(One Perfect Life Chapters 87-90) In this portion of the Gospel we see Jesus transforming the disciples understanding of Him as the suffering servant and not the conquering Messiah. The disciples also get a glimpse of His future glory to reassure them of His ultimate victory.
At Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks His disciples who men say that He is. More importantly He asks who they say that He is. Caesarea Philippi was a center of pagan worship that was built into the side of Mount Hermon where there is a massive stone formation. Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter is not the first disciple to identify Jesus as Messiah nor is this even the first time Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah.
Jesus tells them that His identity as the only begotten Son of God was the massive stone foundation for His church. He warns them not to tell others because He does not want the people to rally around Him and try to make Him the Messiah they are looking for rather than the Messiah that was soon to die for them.
Having confirmed who He was, Jesus immediately transforms their understanding of the Messiah as one who would suffer and die on their behalf. This did not fit with their expectations. To make matters worse, not only was He going to suffer and die (but be resurrected on the third day) He expected all His followers to be willing to deny themselves, take up their cross and be willing to lose their lives for the sake of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:24-27). This level of commitment was required and would be rewarded. To lack the proper commitment or to deny who He was would bring severe judgement (Mark 8:38).
Jesus next takes His inner circle (Peter, John and James) up onto Mt. Hermon where He is transfigured before them (Matthew 17:1-8). They saw Him in His future glorified state. They saw Him conversing with Moses and Elijah. They heard the voice of God affirming Jesus as being the only begotten Son. The disciples are told to tell no one. The encounter will be important for them to remember and later share to reassure Jesus’ followers of who is really is when they suffer.
When they came down from the mountain they are immediately approached by the father of a boy possessed by a deaf and dumb spirit. The other disciples were unable to drive out the demon – but Jesus did (Matthew 18:14-17). Jesus attributed their failure to their lack of faith and lack of proper preparation – prayer and fasting. Jesus will spend the remainder of His final year of ministry building up the faith of His disciples. He calls them to greater commitment as reflected in being devoted to prayer and fasting.
Jesus was transforming their understanding of His role as their Messiah – as one who would suffer, die and be raised again. He also transformed their understanding of the commitment expected of His followers.