something, such as pecan pie. It means denying your self. It requires a mindset of putting God’s desires before your own. In a word, it means submission.
- If denying self speaks to our wills, taking up our cross speaks to our actions that follow. And although we don’t carry literal wooden crosses, Jesus’ metaphor still demands a literal application of the struggle God calls us each to bear. My cross—and your cross—represents the difficult obedience God requires daily.
- Whenever someone took up a cross in Jesus’ day, that person was not coming back. Taking up our cross daily represents what the apostle Paul would later describe as offering our bodies as a living sacrifice (see Rom. 12:1-3; Phil. 2:3-11; 4:8; Col. 3:1-10).
This death to self can only happen as we renew our minds or, to use Jesus’ words, as we set our minds on God’s interests rather than man’s.
The Purpose of the Transfiguration of Jesus
The Transfiguration of Jesus gives hope for the future—when today we carry crosses.
Jesus endured His cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). Just like Christ, we always have to have a joy set before us. Daily. Continuously. Constantly. Otherwise we will live bitter, discontented and frustrated lives (see Matt. 5:12; Rom. 12:12; 1 Pet. 1:3-9).
- The Transfiguration of Jesus promises a glorious future and therefore frees us to focus on God’s interests rather than our own.
- The Transfiguration of Jesus confirmed that the only way to glory comes through the cross. There’s no going around it.
Mount Hermon’s greatest moment looks ahead to yours. The Kingdom will come indeed—Jesus showed the disciples that—but first they had a cross to bear.
So do we.