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75. The transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36)
Jesus’ transfiguration took place on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, which was not far from Caesarea Philippi. The event was a revelation of Christ’s glory and was witnessed by only three chosen apostles. In coming into the world as a human being, Jesus had laid his divine glory aside, but now it reappeared briefly through a human body. It gave an indication of the glory he would receive after he had finished the work he came to do (Matthew 17:1-2; Luke 9:28-29).
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus during his transfiguration, possibly to symbolize that the law and the prophets found their fulfilment in him. He was the one to whom the entire Old Testament pointed. They talked with Jesus about his coming death, confirming what Jesus had recently told the apostles. The Messiah had to die before he could enter his glory (Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30-31).
The apostles were confused about what was happening, but the Father’s voice from heaven told them that it was an expression of his satisfaction with the entire ministry of Jesus. By combining words from one of David’s psalms with words from one of Isaiah’s servant songs, God declared that the kingly Messiah would lay down his life as the suffering servant. This Messiah was also God’s prophet, and people were to listen to his message (Matthew 17:4-5; Luke 9:32-35; cf. Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Deuteronomy 18:15,Deuteronomy 18:18; Acts 3:22).
When the transfiguration was over and Jesus’ appearance returned to normal, he again told the apostles that they were not yet to reveal what they had learnt (Matthew 17:6-9; Luke 9:36). The vision of Elijah prompted the apostles to ask if Elijah would come before the Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, why had Elijah not come? Jesus replied that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah, but just as people rejected the Messiah’s forerunner so would they reject the Messiah (Matthew 17:10-13).
76. Healing of an uncontrollable boy (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43)
While the faith of the three apostles on the mountain was being strengthened, the faith of the other nine on the plain below was failing. They were unable to cure a boy who suffered from sudden fits that made him uncontrollable (Mark 9:14-18). After the heavenly experiences on the mountain, Jesus felt the frustration of work in a world that was full of human failure (Mark 9:19). Nevertheless, he did not despise the uncertain faith that the boy’s father expressed, and he quickly healed the boy (Mark 9:20-27).
The reason for the disciples’ failure was their lack of faith. What they needed was not a large amount of faith but the right kind of faith. They needed a faith that relied completely upon the unlimited capacity of the all-powerful God and that expressed itself through sincere prayer (Matthew 17:20-21; Mark 9:28-29).
77. Payment of the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27)
Jesus was staying at Peter’s house in Capernaum when Jewish officials came to collect the annual temple tax of a half-shekel per person (Matthew 17:24; cf. Exodus 30:11-16). Jesus told Peter that he and his disciples no longer needed to pay the temple tax. Now that the Messiah had come, the Jerusalem temple had lost its importance. God now dwelt in a new ‘temple’, the disciples of the Messiah. They were God’s people, and just as a king does not collect taxes from his family, neither does God. However, the Jewish officials would not understand this, so rather than create misunderstanding, Jesus agreed to pay the tax (Matthew 17:25-27).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 17". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29