Jesus constantly says things to his disciples which challenge their attitudes and expectations. Can we learn lessons ourselves from this? In Matthew 17 we see how “they were greatly distressed” (verse 23) after Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day”. Not long before Jesus had rebuked Peter when Peter had said to him, “This shall never happen to you” (16:22).

The message of his impending death was now starting to sink in – their minds struggle with this, especially alongside his words about the glory that would follow – sitting “on twelve thrones” (19:28). We read today of the three that witnessed his transfiguration, they “fell on their faces and were terrified” (verse 6) when they heard the voice of God speaking from a bright cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (verse 5).

This is human nature. We have great difficulty coping with events outside the realm of past experience. What if there is a warning of such events? The women who accompanied Jesus were somewhat better in coping with his tragic death than any of the twelve, and they were the first to visit the tomb and accept that he was wondrously raised again.

Our thoughts now go to what is to confront us in coming years, maybe even in coming months! Will we be “greatly distressed” when, “as the lightning from the east so will be the coming of the Son of Man … the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall” (24:27,29). Some prefer to give a spiritual interpretation to this – but Jesus is literally returning!

Are we confident we will not be like the disciples, but will have a strong and confident faith anticipating the moment “he will send out his angels and they will gather his elect …” (verse 31)? We talk and study a lot about the glories that follow his return, and the disciples rejoiced in the promise of Jesus about their future, but that did not help them to cope with the tragedy that came first.

May our constant prayer be “Lord increase our faith” as the disciples requested (Luke 17:5) – and deserve the same commendation Paul gave to the Thessalonians in his second letter to them, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you brothers (& sisters), as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly”.