Jesus’ preparation of the disciples included teaching them that He would die in Jerusalem and rise again (see Matt. 16:21, 24). On the heels of this unthinkable statement, Jesus made another just as fantastic: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
The cross exposed the disciples’ expectations: their own privileged positions in the Kingdom. But Jesus revealed that following Him also included the obligation to crucify selfish desires.
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John from the region of Caesarea Philippi to a “high mountain,” probably the nearby snow-capped Mount Hermon (see Matt. 17:1). There, Jesus’ appearance changed. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became dazzling white—a sight made even more glorious with the snow.
These two scenes—Jesus’ death and Jesus’ glory—side by side, seem like a wild contradiction. But Christ revealed these extremes so that one might strengthen the other. He provided assurance of His coming Kingdom to the disciples He had commanded to take up their cross in the meantime (see 1 Pet. 5:1, 10).
You see, Christ didn’t remove the hope of His kingdom (which is all they wanted); He simply put it in its proper place. Heaven is later. The cross is now.
As with the disciples, the cross reveals our expectations too. How can we respond to the harsh reality of self-sacrifice? To the fact that this life is a cross to bear, not paradise to find?
Only the promise of heaven provides the stamina to follow a crucified Savior and to put our selfish ambition aside. We can shoulder our own cross today only by gazing on the glory of One who bore the cross before us . . . and for us.
With His death on the cross, Jesus was not only our sacrifice . . . but also our example of how to live.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006). Used by permission.