“But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. . . . But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.” Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. . . . a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. – Luke 9:20-35
When bad news arrives, it can rock your world.
Peter was absolutely right when he declared that Jesus was “the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20), but he had only a limited understanding of what that meant. In the collective Jewish mindset of the first century, the idea of a Messiah (“anointed one”) ushering in the kingdom of God had been percolating for centuries. Like everyone else, when Jesus came preaching “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), Peter envisioned a victorious king arriving to subdue all of his enemies. Watching Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons, Peter had become convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.
What Jesus said next was unexpected and frightening: “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” What? Jesus is not going to take over Jerusalem and drive out the Romans? The Messiah is going to die? And… I may die too?
Then Jesus added a cryptic word of hope: “there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”
A week later Peter is standing on a mountain gazing at the brilliant, supernatural radiance emanating from every atom of Jesus’ body and clothing. A cloud descends, enveloping Peter… and he hears a voice… oh, that voice… God speaking, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”
There were others present at “The Transfiguration.” The significance of that experience continues to provoke much reflection and discussion. But for Peter, mentioning the incident years later in a letter, it was the voice that made him an eyewitness “of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Jesus said some of them would “see” the kingdom of God, and Peter did (Luke 9:27). He had encountered the presence of God in the cloud. He had seen the glory of God shining from within Jesus. He had heard the voice say, “Hear Him!”
For Peter, following Jesus meant abandoning his preconceived notions of what God should do or would do. Jesus, Elijah, and Moses knew the imminent events coming up in Jerusalem. Peter heard them discussing the details. The divine plan was different from what he had expected, but it wasn’t bad news… it was gloriously good news.
God is a King… the only true King. He has a purpose that is being executed in the midst of our broken, rebellious corner of the universe. He is in control. There are no divine “fails.” No mistakes. Everything is playing out on time and on course. Comprehending every responsible and irresponsible action of every human being in all times and places, He enters into the chaos of our willfulness and extracts… good… for those who have said “yes” to Him, throwing themselves onto His leadership and care (Romans 8:28).
So, if Jesus says that the kingly rule of God is here, it is. If Jesus says He is going to die and then rise from the dead, then He does. If Jesus says following Him will cost me everything, then it will. The Father said I must listen to His Son, the One born in Bethlehem. No need to be afraid of the rough times, because “rough” is not synonymous with “out-of-control.” The Lord’s got this!
As a child in His kingdom, I am absolutely safe and secure. Let the bad news come… it’s never, ever the whole truth, nor is it the final scene of my story.
But it is part of the Christmas Revolution.