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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Six days later. Luke says about a week. Jesus took with him. Peter, James, and John were the three chosen to be the closest associates of Jesus. Up a high mountain. Not Mount Tabor, since there was a town and a fortress on its top [as Josephus the historian tells us in his book]. It must have been Mt. Hermon, and, Jesus was already near to it (see note on Matthew 16:13). Hermon was 10,000 feet high, and could be seen from most of Palestine.

Verse 2


As they looked on, a change came over him. This was to show his Divine Glory to these three [and to the others and to us as well] before he went to the Cross. His face became as bright as the sun. Symbolic of the supernatural, and proof that Jesus is Divine. We have a share in this as well (1 John 3:2).

Verse 3


Moses and Elijah. Both were special in Jewish thinking. Elijah had not died at all (2 Kings 2:11), being taken directly in a “chariot of fire.” Moses, who at the moment of death, was snatched bodily from the Devil’s power (Jude 1:9; Deuteronomy 34:6). Both come from the world of the dead [Hades] to be with Jesus in this Transfiguration. Moses was the representative of the Law; Elijah of the Prophets (compare Matthew 7:12). Talking with Jesus. About how he would soon fulfill God’s purpose by dying in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). God chose to make this historical act of Jesus’ death the “focal point” of his saving grace. Compare Hebrews 9:15; Colossians 1:20.

Verse 4


So Peter spoke up. This was just as Moses and Elijah were leaving (Luke 9:33). Lord, it is a good thing. The spiritual power of this small piece of Eternity seen here. I will make three tents. Small tents or booths were made for the feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated the time when the ancient Hebrews lived in tents. Perhaps Peter thinks that making three of these would keep Moses and Elijah from going back to the world of the dead, and that this would bring the “earthly Kingdom of Messiah” that Peter still looked for.

Verse 5


A shining cloud came over them. This cloud would be immediately accepted by the disciples as showing God’s presence. In the Old Testament era, a shining cloud signaled the presence of the Lord. This is my own dear Son. The same voice heard at his baptism (Matthew 3:17). This confirms Peter’s declaration (Matthew 16:16). Almost a generation later, Peter emphasized that they had been eyewitnesses of these things (2 Peter 1:16-21). Listen to him! Luke says when the voice stopped, there was Jesus all alone. In this way God showed that both Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) were fulfilled and superseded. “But in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son” (Hebrews 1-2). Jesus Christ (therefore—the New Testament) is the ONLY source of Truth and Life in this final age of time.

Verse 6


They were so terrified. Like Israel at Mount Sinai (Hebrews 12:18-21).

Verse 7


Get up! Don’t be afraid! As the “go-between” who arranges a new covenant between God and man [it is a “will” to we humans (Hebrews 9:15-18).] Jesus removes fear. Compare 1 John 4:18.

Verse 8


No one else except Jesus. The vision of the supernatural was ended.

Verse 9


Don’t tell anyone . . . until. They did not understand the meaning of this, and would not until Jesus raised from death. The proper time for telling others would come after Jesus finished his work on the Cross.

Verse 10


Why do the teachers of the Law? These teachers said that Elijah must come before the Messiah could appear. See note on Matthew 16:14. The disciples had just seen Elijah come, but he did not stay.

Verses 11-12


Elijah does indeed come first. John the Baptist came in the “spirit” of Elijah. Compare Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5 with Mark 1:1-3. John was killed (Matthew 14:6-12), and Jesus was to be killed also.

Verse 13


Then the disciples understood. It was clear to them that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy. It is not to be expected that “Elijah” will come a second time to fulfill a prophecy that has already come true. Elijah could not now restore Judaism, because that system was superseded in Christ and the new covenant. Elijah would not likely be chosen to restore Christianity, if it needed restoration, since a Jewish prophet would be “out of place.” One of the apostles would better fit that job,

Verse 14


A man came to Jesus. When they came down from the mountain and returned to the crowd. Luke says this took place the following day.

Verse 15


My son . . . he is epileptic. The symptoms were those of epilepsy, but in this case it was a demon causing the problem (Mark 9:17). Mark says also that he was unable to talk.

Verse 16


But they could not heal him. The disciples had tried, and failed, to heal this boy. [The nine apostles who had been left below.]

Verse 17


How unbelieving and wrong you people are. This rebuke is aimed at the disciples who could not cure this boy. How long? Jesus expects more rapid progress from them. [Compare Hebrews 5:11-14.] Bring the boy here to me. He will do what they should have been able to do.

Verse 18


Jesus commanded the demon. Both Mark and Luke give more details about this. The boy was healed at that very moment.

Verses 19-20


Why couldn’t we drive the demon out? Jesus gives the answer, that they did not have enough faith. Faith is the means to tap into the power of Jesus. You could do anything! They could, if they had the right kind of faith.

Verse 21


But only prayer and fasting. Faith reaches out through prayer and fasting to seize the power of Christ (for one who is already a Christian—John 9:31). [Do not think of fasting and prayer as a ritual of exorcism. These are general principles of spiritual growth.]

Verses 22-23


When the disciples all came together in Galilee. Mark says they went on through Galilee. Jesus said to them. He tells them of his death and his raising from death. The disciples became very sad. Because he said he must be killed.

Verse 24


When Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum. From Mt. Hermon through Galilee to Capernaum. See map. Does your teacher pay the temple tax? Every Jewish male over twenty years old paid a yearly tax to support the Temple (Exodus 30:12; 2 Chronicles 24:5). This was a half-shekel, a silver coin worth about $13.00 in “1974 dollars.” [The figures given in older books are from an era when the best suit of clothes sold for $9.00.]

Verse 25


Of course. Peter answered before thinking [as he often did]. Jesus spoke up first. He knew what Peter was thinking. Who pays duties or taxes? Not from citizens, but from foreigners. This was the practice of the ancient world.

Verse 26


That means the citizens don’t have to pay. Jesus says that he does not really need to pay the temple tax. The Son of the King does not pay tax.

Verse 27


But we don’t want to offend these people. Even though he need not pay, he will do it to keep peace. So go to the lake. Peter is to catch a fish, and in its mouth find a silver shekel which will pay the temple tax for both he and Jesus. A miracle—and this prevents a problem from forming.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 17". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/matthew-17.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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