Jesus watches as the man brings his son forward. When they are a few feet away, the boy looks up and sees Jesus. Immediately, he is thrown to the ground, where he begins again to thrash about violently and foam at the mouth. The demon within him is determined to have its last hurrah, knowing who this Jesus is who is about to banish it. The boy’s father pleads again, “Rabbi, if You can, please help my boy!” Jesus looks at the boy and his father with concern in His eyes. “Do you believe that I can help your son?” He asks, “Because all things are possible if you have faith.” The boy’s father hesitates, wanting to believe Him but afraid to hope after so many frustrated attempts at curing his son. “I – I believe! But, oh, Rabbi, help me with the part of me that still doubts!” he cries out. Jesus nods, satisfied that the man’s faith is present and growing. Now He turns to the boy and the tormenting demon. “Deaf and mute demon, I command you to leave this boy at once, and never return!” He orders the demon. The demon, caught between its desire to remain and torture the boy further, and its knowledge that this could have been far worse if Jesus decided it was time to send it to its doom, cries out and seizes the boy once more before departing. And the boy falls to the ground, unmoving – is he dead? The crowd believes it is so, and everyone is shaken by this turn of events.
Matthew 17:18, Mark 9:20-26, Luke 9:42
They reach the base of the mountain to find a commotion among the crowd. Some scribes have come from Jerusalem and are debating with the apostles. As soon as the people see Jesus, they surge towards Him, surrounding Him and all speaking at the same time. Jesus walks forward into the middle of the fray and sees a distraught father holding his son. The boy is thrashing about, with his eyes rolled back into his head and foaming at the mouth. The apostles who remained behind with the people look at Jesus sheepishly, knowing that they have failed to do what Jesus asked of them. “Rabbi, we tried to heal this boy, but nothing we did had any effect on the demon holding him,” Matthew tells Him. The boy’s father crawls over to Jesus and falls on his face before Him, begging, “Please, Rabbi, he is my only son. The demon torments him day and night. It makes the boy jump into fire and into water. It gives him convulsions, and it has made him deaf and mute. He has been this way since he was very young. Please, can You help him? Your apostles did try, but they could do nothing against the demon.” Jesus looks sadly at His apostles and cries out, “Oh, people of unbelief! How long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me.”
Matthew 17:14-17, Mark 9:14-19, Luke 9:37-41
Jesus takes their hands and gently helps them up. Together, they begin the descent down the mountain, back to the world below. Jesus warns them, “Do not speak of any of this until after I have risen from the dead.” Peter, James, and John look at each other, silently wondering what He means about rising from the dead. But they say nothing. After they have walked a while in silence, James asks, “Rabbi, why do the scribes tell us that Elijah must come before the Messiah?” He is wondering why Jesus warned them not to speak of this, if everyone knows Elijah has to come before Jesus can declare Himself as the Messiah. Jesus replies, “You are correct to say that Elijah must come first, to show the people how to return to God. And Elijah has come, in the form of John the Baptist. He proclaimed My coming and taught the people how to prepare their hearts to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. But King Herod and his unlawful queen Herodias did not know who he was and did not understand his teaching. Because he spoke out against them, Herodias convinced Herod to have him imprisoned, and then killed, just as the evil queen Jezebel did to Elijah in his day. And in this way, the rulers of this world will conspire against Me, to persecute and kill Me, just as the scriptures foretell.” Peter, James, and John are silent, contemplating His words about John the Baptist – and about His own suffering and death.
Matthew 17:9-13, Mark 9:9-13
As they watch, transfixed, Elijah and Moses appear, standing there in the same brilliance as Jesus. The three begin to converse of Heavenly things, and of what is about to happen to Jesus. It is very cold up there, with snow all around them, and the air is thin. The apostles feel their eyelids growing heavy with sleep, their bodies’ natural response to being completely overwhelmed. Peter, scared out of his mind, begins to do what comes naturally to him: talk. “Well, now, it’s wonderful that we are here to witness this! Let’s build 3 tents for You, and Moses, and Elijah, Lord, and…” he trails off as he sees a bright cloud coming over them and hears another voice resound, “This is My beloved Son! I AM very pleased with Him! Pay attention and take to heart what He tells you!” Unable to make a sound, the apostles fall to their faces on the ground, quaking in fright. The Voice of God! But Jesus comes to them and lays His hands on their shoulders, comforting them. “It’s alright, here, stand up,” He tells them. They cautiously lift their heads and look around. Moses and Elijah have disappeared, only they and Jesus are left on the mountain. Jesus is no longer brilliantly glowing, but is back to normal, whatever that may be. But they will never look at Him the same way again. They have seen the glory of God come upon Him and transform Him into…what? Who He really is?
Matthew 17:3-8, Mark 9:4-8, Luke 9:30-36, http://www.egrc.net/images/WFTR/HebrewWords/MtHermon.jpg
Jesus stays with the people there, near the mountain, communing with them and teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven for 6 days. Then He calls His apostles to Him and commands them, “My friends, I want you to stay with the people here, working with them and healing those who come to you. I will take Peter, John, and James and go up the mountain for a little while, then we will return to you.” The apostles commanded to remain can’t help feeling a twinge of jealousy, but they only nod and wish Jesus and their companions well on their climb. Jesus, Peter, John, and James begin to climb up Mt. Hermon. When they get almost to the top, to an area that cannot be seen from the ground below, Jesus tells them, “We will stop here to pray.” His apostles, believing that He would like to be alone to pray as usual, start to walk away to give Him some privacy, but Jesus stops them. “I would like you to stay and pray with Me,” He tells them. They kneel together, joining hands, and begin to lift their voices to Heaven in prayer. Suddenly, in the middle of the prayer, Jesus begins to glow with a bright, pure-white light – whiter and brighter than anything the apostles have ever seen before. And His face is the brightest of all. They stare at Him, frozen there on their knees in awestruck terror, wondering what they are supposed to do now. Should they flee? Bow down in worship? Or are they meant to simply bear witness to this…whatever this is?
Matthew 17:1-2, Mark 9:2-3, Luke 9:28-29
“Anyone who wants to follow Me will have to accept, even welcome, a life of suffering. Every day will bring new trials. I will be with you through it all, and will give you the strength to endure to the end. And in exchange, you will receive eternal life filled with joy in the Kingdom of Heaven. For, anyone who loves his own life in this world more than the life to come in Heaven will lose both. But whoever gives his life to follow Me and proclaim My Good News to the world will gain everything. Consider this, what do you really have if you attain the highest honors and wealth, and experience all the joys that this world has to offer, but in doing so you lose your soul to the everlasting fires of hell? And what would you be willing to give up in this life to keep your soul secure and receive eternal life in Heaven? For the everyday trials of this world that last only a few years are nothing compared to the joy of Heaven that will endure forever. In the last day, I will come to you in My glory and in the glory of God, with the army of the angels of Heaven around Me, and will reward each person in proportion to what he has done for Me. Whoever is ashamed of Me and turns away from Me on earth, I will be ashamed of him and turn away from him in Heaven. I tell you the truth, there are some standing here today who will live to see the Kingdom of Heaven come with power to this earth.”
Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-9:1, Luke 9:23-27, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/matthew/16-28.htm
Jesus, before continuing with His revelation to His apostles, takes a moment to compose Himself again. He has just thwarted another of Satan’s attempts to tempt Him into abandoning His Father’s plan and doing things the easy way. And Peter, His Peter, is the one Satan used to try to trick Him. The Rock whom Jesus has just commended for following Him steadfastly became a stone that tried to trip Him up. He closes His eyes and offers a prayer of thanksgiving to His Father, who has kept Him strong and helped Him to see through the trap. He opens His eyes and looks at Peter. Poor Peter is sitting with his head down, white-faced and trembling. He doesn’t understand what has just happened. Jesus says, “Peter.” Peter slowly, fearfully, raises his eyes to his Messiah. He doesn’t see condemnation or anger, only love and compassion. Sitting up straight now, he once again gives Jesus his full attention. Jesus tells them, “I tell you these things so that you will be prepared for their coming. This must happen to fulfill My Father’s plan.” The apostles don’t know what to think. They convince themselves that Jesus is once again speaking in a parable, that His words are just a metaphor. Because otherwise, what are they going to do? What are they supposed to believe now? But, no time to think about that now. They follow Jesus as He rises and leaves their secluded area, to find a group of people waiting for them near the mountain. No matter where they go, the people always follow. The apostles are encouraged by this, for if the people love Him this much, how will they turn against Him in Jerusalem? Jesus welcomes the crowd and climbs a little way up the mountain to teach them.
Matthew 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-33, Luke 9:21-22, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/16-23.htm
Looking at Jesus, the apostles notice that He seems very sad. “You are My trusted servants, having stood by Me through many trials already. I am going to tell you what must happen soon,” He tells them. “I will go to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. The people, and especially the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes of the Temple, will not believe in Me. They will turn against me, torture me, and manufacture evidence to have Me put to death. But I will rise again on the third day.” The apostles, already astonished by what Jesus has told them about their role in His ministry, cannot believe what they are hearing. Their beloved Rabbi, the Messiah, suffer and be killed? This is not what is supposed to happen, not to the Messiah! He is supposed to be invincible, their fearless leader, God in human flesh, rescuing them from their oppressors. How can this happen if He is dead? Surely, He can’t mean it. Peter can’t take it anymore. He stands up and asks Jesus to walk with him. Together, they walk away from the rest of the group, and Peter tells Jesus, “You shouldn’t say things like this! You know this can’t happen to You, as the Messiah! You are scaring us.” But Jesus replies, “Satan! Get away from Me! You don’t care about the things of Heaven, only of this earth. You are trying to make Me fall, and I will not allow it!” Jesus walks away from Peter and takes His place in the circle of apostles once more. Peter stands there for a moment, frozen in shock, then turns abruptly and also rejoins the group.
Matthew 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-33, Luke 9:21-22
“And who do you say that I AM?” Jesus continues. Once again, it is Peter who responds, rather impetuously, “Oh, Rabbi, You are the Messiah, Son of the Living God!” Jesus smiles, knowing that Peter speaks the hearts of all of them, and that this response brings their relationship to a new level. Jesus has always known their hearts, but has continually asked questions like this one, designed to make them look inward and make difficult decisions that will ultimately determine their eternal destiny. Now they know that they are allied with Jesus as their Messiah, for good or bad, for all eternity. They do not yet understand what that will mean for them, though. Jesus tells Peter, “You, Simon, son of Jonah, are truly blessed, because you did not receive this knowledge from men. God Himself has revealed this to you. Several months ago, I began to call you Peter, which is Greek for “rock,” because of your steadfastness in following Me. Now you have earned this name again because you now declare your faith in Me. And I tell you, I will build My Church on this Rock, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!” The apostles all sit up a little straighter at this pronouncement. “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. You will be My ambassadors on earth. I have taught you all about the things of Heaven and the things of this world, both old and new, and it will be your job to teach all the people. What you deem to be right and good on earth will also be deemed the same in Heaven, and whatever you deem evil on earth will be deemed evil in Heaven. But take care to tell no one of any of this, for they will be against you.” There are now almost identical looks of astonishment on the faces of all the apostles.
Matthew 16:15-20, Mark 8:29-30, Luke 9:20
Jesus and His apostles leave the fishing boat in Capernaum and journey on foot to Caesarea Philippi, another primarily Gentile city to the north. This city was built by Tetrarch Philip, brother of Herod Antipas, in honor of Caesar. He added the name Philippi both to honor himself and to distinguish this city from the other Caesarea on the seacoast (often called Caesarea Maritima) which was built by Herod. Some still call it by its former name, Paneas, in honor of the god Pan. Mt. Hermon towers over the city, shielding it from the harsh heat that bears down on most of Judea, and even bringing snow in the winter. The mountain also brings fresh, cold water to the inhabitants of the city. Jesus brings His apostles here to enjoy some rest and time to pray in solitude. Upon their arrival, they go immediately to a secluded place near the mountain. Jesus goes off by Himself to pray, as the apostles stand watch nearby, talking amongst themselves and praying also. After a while, His apostles join Him. He looks up at their approach and smiles. “Who do the people say that I AM?” He asks. The apostles are a bit taken aback at the abrupt question. Peter, always one to blurt out what is on his mind, answers, “Well, Rabbi, many people say that you are Elijah or John the Baptist come back from the dead. Some say Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.” Jesus looks at them rather sadly, knowing that this response signifies a failure of the people to understand who He truly is, for even the greatest of the prophets falls far short of being the Messiah.
Matthew 16:13-14, Mark 8:27-28, Luke 9:18-19, http://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/map.jpg