Matthew 16:24–17:13 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 8:34-9:13; Luke 9:23-36)
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
In this passage, Jesus speaks of the complete dedication required to follow Him. The dying to one’s self required in the statement “take up his cross” is all encompassing and thorough. The true follower of Christ will see life as an opportunity to serve Jesus, not himself. Jesus further emphasizes the value of the soul. What would one trade for his eternal soul? This valuation makes it obvious that nothing on earth is worth losing one’s soul. Finally, this section speaks of the reward that comes with following Jesus. He speaks of the Father rewarding those who obey Him.
This entire discussion centers around the path to heaven. The path is filled with sacrifice and obedience, but leads to heavenly reward. This life may be short and hard, but blessed. The life to come is glorious and blessed, fullfillling and amazing. Take up the cross now, and a crown will be waiting later.
17 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
In this section, Jesus is affirmed by the Father in a transfiguration where a glimpse of His glory is revealed. Peter, James, and John are taken up on a high mountain by Jesus, and He was transformed into a bright, shining figure, and was joined by Moses and Elijah. What a spectacle this must have been! God the Father spoke His approval from heaven, and the disciples fell on the ground, fearful. Jesus told them not to fear, and the event was over. He charged them not to tell anyone what they had seen, and they continued their journey.
10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
Finally, Jesus was asked about the prophecy concerning Elijah coming before the Messiah. The implication in His response was that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that prophecy, which they readily accepted. The message here is one of the order of things to be and to come. Jesus is setting the stage for what His kingdom on earth will look like, and what the future will hold for those who follow Him. Keep your heart dedicated to Christ, and the blessings will follow!