Everything Jesus had done so far hinted at His identity and the purpose of His mission. Now, the humble servant was clearly identified as the King and Savior. First, Peter was moved to confess that Jesus is the Christ. Then, in the transfiguration, Jesus revealed His divine glory. He also began to teach harder lessons, such as denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and losing one’s life for the gospel.
Did You Know...?
1. Caesarea Philippi (8:27): A town in the tetrarchy of Herod Philip, Antipas’ brother.
It was 30 miles from Tyre and 25 miles north of Galilee. The region was especially pagan. It was a Canaanite sanctuary for the worship of Baal. The Greeks called it Paneas in honor of the god Pan.
2. Christ (8:29): From the Greek word meaning, “the Anointed One.” In Hebrew, it is “Messiah.”
The title had a political connotation because it denoted an ideal king empowered by God to deliver his people and to establish his kingdom.
3. “Son of Man” (8:31): Jesus’ favorite self-designation in the gospel books. We can derive two meanings from the Old Testament. First, the prophet Daniel saw a vision of “One like a Son of Man” who was given an everlasting kingdom (Dan 7:13-14). This identifies Jesus as a king—a theme explored more fully in Matthew. Second, the prophet Ezekiel used the phrase “the son of man” at least 90 times, referring to himself and his mission. Therefore, the phrase also identifies Jesus as a servant of God.
4. Cross (8:34): An instrument of death. It was detested by both the Jews (cf. Deut 21:22-23) and the Romans as a shameful way to die.
Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals and the lowest class; a Roman citizen could not be crucified except by direct order of Caesar.
5. Rabbi (9:5): A respectful term used by the Jews to address their spiritual instructor.
- Jesus Reveals Himself as the Christ (8:27-30)
- Jesus asks the disciple about the people’s opinion of Him (8:27-28)
- Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ (8:29)
- Jesus warns the disciples not to tell anyone (8:30)
- Jesus Teaches about the Things to Come (8:31-9:1)
- His death and resurrection (8:31)
- Peter rebuked (8:32-33)
- The cost of following Jesus (8:34)
- Saving one’s life/soul (8:35-37)
- Coming of the Son of Man and the kingdom of God (8:31-9:1)
- The Transfiguration (9:2-13)
- Jesus appears dazzling white (9:2-3)
- Moses and Elijah appear (9:4)
- Peter’s reaction (9:5-6)
- A voice from the cloud (9:7)
- The disciples try to figure out what they saw (9:8-13)
What is the best part about believing in Jesus Christ? What is the toughest?
Share a moment when you were inspired spiritually. How did that experience help you grow in faith?
Why did Jesus ask the disciples about the people’s opinion of Him?Hide Answer
It was important for the disciples to know whom they were following and what they were getting into. They had to evaluate their own beliefs (“Who do you say that I am?” [8:29]) against what other people believed. The disciples must be certain of their beliefs in order to stand against the persecutions that would soon come.
Being aware of other viewpoints helps to strengthen our faith and to preach the gospel. We can see for ourselves how the gospel is unique among all religions. We do not believe blindly because the true gospel can withstand all other teachings. Knowing what other people believe helps us find a common ground. From there, we can gradually lead them to the correct teachings in the Bible.
What does the people’s opinion tell you about their understanding of Jesus?Hide Answer
Although the people came up with many possible answers, they were all wrong. They thought of Jesus as a man and could not accept Him as God. Today, there are many schools of religious thoughts, but they are all wrong if their ideas contradict the word of God.
How did Peter know Jesus is the Christ? Does this mean the disciples finally understood who Jesus is?Hide Answer
God revealed the truth to him (Mt 16:17). However, the disciples had a different concept of the Christ/Messiah prophesied in the Bible. They expected Jesus to reign in the world (Mk 11:6-10, Acts 1:6). They did not truly know the kingdom of God until they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:18-20).
Why did Jesus want to keep His identity as the Christ a secret (8:30; 9:9)?Hide Answer
It was not yet time. The people were blinded by their own expectations. Jesus commanded His disciples to wait. After His resurrection, the truth would become clear. Even though the disciples did not understand at this time, they obeyed.
Who do you say Jesus is?
Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? What does this teach us about jumping to conclusions?Hide Answer
This was the first time Jesus spoke in detail about His suffering. It must have shocked the disciples. Peter did not think Jesus could be rejected and killed (Mt 16:22). He probably ignored the part about Jesus rising again because he did not understand it. But the resurrection is a significant part of God’s plan. Peter saw only Jesus’ suffering and not the fulfillment of salvation. By ignoring parts of God’s teaching, we might also jump to the wrong conclusion.
Why did Jesus call Peter “Satan”?Hide Answer
Because he was “not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (8:33). The things of men come from Satan. Perhaps Satan used Peter’s love for Jesus to tempt Him to give up His mission. But Jesus knew He must put God’s will above all.
Peter took Jesus aside privately to rebuke Him. Why did Jesus rebuke him publicly before the other disciples?Hide Answer
Perhaps it was out of respect that Peter rebuked Jesus in private. However, by contradicting Jesus’ words, Peter showed great disrespect to God. Jesus rebuked Peter before the other disciples to teach them the great cost and the greater reward of following Him.
Share one of your past mistakes that can be used to teach other believers
What is your cross? How do you take up your cross?Hide Answer
The cross was a symbol of suffering and shame (cf. Did You Know 4). But Jesus warns us that if we are ashamed of Him and His words, He will be ashamed of us when He comes again (8:38). We must live and die for Jesus and the gospel (8:35).
What does it mean to save or lose one’s life in this world?Hide Answer
To save our lives means to be mindful of the “things of men” rather than to the “things of God” (33). In other words, a person who saves his life in this world yields to his own desires and ambitions. Subsequently, he will lose his eternal life.
On the contrary, losing our lives means submitting to God’s will, denying our ego and selfish desires, taking up suffering and shame for the sake of Christ and for the gospel, and following the footsteps of our Lord (34). If we lose our lives in this world, we will preserve our everlasting life.
What tempts you to exchange your soul?Hide Answer
The Bible puts the things in the world into three categories: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (1Jn 2:16). When we give into these sinful pleasures, we give up our soul. It is not an even exchange because earthly pleasures are temporary, while our soul will suffer the consequences forever.
Give examples of being ashamed of Jesus.Hide Answer
Peter denied Jesus three times. Today, we might be ashamed to let others know we are Christians. We might be uncomfortable reading the Bible in public. We might shy away from talking to others about our beliefs.
Explain 9:1. (For teachings on the kingdom of God, see Lesson 7).Hide Answer
Some of the disciples did indeed see the kingdom of God before their death. The kingdom of God is a spiritual one. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within and among us (Lk 17:21). When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they experienced the kingdom of God. When the apostolic church was established, the believers also saw the power of the kingdom of God. They were not ashamed of Jesus, and Jesus worked with them.
Why was it Elijah and Moses who appeared? (cf. Mal 4:4-6).Hide Answer
1. Their appearance tells us who Jesus was. Both were great prophets and mighty workers in the Old Testament. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets, both of which Jesus fulfilled (Mt 5:17; 11:12-13). The transfiguration teaches us that Jesus, being greater than Moses and Elijah, was the one all the prophets had been waiting for.
2. Elijah and Moses both played an important role in God’s salvation plan. It was appropriate for them to appear to discuss Jesus’ impending death on the cross (Lk 9:31). Elijah’s ministry shows us God’s grace in spite of our rebellion (Rom 11:2-5). Jesus knew that many (even one of His disciples) were conspiring to kill Him, but He continued to love them. Moses chose to suffer “disgrace for the sake of Christ” (Heb 11:26, NIV) in exchange for the greater reward in heaven. His ministry prefigures our journey of faith. The laws given through Moses prefigure Jesus’ doctrines and sacraments. By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic laws and completed God’s salvation plan.
Were Peter’s words (9:5) appropriate? Why or why not?Hide Answer
Six days earlier Jesus had rebuked Peter for speaking rashly. Here, Peter blubbered out of fear even though “he did not know what to say” (9:6). Why would Elijah and Moses, much less Jesus in glory, need a tent?
Peter’s words showed a lack of understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission. The focus of the transfiguration was the Lord Jesus Christ, not Elijah or Moses. Also, Jesus’ final goal was suffering in Jerusalem and the resurrection, not staying in a tent on the mountain to enjoy glory.
Peter’s nonsensical words teach us a lesson in self-control. The Bible teaches against speaking hastily (Prov 29:20; Jas 1:19)
Have you ever spoken something hastily? What was the result?
What is the purpose of the transfiguration? Compare it to what Jesus said in 9:1.Hide Answer
Jesus gave the disciples a preview of how He would appear in glory, thus proving His words in 9:1. Not only so, the transfiguration, and appearance of Elijah and Moses, and the voice from heaven all confirmed for the disciples Jesus’ identity as the Christ and the beloved Son of God.
Peter in his old age vividly recalled the transfiguration when he wrote about the coming of the Lord (2Pet 1:16-18). The experience must have made a deep impression and confirmed his faith in Christ.
After the transfiguration, “suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves” (9:8). What does the disappearance of Moses and Elijah teach us about the role of God’s workers?Hide Answer
As important as Moses and Elijah were, they were merely servants. The voice from the cloud reminded the disciples to listen to Jesus, God’s beloved Son. Likewise, our faith must be set on Jesus alone. No worker of God, however gifted, is comparable to Him.
While discussing the meaning of “rising from the dead,” Peter, James, and John asked about Elijah. Why? (cf. Mal 4:5).Hide Answer
Mal 4:5 prophesied that God would send Elijah before the day of judgement. Perhaps the disciples understood this as Elijah coming back from the dead. They were doing their best to connect what Jesus said to what they knew. After Jesus pointed them in the right direction, they understood that John the Baptist was the prophesied Elijah (cf. Lk 1:16-17; Mt 17:13).
The disciples obeyed Jesus, even while trying to figure out what He meant (9:9-10). Share an example of how you obeyed the word of God even though you did not fully understand.