Jesus’ Life and Ministry
A Preview of Christ’s Kingdom Glory
JESUS has stopped en route to Caesarea Philippi, and he is teaching a crowd along with his apostles. He makes this startling announcement to them: “Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
‘What could Jesus mean?’ the disciples must wonder. About a week later, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John along with him and they climb a lofty mountain. Possibly it is night, since the disciples are sleepy. While Jesus is praying, he is transfigured before them. His face begins to shine as the sun, and his garments become brilliant as light.
Then, two figures, identified as “Moses and Elijah,” appear and start talking to Jesus about his ‘departure that is to occur at Jerusalem.’ The departure evidently refers to Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection. Thus, this conversation proves that his humiliating death is not something to avoid, as Peter had desired.
Fully awake now, the disciples watch and listen with amazement. Although this is a vision, it appears so real that Peter begins to participate in the scene, saying: “Lord, it is fine for us to be here. If you wish, I will erect three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While Peter is speaking, a bright cloud covers them, and a voice from the cloud says: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” At hearing the voice, the disciples fall on their faces. But Jesus says: “Get up and have no fear.” When they do, they see no one except Jesus.
On their way down the mountain the next day, Jesus commands: “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of man is raised up from the dead.” Elijah’s appearance in the vision raises a question in the disciples’ minds. “Why,” they ask, “do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
“Elijah has already come,” Jesus responds, “and they did not recognize him.” Jesus, however, is speaking about John the Baptizer, who fulfilled a role similar to Elijah’s. John prepared the way for the coming of Christ, as Elijah did for Elisha.
How strengthening this vision proves to be, both to Jesus and to the disciples! The vision is, as it were, a preview of Christ’s Kingdom glory. The disciples saw, in effect, the “Son of man coming in his kingdom,” just as Jesus had promised a week earlier. After Jesus’ death, Peter wrote about having ‘become eyewitnesses of Christ’s magnificence while we were with him in the holy mountain.’
The Pharisees had demanded from Jesus a sign to prove that he was the one promised in the Scriptures to be God’s chosen King. They were given no such sign. On the other hand, Jesus’ intimate disciples are permitted to see Jesus’ transfiguration as confirmation of the Kingdom prophecies. Thus, Peter later wrote: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure.” Matthew 16:28–17:13; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:27-37; 2 Peter 1:16-19.
◆ How did some see Christ coming in his Kingdom before they tasted death?
◆ In the vision, what did Moses and Elijah talk about with Jesus?
◆ Why was this vision such a strengthening aid to the disciples?
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