Stories From The New Testament: Chapter 16 - An Amazing Vision
Shirley King Johnson
Jesus moved on to Caesarea Philippi. As Jesus walked with the 12 disciples one morning, He asked them a question. "Who do people say that I am?" (Matt. 16:13, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18). "Some say you're John the Baptist," ventured one of the disciples. "Some think you're Elijah or Jeremiah," added another, his eyebrows going up in a questioning expression. Jesus smiled. "What about you? Who do you say I am?" Peter gave an enthusiastic reply. "You're the Christ, the Son of the living God!"
Jesus' true identity
"You are blessed, Simon Peter," said Jesus, nodding His head. "Human reasoning did not convince you of that, but my Father gave you understanding. Let me tell you something. You are Peter (a little rock), and upon this rock (Petra) I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I'll give you the keys of the Kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. My authority backs you.
Jesus began to disclose details of His coming death... Peter shook a finger... "Don't say that, Lord! Nothing like that will happen to you!" Turning... Jesus shook His head vigorously. "Get behind me, Satan!"
"I must caution you," Jesus added. He looked around to include them all. "Do not tell outsiders that I am the Christ." Jesus began to disclose details of His corning death in Jerusalem. He exhorted the disciples to not despair over His death, because after lying three days and three nights in the tomb, He would be resurrected. Sensitive Peter shook a finger as if he were reprimanding an errant schoolboy. "Don't say that, Lord! Nothing like that will happen to you!" Turning to Peter, Jesus shook His head vigorously. "Get behind me, Satan!" He said firmly, raising His voice. "You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Then Jesus explained that all the things that would happen to Him were necessary as part of God's plan for man's salvation.
Take up your cross
The crowd that normally collected wherever Jesus went had begun to hurry into the area, and He sat down to wait for them to assemble. "If you want to come after me," He began, after the people were settled, "deny yourself. Take up your cross, and follow me. Shoulder your trials and daily problems and overcome them. "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it," Jesus continued, "but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What good is your life if you spend it on physical pursuits? How will you profit if you gain the whole world and lose out on your ultimate potential? Give your all for my sake and the Gospel's, and you'll have eternal life." He paused, surveying the faces in the crowd before Him. Men, women and children from the surrounding towns sat quietly, awed by His presence and reputation. But few grasped the meaning of His words. The disciples had formed a semicircle immediately before Him and He glanced to them occasionally as He spoke. "The Son of Man will come in the glory of the Father with a company of angels, and will reward every man for what he has done. Believe me, there are some standing here who will not taste death until after they see the Son of Man corning in glory."
An exclusive invitation
Six days later, Jesus and the disciples were resting near a bubbling spring in the shade of tall cedars that covered the mountain slopes of the area. The disciples had laid out a simple meal of bread, cheese, figs and dates. Jesus excused Himself and called Peter aside. "I'm going up on the mountain. I'd like you to come along." "Yes, sir." "Please ask James and John to follow us." "Yes, Lord. What about the rest of the fellows?" Jesus shook His head. "They can wait here. Come along."
Jesus' face seemed as bright as the sun, and His clothes were a brilliant, sparkling white. Choking back a frightened gasp, Peter... tried to slow the thumping of his heart. He gulped in a deep breath.
Turning, He started up the slope with a steady gait, on a route that led steadily upward among trees and boulders. He heard Peter, James and John following on the path He had chosen. They were having an earnest discussion about something. Jesus smiled. Young John, who could be so loving, could also become amazingly out of sorts with his brother and Peter when it came to the question of who would be greatest in the Kingdom. As they drew near the mountain's round summit, the last red streaks in the sky began to fade into purple. Finding a sheltered area where a cluster of cedars grew at an angle against a craggy boulder, Jesus knelt to pray. Peter, James and John knelt a short distance away. A soft wind sighed in the upper branches of the trees and Peter wrapped his cloak around him. Resettling himself, he saw that Jesus was gazing upward in rapt concentration. Bowing his head, Peter tried to pray. James and John exchanged whispers. Then there was silence, except for the sighing of the branches as the wind tossed them fitfully in the dark sky.
Christ is transfigured
Peter, feeling chilled, pulled his sandaled feet in under his cloak. He felt sleepy. Then he felt an elbow jab his side and he opened his eyes. John was kneeling beside him. "Look!" he whispered. Turning his head, Peter saw that Jesus was standing a few yards away, His body enveloped in glittering brightness. Jesus' face seemed as bright as the sun, and His clothes were a brilliant, sparkling white. Choking back a frightened gasp, Peter pulled his cloak over his head to keep out the brilliance. But after several moments, he dared peep out again. John still knelt at his side, staring at the radiant figure, more amazed and interested than frightened. Peter tried to slow the thumping of his heart. He gulped in a deep breath. More brilliance flooded the mountainside as two bright figures — two men — appeared beside Jesus. One of the men was Moses, who had delivered God's law to Israel. And with him was Elijah, one of God's great prophets and teachers. The three — Jesus, Moses and Elijah — talked together in low voices. Peter strained forward and heard them discussing Christ's coming death at Jerusalem (Matt. 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). The vision began to fade and Peter arose shakily from his knees. He spoke to Jesus, his mouth dry and his tongue thick. "Lord, it's good that we are here. Let's put up three tabernacles — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." Dazed, Peter didn't know what he was saying. But Jesus made no reply to Peter's suggestion. As He stood alone, His apparel began to slowly lose its luster. Suddenly a cloud appeared, engulfing them all and frightening Peter, James and John. Then a voice spoke out of the cloud: "This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!" At the sound of that supernatural voice, Peter, James and John dropped to the ground again. Going to them, Jesus comforted them and told them not to be afraid. As they left the area, Jesus explained that what they had seen was a vision of God's coming Kingdom, fulfilling His promise that some would "see the Son of Man coming in glory." But He also warned them to tell no one of the vision until after His resurrection.