Matthew chapter 17: After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The disciples had a mountain top experience to be sure. But if you read the rest of Matthew 17, as soon as they come off the mountain they are plunged right back into the problems of this life. Following the transfiguration of Christ we are immediately faced in this narrative with demonic oppression, confusion and chaos. What is most interesting is that through all of this (the transfiguration and what follows) the disciples themselves still don’t have the ability to handle their challenges. What is going on?
Matthew is showing us that while yes, mountain top experiences are episodic and wonderful and oh-so important, that generally life is a journey to the cross that involves oppression, confusion and chaos.
Ask yourself, what is the transfiguration of Christ? It was a glimpse of The Resurrection. But Jesus must still journey to Jerusalem and that journey won’t end without the bloody, scandalous cross. But this isn’t just a way for Matthew to say this is true for Jesus. This is also true for all of us. Life is a long journey and in this world we will have suffering, tribulations and many challenges that are beyond us.
This is precisely why Jesus came. In this world we will have tribulations and the only way He could come into this tribulational world and save it is to go from suffering to greatness. If we desire to follow Him, we must go through suffering as well. We must pick up our cross and follow Him daily.