Peter was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God, but when Jesus announced to His disciples that He would soon die in Jerusalem, Peter politely took Him aside to correct Him. Surely Jesus was mistaken! What good would it do for God’s Son to die? Obviously, Peter didn’t yet understand the main reason why Jesus became a man—to die for our sins. Jesus rebuked him sternly, wanting to make a lasting impression on Peter and the rest of His disciples. It was God’s will for Him to die. It would be no accident or twist of fate, and Jesus was certainly not mistaken. He had been born to die.
Obviously, Jesus was not playing games and was fully committed to His cause. He was paying the highest price possible to redeem humanity. And just as He was giving His life for the people He would save, He expected those He saved to give up their lives for Him. He wasn’t requiring that they all die physically as martyrs, but He was calling all of them to die to their selfish desires and live for Him. That is what He meant when He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Although the price might seem high, any other course would be foolish. By seeking after your own selfish desires, you might, as Jesus said, eventually own everything that can be bought, but you would spend eternity in hell. Jesus Christ is the one who will one day judge all people according to their deeds, and only those who were submitted to Him will be permitted entrance into His eternal kingdom. So no matter what the cost, the only smart choice is to die to selfishness and live for Jesus.
Jesus went on to say that there were some present who would not die before they would see Him coming in His kingdom. His promise was fulfilled just six days later, when Peter, James and John saw Him transfigured and glorified before them. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothing became dazzling white” (Matthew 17:2). That is how our Savior and God will look when we see Him in His kingdom! That is how Jesus will look when we stand before Him to give an account of our lives. Imagining that day should provide all of us with ample motivation to serve Him with all our hearts while we’re on the earth.
Q. When Jesus was transfigured on a high mountain before Peter, James and John, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Does this teach us anything about what happens to people after they die?
A. This proves that people’s spirits live after their bodies die. Some people think that when people die, they die like an animal, ceasing to exist. Some cults teach that when people die, they cease to exist until God resurrects them. The error that both are making is that they are not acknowledging that human beings have spirits. When their bodies die, their spirits live on, and go to heaven or hell. One day everyone’s body will be resurrected and rejoined with his or her spirit. But in the meantime, their spirits are very much alive. The spirits of Moses and Elijah must have come from paradise to meet with Jesus that day on the mountain. One day they, like us, will receive new, glorified bodies.
Q. Why do you think that Moses and Elijah were chosen by God to meet with Jesus that day?
A. Nobody knows for sure because the Bible doesn’t say. Perhaps it was to make an impression upon Peter, James and John’s minds that Jesus’ future kingdom would include all the redeemed people of the ages, including the great men of the Old Testament. Or, maybe God wanted them to be certain that Jesus was not Moses or Elijah, because we know that some people thought Jesus was Elijah (see Matthew 16:14). Or perhaps Moses and Elijah made a request of God to meet with His Son! Regardless, we’ll all someday have the same privilege as they had.
Application: Peter, James and John never forgot what happened that day on the mountain. Peter later wrote about it in a letter, saying, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendor with our own eyes. And he received honor and glory from God the Father when God’s glorious, majestic voice called down from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son; I am fully pleased with him.’ We ourselves heard the voice when we were there with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). What we’ve read about today really happened, as did everything else we can read about Jesus in the Bible!