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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-13

The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36)

The Transfiguration scene is like an announcement or foreshadowing of the future glory just mentioned. Jesus takes the three disciples who were closest to him "up a high mountain apart." He appears to them resplendent with light as he will one day appear as the glorified Son of Man. What does the presence of Moses and Elijah signify? We have seen earlier that Jesus is considered in the Gospel as a new Moses; he is also the prophet of the New Age proclaiming the charter of the Kingdom of God. Moses had announced Jesus 5 coming (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; see John 5:45-46; Luke 24:27). Elijah is the forerunner who is to prepare for the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6) . These two great figures by their presence confirm the Messianic mission of Jesus and the indissoluble bond which binds the New Covenant to the Old, the fulfilment to the promise. The Mount of the Transfiguration corresponds to Mount Sinai It is there that God descends and reveals himself.

Peter, completely perplexed by this vision, would like to prolong it But the hours spent on the mount remain here below as exceptional hours. It is necessary to redescend into the battle of life. A luminous cloud covered the appearances as it had covered Moses earlier at Sinai (Exodus 24:15). A voice rang out, as it had rung out at the hour of the Baptism (Matthew 3:17); for it is toward a new baptism, this time of blood, that Jesus advances in the obedience of faith (see Luke 12:49-50). The Father a second time acknowledges as his own this Son who has chosen the way of humiliation, the way of the Cross. It is in this unlimited self-giving that the Son reveals the Father, and the voice of the Father confirms this act of giving and hallows it.

The disciples, we are told, fall on their faces to the ground. The approach of God is always experienced in the Bible as something very majestic, very terrible. The fear which God’s presence brings to birth is none other than the dread of a sinful man before the Holy God (see, for example, Isaiah 6:1-5; Luke 5:8-10; Revelation 1:17). And the response is also the same: "Fear not"; "Have no fear." To him who knows and acknowledges himself to be unworthy God always shows his merciful face. The vision disappears, and Jesus alone is there, just as the Apostles have seen him and known him all along.

Once more Jesus enjoins silence; the revelation which has just been given to fortify their faith must not be communicated until later. The disciples immediately inquire about the coming of Elijah. Jesus reveals to them that "Elijah has already come"; but men have not recognized him and they "did to him whatever they pleased" It will be the same with the Son of Man. Men will do to him whatever they please. But without knowing it they will accomplish the purpose of One greater than they. For the purpose of God is achieved by and in spite of men.

Verses 14-23

The Healing of the Epileptic Boy

(Matthew 17:14-23; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-42)

In this incident the Apostles fall from the loftiest summits to the hard realities of daily life. Is it not often so with us? A man throws himself at Jesus’ feet and implores his help for his son. His disciples have not been able to cure him! Jesus has a singularly severe word which applies both to his disciples and to ourselves. He accuses his contemporaries of being a "faithless and perverse generation." He does not hide the fact that he has difficulty in enduring them. The impotence of the disciples shows how little is their faith! What is faith, for Jesus? It is not a simple creedal belief ; it is the assurance that everything is possible to God, the assurance that he gives what he promises and what he ordains. Faith is a power which "moves mountains" To remove mountains is to know that there is no burden so heavy that God cannot help us to carry it, no problem so insoluble that he cannot resolve it If Jesus accused his first disciples of unbelief, what does he think of us today? What patience must he have to continue to tolerate us?

The following saying (vss. 22-23) is a further reference to Jesus’ approaching sufferings and the Resurrection which will follow them. But the disciples do not seem to grasp the announcement of the Resurrection; they only lay hold of the approaching departure of their Master and they are sad.

Verses 24-27

The Payment of the Temple Tax (17:24-27)

The annual tax which the Jews paid into the Temple was a half shekel (worth about thirty-three cents). The essential point of the story is not the miracle but the remark of Jesus. He would have the right, inasmuch as he was the Son of God, to be exempt from the tax; and he extended this right to his disciples, for they also had access, through him, to the freedom of the sons of God. If Jesus pays the tax it is by condescension, in order not to "scandalize" those who have not yet understood the mystery of his coming, for he is free in regard to the Law. The miracle which follows indicates that God himself provides for all his needs.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 17". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/matthew-17.html.
 
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