According to the disciples, people think of Jesus primarily as a prophet. But Jesus wants to know who the disciples think he is (Matthew 16:15). Peter declares that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and the son of God (Matthew 16:16).
Immediately, after affirming Peter’s confession, Jesus tells them that he must die and rise again. Not only will he go to the cross, he says that all who follow him must die to themselves as well (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus, then, leads his three closest followers up a mountain where Jesus transfigures into glorious light (Matthew 17:2). Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear - representing the law and the prophets (Matthew 17:3). Peter suggests that they build tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses (Matthew 17:4).
Peter picked up on what was happening. This was Mt. Sinai all over again (Exodus 19:16). And he thought since God moved into the tabernacle tent at Sinai, maybe all three of these men would need tents here as well.
But God’s voice interrupts, calls Jesus his “beloved Son,” and tells the disciples to “listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
This should remind us of Deuteronomy 18:15 when Moses predicted, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me...it is to him you shall listen.”
Moses and Elijah disappear, and only Jesus is left (Matthew 17:8). All Moses and Elijah did, everything written in the Old Testament, which was often called the law and the prophets, pointed to Jesus.
Further, God no longer needs a tent to dwell in. He is present in the person of Jesus, his new mobile tabernacle.
Why is this good news?
Jesus’ status as Messiah meant dying (Matthew 16:21).
And the good news is that Jesus was willing to take up his cross and bring God’s kingdom into our world.
Now, he calls us to take up our own crosses as citizens in that kingdom.
This is not a punishment, but a blessing. Jesus says taking up our crosses will result in our lives being saved (Matthew 16:25).
In this context, it means being willing to die as Jesus will die. It is a whole-hearted belief in and devotion to the fact that even in death, God wins. This is not faith in our own sacrifice, but Jesus’. For in his death, there is life. In his cross, God wins.
Finally, we need to see the beauty of Jesus’ transfiguration. In this story, we get a glimpse of the true glory of Jesus’ deity. He is God himself (Colossians 1:15). Yet, right before and after this story, he says that he is going to die (Matthew 17:22).
God must have so much grace and mercy not only become human, as his new tabernacle but to also become the sacrifices that were offered in that tabernacle. The Son of God, in the flesh, died for us to fulfill all of God’s plans. That is amazing grace.
See for yourself.
May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see the God who wins, even in death. And that you would see Jesus as the one who bore his cross so we might have life when all we deserve is death.