When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets."
He pressed them, "And how about you? Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter said, "You're the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus came back, "God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.
And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
"And that's not all. You will have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven."
He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.
Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive.
Peter took him in hand, protesting, "Impossible, Master! That can never be!"
But Jesus didn't swerve. "Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works."
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "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 kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?
"Don't be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You'll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift.
This isn't pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory."
Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain.
His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.
Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.
Peter broke in, "Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain - one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?"
While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: "This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him."
When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death.
But Jesus came over and touched them. "Don't be afraid."
When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.
Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. "Don't breathe a word of what you've seen. After the Son of Man is raised from the dead, you are free to talk."
The disciples, meanwhile, were asking questions. "Why do the religion scholars say that Elijah has to come first?"
Jesus answered, "Elijah does come and get everything ready.
I'm telling you, Elijah has already come but they didn't know him when they saw him. They treated him like dirt, the same way they are about to treat the Son of Man."
That's when the disciples realized that all along he had been talking about John the Baptizer.
At the bottom of the mountain, they were met by a crowd of waiting people. As they approached, a man came out of the crowd and fell to his knees begging,
"Master, have mercy on my son. He goes out of his mind and suffers terribly, falling into seizures. Frequently he is pitched into the fire, other times into the river.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could do nothing for him."
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 the boy here."
He ordered the afflicting demon out - and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well.
When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, "Why couldn't we throw it out?"
"Because you're not yet taking God seriously," said Jesus. "The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle."
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)