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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-21

The Revelation of the Divine Authority of Jesus Christ and of the New Testament Church In Matthew 17:1-21 Jesus Christ reveals His divine nature and authority to His disciples. When they harkened unto the heavenly voice that said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleases. Hear Him” (Matthew 17:5), their obedience would bring them to a position of divine authority in which nothing is impossible (Matthew 17:20). In light of the Great Commission that Jesus will give to His disciples after His Resurrection, this passage of Scripture clearly serves as a prerequisite that prepares them to take the Gospel to the nations.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mount Matthew 17:1-13

2. The Healing of the Epileptic Son Matthew 17:14-21

Matthew 17:1-13 The Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mount (Mark 9:2-13 , Luke 9:28-36 ) Matthew 17:1-13 records the transfiguration of Jesus Christ on the Mount. Following Peter’s confession of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is ready to take His disciples a little deeper into the revelation of who He is. This event served not only to confirm to them His deity, but it anchored their souls in their faith in Jesus for the coming Crucifixion, when everyone’s faith would be tested.

Matthew 17:5 Comments The voice of God the Father spoke from Heaven to mankind on a number of occasions. God spoke to King Nebuchadnezzar when he took his mind from him for a season (Daniel 4:31). God spoke from Heaven at the water baptism of His Son Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). God spoke to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35-36, 2 Peter 1:17-18). God spoke to Jesus when He rode into Jerusalem before His Passion (John 12:28-29). Jesus spoke to Paul from Heaven on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7).

Matthew 17:14-21 The Healing of the Epileptic Son (Mark 9:14-19 , Luke 9:37-43 a) Matthew 17:14-21 records the story of the healing of a man’s son from epileptic seizures caused by a demon. Within the context of Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:13-20) and Jesus’ focus upon His impending death (Matthew 16:21-28) we find Him for the first time rebuking His disciples for not being able to fulfill their ministry as He makes a reference to His soon coming departure. It is important that the disciples learn how to do the work for which they have been trained and will be commissioned.

It was clearly the epileptic father’s faith in Jesus Christ that brought him to the disciples for the healing of his son; but the disciples lacked the faith to heal him. Jesus always walked in faith and was able to respond to this man’s faith by healing his son. This walk of faith is what Jesus then taught His disciples as necessary in order to effectively minister to others.

Matthew 17:20 “as a grain of mustard seed” - Comments - That is, “like, or similar to a grain of mustard seed.” Note how this smallest of seeds grows into the largest bush. The comparison of faith and a mustard seed is that both grow from the smallest of size. Note the description of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32. The emphasis in this passage is how the seed grows.

Matthew 13:31-32, “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs , and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Small faith does not move mountains. We know from other passages in the Gospels that Jesus rebuked small faith.

Matthew 8:26, “And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith ? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”

Matthew 14:31, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith , wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Matthew 16:8, “Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith , why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?”

In contrast to small faith, Jesus commended great faith.

Matthew 8:10, “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”

Matthew 15:28, “Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

So, Jesus was not saying that the smallest of faith can move mountains, but He said that faith like a grain of mustard seed, a faith that grows to greatness, could move a mountain.

Matthew 17:20 Comments - One passage in the book of refers to a mountain being moved.

Isaiah 64:1, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,”

Matthew 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Matthew 17:21 “this kind goeth not out but” - Comments - Was Jesus making a reference to unbelief going out, or to the demon coming out? Well, if unbelief is not gone out of a man, then surely the demon will not be cast out either. In the Greek, “this kind” is in the neuter gender ( τοϋτο τό γένος ). The word “unbelief” is feminine ( ολιγοπιστία ). The word “demon” is neuter ( δαιμόνιον ). From the Greek, it seems clear that the phrase “this kind” is a reference to the demon coming out and not a reference to unbelief coming out.

Matthew 17:21 Comments - One of the early jobs of a sports coach in training a group of men or boys is to instill discipline into the team members. Those who develop discipline will excel in the sport. This topic of discipline underlies what Jesus is explaining to His disciples in Matthew 17:21 about prayer and fasting.

Note that the disciples had already prayed for him without results. Yet, the twelve apostles had already received power to deliver men from unclean spirits, and surely some of these nine apostles (note that three disciples were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration) were among those praying for this demon-possessed boy, but to no avail.

Jesus explained to them that the answer to their dilemma was to pray and fast. Fasting weakens the flesh while prayer edifies the inner man, the spirit. This is effective because the spirit of man and the flesh oppose one another.

Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Prayer and fasting do not give us more spiritual authority over the devil. Jesus gave His disciples the authority to use His name when He sent them out two by two. Rather, fasting and prayer causes us to become more sensitive to the Spirit of God. Another way to say it is that our anointing will increase through prayer and fasting.

Jesus appeared to Kenneth Hagin and gave him a special healing anointing by touching the palms of his hands with Jesus’ finger. Jesus told him that when the anointing left, he was to pray and fast, and the anointing would return. The Lord also spoke to him about leading a “fasted” life, rather than doing routine fastings. It is the fasting that keeps a person close to the Lord by learning to be led by the Holy Spirit, and this keeps our faith-level high. [489]

[489] Kenneth Hagin, A Commonsense Guide to Fasting (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1981, 1994), 21-2; Kenneth Hagin, I Believe In Visions (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1984, 1986), 53-4, 57.

Verses 1-27

The Revelation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ With the Jewish leaders having rejected the doctrine of Jesus Christ and of John the Baptist, of the Holy Scriptures (Matthew 15:1-39), and of His miracles (Matthew 16:1-20), Jesus now begins to reveal various aspects of His atonement to those disciples who have faithfully followed Him (Matthew 16:21 to Matthew 17:27). This passage of Scripture is structured as a triplicate set of revelations followed by explanations. In other words, Jesus will offer a revelation of Himself followed by an explanation of the requirements of discipleship in light of His Atonement.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Revelation of Cost of the Atonement and Discipleship Matthew 16:21-28

2. The Revelation of Divine Authority of Jesus & Church Matthew 17:1-21

3. The Revelation of the Divine Provisions Matthew 17:22-27

Verses 22-27

The Revelation of the Divine Provisions of Those in the Kingdom of Heaven In Matthew 17:22-27 Jesus reveals to His disciples for a second time His impending Passion and Resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23) followed by an explanation and illustration of the divine provision for those disciples who obeyed the Son of God (Matthew 17:24-27). This second testimony of His Passion and Resurrection serves as a confirmation and certainty of these events.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. Jesus Foretells of His Death & Resurrection Matthew 17:22-23

2. The Payment of the Tax Money Matthew 17:24-27

Matthew 17:22-23 Jesus Foretells of His Death and Resurrection a Second Time (Mark 9:30-32 , Luke 9:43-45 ) - In Matthew 16:22-23 Jesus offers His second testimony of His Passion and Resurrection following Peter’s confession of the deity of the Lord.

Matthew 17:22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:

Matthew 17:23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Matthew 17:24-27 The Payment of the Tax Money The story of Jesus sending Peter to catch a fish in order to pay tribute in unique to the Gospel of Matthew. We know that Matthew was a tax collector, so this event must have stood out in his mind. Matthew uses this story to emphasis his theme of offences that is woven throughout this narrative material in Matthew 13:53 to Matthew 17:27. For Jesus says, “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them,” (Matthew 17:27). Leon Morris says this story tells us that Jesus submitted Himself to the rules of men in order to avoid offenses even though He was truly only subject to His Heavenly Father. [490]

[490] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, in The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 451.

Matthew 17:24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

Matthew 17:24 “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter” - Comments It is not clear why the tax collectors approached Peter instead of Jesus. Some scholars suggest that the location may have been in Peter’s house, since Jesus had moved His residence to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13) (R. T. France). Other scholars proposed that the tax collectors would have been hesitant to approach a rabbi, so that approached Peter instead (Leon Morris).

Matthew 4:13, “And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:”

“and said, Doth not your master pay tribute” - Comments BDAG says the Greek word δι ́ δραχμον (tribute money) means, “a double drachma, two-drachma piece.” This Greek word is found twice in the New Testament, being used twice in Matthew 17:24. The majority of scholars believe the δι ́ δραχμον in Matthew 17:24 was a reference to the annual Temple tax that was first imposed by the Lord in the wilderness for the upkeep of the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:11-16), and reinstituted by Nehemiah when the Jews returned from the Babylonian Captivity (Nehemiah 10:32). [491] The ABD says the Mishna ( Šeqalim Matthew 1:3-5) refers to the collection of this tax annually throughout the region of Palestine during the month prior to the Passover and sent to Jerusalem, and it was collected in the Temple area twenty days prior to the Passover. [492] In the book of Exodus, each adult was to pay half a shekel. One coin used during this period of time was the tetradrachma, also called the shekel of Tyre. [493] Thus, France says four drachmas were equal to one shekel, so that Jesus would have been required to pay two drachmas. [494]

[491] Josephus refers to the Jewish Temple tax saying, “There was also the city Nisibis, situate on the same current of the river. For which reason the Jews, depending on the natural strength of these places, deposited in them that half shekel which everyone, by the custom of our country, offers unto God, as well as they did other things devoted to him; for they made use of these cities as a treasury, whence at a proper time, they were transmitted to Jerusalem; and many ten thousand men undertook the carriage of those donations, out of fear of the ravages of the Parthians, to whom the Babylonians were then subject.” ( Antiquities 18:312-313)

[492] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, in New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 668.

[493] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “Money of the Bible.”

[494] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, in New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 668.

Exodus 30:11-16, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.”

Nehemiah 10:32, “Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God;”

However, a few scholars believe this verse refers to a Roman civil tax because Jesus mentions the kings of the earth taxing strangers.

Matthew 17:25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

Matthew 17:25 “He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon” - Comments BDAG says the Greek word προφθάνω used in Matthew 17:25 means, “to speak first.” This Greek word is used once in the New Testament.

Jesus brought up the issue of a tax before Peter had a chance to discuss it with Him.

“of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers” - Comments BDAG says the Greek word τε ́ λος used in Matthew 17:25 means, “a revenue obligation , tax, toll-tax, customs duties.”

BDAG says the Greek word κῆνσος means, “a tax, poll-tax.” This Greek word is used four times in the New Testament (Matthew 17:25; Matthew 22:17; Matthew 22:19, Mark 12:14), with three uses referring directly to tax money paid to the Roman government.

Comments Because kings often taxed their own citizens, Leon Morris understands the distinction between children and strangers to be the children of the royal family in contrast to all others citizens in the kingdom. [495] The application would mean that the children of the Kingdom of Heaven are free from men’s laws and traditions.

[495] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, in The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 453.


1 Kings 9:21, “Their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day. But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no bondmen: but they were men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots, and his horsemen.”

Matthew 17:26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

Matthew 17:27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

Matthew 17:27 Word Study on “a piece of money” - The Greek word ( στατήρ ) (G4715) means, “a stater or certain coin.”

Matthew 17:27 Comments - Jesus could have acquired the money many other ways, but He told Peter, an experienced fisherman, to go do something completely beyond a fisherman's natural way of reasoning. This took faith on the part of Peter. Jesus was testing Peter's faith.

The Scriptures do not continue this story to describe how Peter went fishing and obtained the tax money. This event is left for the reader to understand that the event took place just as Jesus had described it to Peter. Peter had to respond in faith and obedience to the words of Jesus. Not only did Peter receive his tax money, but the Lord supplied him a fish to eat for his dinner through his obedience.

Note that Jesus paid in full, no more or no less.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Matthew 17". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/matthew-17.html. 2013.
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