The apostles returned and reported on what they had done. Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida.
But the crowds got wind of it and followed. Jesus graciously welcomed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God. Those who needed healing, he healed.
As the day declined, the Twelve said, "Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We're out in the middle of nowhere."
"You feed them," Jesus said.
(There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.)
They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated.
He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd.
After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.
One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby, he asked them, "What are the crowds saying about me, about who I am?"
They said, "John the Baptizer. Others say Elijah. Still others say that one of the prophets from long ago has come back."
He then asked, "And you - what are you saying about me? Who am I?" Peter answered, "The Messiah of God."
Jesus then warned them to keep it quiet. They were to tell no one what Peter had said.
He went on, "It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the religious leaders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and on the third day be raised up alive."
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat - I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how.
Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.
What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?
If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I'm leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn't, you realize, pie in the sky by and by.
Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God."
About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along.
While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white.
At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah -
and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him.
When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, this is a great moment! Let's build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He blurted this out without thinking.
While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God.
Then there was a voice out of the cloud: "This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him."
When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.
When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them.
A man called from out of the crowd, "Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He's my only child.
Often a spirit seizes him. Suddenly he's screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black and blue before it leaves.
I asked your disciples to deliver him but they couldn't."
Jesus said, "What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here."
While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the vile spirit gone, healed the boy, and handed him back to his father.
They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God's greatness, God's majestic greatness.
"Treasure and ponder each of these next words: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into human hands."
They didn't get what he was saying. It was like he was speaking a foreign language and they couldn't make heads or tails of it. But they were embarrassed to ask him what he meant.
They started arguing over which of them would be most famous.
When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side.
"Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me," he said. "And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference."
John spoke up, "Master, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn't of our group."
Jesus said, "Don't stop him. If he's not an enemy, he's an ally."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)