One of those key intervals in Jesus life took place when he came with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi. It was there Jesus promised that he was going to build his church and that the gates of hades wouldn’t be able to stop him. He promised to give Peter and the other apostles the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.
Ater that marvelous promise he foretold he was going to Jerusalem and would there be arrested and put to death by the religious leaders and raised from the dead on the third day. Peter seemed to be feeling his oats at this point and actually tried to rebuke Jesus for saying such a thing was going to happen. Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” ( Mark 8:33)
After that Jesus laid down some of the most powerful concepts of discipleship ever stated anywhere. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” These statements would have been powerful at any point in Scripture. But when you think of them as coming right after his declaration that he was going to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, crucified and raised again on the third day and it becomes all the more powerful. Suddenly it becomes obvious what Jesus meant when he said the gates of hades wouldn’t be able to stop him from building his church. When he died on the cross it would certainly seem to even his disciples that all was lost. How could a dead Christ be the king over his kingdom? How could he build his church from the grave? But his resurrection would demonstrate that he had the power over death, hades and the grave. Nothing could stop him from his mission.
But it also means that when he told the apostles if they really wanted to be his followers it meant denying self, taking up their cross and following him it was more than an academic challenge. This was the challenge that meant if you aren’t ready to lay down everything, including your life for me you can’t really be a disciple. In a day when we have minimized the whole idea of discipleship to the degree that preachers tell people all it takes to become his follower is to repeat after them a short statement of prayer asking God to come into their heart and they are right with the Lord. Can you even imagine Jesus offering such an invitation? I would be afraid that God would strike me down on the spot for so desecrating His message of discipleship. Where is the self denial? Where is the taking of our cross to follow him? Where is the loving of him to the degree we are ready to give our lives for him? Something has been sorely missed in this whole thing.
But something else stands out here. Ignore the chapter break and read from the end of chapter 8 through the first part of chapter 9. Remember that chapters were added by man hundreds of years after Mark wrote his gospel. So it goes from Jesus promise that He would come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels to “And Jesus was saying to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” He had just been talking about his death and their following him with their cross, then he turns to promise that some of them would before death see the kingdom come with power.
Now I’ve heard and preached a ton of sermons in which I took this verse to point to what took place in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost when the church was established. After all there were still disciples alive then that had heard the promise. They saw the kingdom come with power in that the Holy Spirit came upon them and Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. So it seems to fit.
But in the last few years I’ve questioned that teaching or understanding more and more. I don’t doubt that the Spirit came with power and that the church was started there and that Peter first used the keys of the kingdom there when he told the people what they needed to do to be saved. But I doubt it was that incident that Jesus was referring to here in Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:28; or Luke 9:27. Well, why do I now doubt that?
Notice the fact that every one of the three accounts of this promise go immediately from that promise of the kingdom coming with power to tell of Jesus taking Peter, James and John with him to go up on the mount of trangfiguration and during his time of prayer they were amazed to see Jesus transfigured or transformed before their eyes. His appearance became a dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared with him and talked with him about his coming death. Peter was so carried away that he said to Jesus, “It’s good for us to be here. Let’s build three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” It may well be that he had in mind making the tents so they could stay up there in the glory of the moment longer. But God took offense of Peter’s statement. The cloud overshadowed him and the others and God spoke to Peter especially saying, “This is the Son I love. Listen to Him.” Wow! How would you have liked to be there and hear and see that?
They saw the amazing transformation of Jesus into royalty. He changed before their eyes from the teacher, the man, the carpenter to God right there in front of them. When Peter foolishly tried to put Moses and Elijah on an equal footing with Jesus, God intervened. Peter Jesus is the one. Listen to Him! He is the Son I love.
I believe that Peter, James and John were the “some of you” who had not seen death yet and saw the kingdom, the reign of the Lord come with power at that time. When they went back down the mountain and Jesus cast the demon out that none of the disciples could do anything about, it showed all the more the power of this one who is king. Any time one sees the glory and power of the Lord as king we see the kingdom come with power all over again. That doesn’t change the fact the church was established on Pentecost. It does declare that the kingdom power and rule of the Lord isn’t as easy to nail down to some single event as the coming of the church.