RIGHT after his God-revealed confession, Peter undertakes to rebuke the Lord Jesus. Within the range of a few verses, he falls from the mountain peak of confession to the swamp of contradiction. From a rocklike disciple he changes to a stumbling block. A few moments, and he who spoke from God is told he savors not the things of God but of men.
Jesus next laid down the terms of discipleship in self-denial, cross-bearing and obedience. There is a difference between a believer and a disciple—not every believer is a good disciple. Scripture gives us the paradox of Christian experience: he who loses his life for Christ’s sake saves it. To gain the world and lose the soul is man’s worst bargain. At the judgment, we who are believers are to be rewarded according to our works.
The statement “There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” is fulfilled in the transfiguration which immediately follows (Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). The whole scene is a miniature picture of Christ reigning in His future kingdom. He is the center of it all. Moses represents dead saints resurrected and Elijah the living saints caught up at the rapture. Peter, James and John represent Israel, while the multitude at the foot of the mountain represent the nations to be brought into the kingdom after it has been established over Israel. Peter himself later speaks of the profound significance of this occasion (2 Pet. 1:16-19).
Impulsive Peter wanted to catch the glory and house it and stay on the mountaintop; but there is work to be done in the valley, and he must go down to meet human need. The heavenly voice bears testimony to the beloved Son, as at the baptism of our Lord; and when the majestic glory passes, the three men see Jesus only. We must not fix upon our rapturous experiences as the norm of our Christian lives. Mountaintop experiences come and go, but Christ remains.
Observe also, that after such a glorious experience Jesus bids them, “Arise and be not afraid.” After our visions and revelations, we are to arise. The strength that comes through them must be expended on the multitude who are at the foot of the mountain. Mountaintop hours are not for purely personal enjoyment. They are to brace us for practical service ahead.
The disciples ask Jesus about Elijah who is to come (Mal. 4:5-6). Malachi’s prediction had already been fulfilled in John the Baptist, but there is a greater fulfillment ahead when he comes as one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Two separate comings of “Elijah” are clearly taught, the first in the person of John the Baptist but another yet future.
Luke, in his account, says, “And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone.” We have our great days, when voices from heaven speak to the soul. But Jesus Himself abides when the vision fades and no voice is heard. Look not to voice and vision, but unto Him who remains the same.