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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


We have here an account of Christ's Transfiguration. A Lunatic is healed by Jesus. The Lord again foretells, his approaching death. The Tribute Money.

Verses 1-2

"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (2) And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light."

Three of the Evangelists have recorded this wonderful scene of Christ's glory. Mark 9:9 ; Luke 9:28 . And three of the Apostles were present at it. One of them, Peter, was commissioned by the Holy Ghost to give a new record of it just before his own death, to intimate the vast impression it had made upon his mind. 2 Peter 1:16 , etc. It is worthy remark, that Jesus should single out Peter, James, and John, to be with him at this display of his glory, who Were to be present with him at his humiliation in the garden. No doubt it is the truest preparation to the followers of the Lord Jesus, to know Christ in his power, who are to be brought under exercises concerning his humiliation. Luke 22:28-30 . I do not presume to add a word to what the Evangelists have here said of this transfiguration, by way of explaining what even my conception cannot equally form an idea of. We know that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. John 1:14 . And we know also, that in Him, that is, Christ, dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9 . All that we can possibly frame to ourselves of this transfiguration therefore is, that the Godhead shone forth in the manhood in a more than ordinary manner. The Son of God was pleased to manifest himself in his double-nature glory more than in the usual appearances of Christ in the days of his flesh. It was a moment of peculiar manifestation of the glories of his person. It was the personal glory of the God-Man, as God-Man, and every child of God must find cause to bless the Lord for the mercy. If the Reader will turn to the following scriptures, he will, perhaps, be led to discover somewhat similar. Exodus 33:20; Exodus 33:20 ; Isaiah 6:0 ; Ezekiel 1:26 , etc. Daniel 10:5-6 ; Daniel 10:8 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Verse 3

"And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him."

Moses and Elias were seen, and it should seem were known by the Apostles, though the former had been dead fifteen hundred years, and the latter near nine hundred. I think we may safely infer from hence, that the Church of Christ are well known to each other in the several members of Christ's mystical body, and they who sleep in Jesus, as well as those alive in Jesus, have communion with their glorious Head. Sweet consideration to the believer. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 , etc. Romans 14:8 .

Verse 4

"Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias."

It appears by what both Mark and Luke have related of this wonderful scene, the Apostle was in such a state of rapture that he knew not what he said. No doubt his whole soul was absorbed in the contemplation, and, like Paul upon another occasion, perhaps, not un-similar, knew not whether he was in the body or out of the body. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 . The proposal of making tabernacles upon earth for those inhabitants of heaven, plainly shews in what a state Peter's mind was. But Peter might well say, it was good to be present at such a scene. And yet who should have thought, that a man present at such a manifestation of Christ's glory, and one who had before received the testimony of being blessed in the revelation God the Father; had made to him concerning the Person of Christ, (see Matthew 16:15-19 ) would ever afterwards have denied Christ. (Matthew 26:69-75 .) Oh! that such an example may be commissioned of our God, to teach both Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, what Peter himself, in the after stages of life declared, that they that are kept, are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:5 . Depend upon it, the safety of Christ's whole Church is in Christ, and not in ourselves.

Verse 5

"While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."

This is a most blessed proclamation, and infinitely precious to the Church of Christ. Jehovah had before, at the baptism of Jesus, given testimony to Christ's person and character, and here again confirms it. I stay not to make any observations concerning the splendor and glory of the scene, but rather to consider the blessedness of the thing itself Jehovah bears testimony to Christ as the beloved Son of God. One with the Father over all, God blessed forever. Amen. And again, as the begotten Son of God, to the purposes of salvation, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. And his being well pleased with Him, and in Him, confirms Jehovah's favor to the Church in Christ, being well pleased with Him as the Head of his body, the Church, and the Church in Him. In whom I am well pleased. Not only with Him, but in Him, that is, his whole Church, in Him, being always considered as part of himself, members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. The Lord is sell pleased for his righteousness' sake, he will magnify the law, and make it honorable. Isaiah 42:21 . So that when commanded to hear him, the Church is to accept Christ, in all the fulness of his complete salvation, both in his person, office, character, and relations, and to be so completely pleased with Him, as the Lord our Righteousness, as Jehovah is pleased with Him, the glorious surety, sponsor, and complete justifying righteousness of his whole body, the Church, the fulness of Him which filleth all in all. Reader! Are you well pleased with Jesus? It is an important question. The soul that is so, makes Jesus, what Jehovah hath made him, the whole of salvation. Accepts Christ as all, looks to Christ for all. Pleads Christ in all, as the sole means of salvation. Not as procuring favor to the acceptation of our prayers, and tears, and repentance, and faith, but as the very cause, the very righteousness, in which the whole Church, and every individual of the Church, is accepted, and appears in before God. He that expressed himself in those words of scripture, felt this to the full. May it be my soul's language also. I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine truly. Psalms 71:16 . Reader! what saith your experience to this statement? Oh! for grace, and the sweet influence of God the Holy Ghost, always upon my heart, that as often as I read those words of God the Father, or they are brought to my recollection, concerning his testimony to God the Son, saying, this is my beloved Son in whom t am well pleased, hear ye him, may my soul be enabled to say, and this is my beloved Savior, in whom I pray to be found welt pleased, in life, and death, in time, and to all eternity! Amen.

Verses 6-8

"And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. (7) And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. (8) And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only."

It is not to be wondered at that the disciples should be thus affected. God is awful, even in mercies. See how Israel was struck with fear on Mount Sinai. Exodus 20:18-21 . But see, Reader, the tenderness of Jesus. He came and touched them, Precious Redeemer! how hast thou, by the assumption of our nature, opened a way of communicating mercies to us, and lessening our fears. And Reader! I pray you to remark, that the very first words Jesus spake to his disciples after God the Father had commanded them to hear him, was, be not afraid. And doth it not follow, from hence, that such is the love of God our Father to the Church; in Christ, and knowing that all love is in the heart of Christ towards his people, thus he commands concerning him. And God the Son, having taking our nature for the express purpose, manifests that his whole heart towards them is love. And God the Holy Ghost, from his everlasting love also to Christ, and his Church in him, takes care to make the whole effectual, in directing the heart of the redeemed into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Jesus Christ! Oh! for grace, under those blessed assurances, to possess such faith in Jesus, as may raise our souls above all fears, while conscious of an union with Christ, and acceptance in Christ. The sudden departure of Moses and Elias may serve to teach us, that none but Jesus can be our abiding comfort. everything here below is short and transitory. Oh! What a blessed thought it is. Jesus hath said, Lo! I am with you always. Matthew 28:20 .

Verses 9-13

"And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. (10) And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? (11) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. (12) But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. (13) Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist."

There is somewhat very blessed in this prohibition of Jesus, concerning making known the vision. It doth hot appear that the other disciples were made acquainted with it. Peter insists upon it much, after the Lord's return to glory, but not before. And the reason seems evident. The Lord's purposes arc for his Church. They shall have, in due season, evidences enough, but to others, there is nothing that will carry conviction. So the Prophet declared, and so the Scriptures all along have shewn. Isaiah 6:9 ; Acts 28:22 , to the end. Nothing can be more plain and evident, from this explanation of Christ, that the prophecy of Malachi 4:5 concerning the corning of Elijah, had been grossly perverted by the Scribes. John the Baptist was indeed foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, in strong features of character, (Isaiah 40:3 . and Malachi had been commissioned by God the Holy Ghost, to speak of John also; Malachi 3:1 . but the prediction of Elijah's coming, gave no authority to this expectation of the Scribes and Pharisees. John the Baptist could not be Elias, though he might be said to come in the spirit and power, with which he appeared, being commissioned, in like manner, by God the Holy Ghost.

Verses 14-21

"And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, (15) Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. (16) And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. (17) Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. (18) And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. (19) Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? (20) And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (21) Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."

We have this miracle more particularly related by Mark, Mark 9:14 , etc. to which, therefore, I refer, as well as for the observations offered upon it, which will there be more fully considered. In the mean time, I only beg to detain the Reader with a short remark on the slenderness of the disciples' faith; in their inability to accomplish the cure of this child. This Epilepsy, or falling sickness, of the child's body, it should seem, had afforded handle to the devil to exercise his cruel devices on the child's soul; and no doubt the permission, as it laid the foundation for the greater manifestation of Christ's glory, was graciously ordered. But the slenderness of the disciples' faith, was simply this it should seem, not in their faith in Christ, but their exertion of that faith in this act of working miracles, as they had been commissioned to do. The Lord Jesus, when he said, O faithless, and perverse generation, did not speak to his disciples, for though they were indeed men of little faith, yet certainly not faithless. It was the men of that generation whom Jesus called faithless and perverse, for in Mark's account of this miracle, it appears, that from the inability of the servants of Christ, to heal the child, they began to triumph as though the same defect was in the Master, therefore Jesus called that generation faithless and perverse, But the weakness of the disciples' faith, opens a subject of encouragement, to the timid disciples of Jesus, in every age of the Church, which, under grace, we ought to make improvement from Let it be remembered therefore, that with respect to our own personal salvation, the smallest portions of faith, as they are, from Christ, do prove an union with Christ, as truly as the largest gifts the Lord may be pleased to bestow upon his members. The drop of water in the dew, is as truly water as all the rivers of the world. It is the same in nature and in quality, though not in quantity. The same may be said in respect to faith. And this ought to comfort and encourage a poor child of God under weak faith, whose cries for an increase of faith are great and continual. Luke 17:5 . Moreover those portions of faith, which are of the operation of the Spirit of God; however small and inconsiderable, yet carry with them the true marks of a child of God. Unto you (saith Paul to the Church) it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. Philippians 1:29 . Faith is the gift of God. And wheresoever this grace is given, it proves the possessor of it to be a child of God. For when Paul preached among the Gentiles, we are told, that as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48 . And as to the act of being justified by faith, it is plain from the whole tenor of Scripture that while it is blessed to have strong and lively acting of faith on the person, work, and righteousness of God our Savior, yet the babe in Christ, as well as the strong man in the Lord, is as truly justified, because it is Christ which justifieth, and not the strength of our faith in Christ which contributes thereto. By him, (saith Paul) that is, by Christ, all that believe, whether slender faith or strong faith, all that believe, are justified from all things. Acts 13:39 .

Verses 22-23

"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: (23) And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry."

I cannot allow those verses to pass without calling upon the Reader to remark, with me, how much the Lord Jesus seemed to delight in the prospect of his great accomplishment of redemption. Every feature in his character marks this. In proof, see Matthew 16:22-23 ; Luke 12:50; Luke 12:50 ; John 13:27; John 13:27 .

Verses 24-27

"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? (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? (26) Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (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."

It should seem, that this tribute money was not what the publicans gathered for the Roman emperors, but for the temple service. The Son of God had no right to pay it, strictly speaking, for He himself was Lord of the temple. Malachi 3:1 ; Hebrews 3:6 . But, as the Head and Husband of his people, becoming debtor thereby to the whole law, it was justly due. See Galatians 4:4 ; Luke 2:22 ; Exodus 30:12-15 ; Matthew 4:15 . But what a beautiful occasion Jesus took therefrom to manifest his power and Godhead by the fish with money. And, Reader! if to supply this pressing occasion, Jesus wrought a miracle then, will he be inattentive to any of the wants of his people now? Oh! how blessedly doth every incident in the life of Christ, minister instruction, grace, and comfort?

Verse 27


What a lovely chapter is this to read to us the interesting events in the life of Christ, when God the Holy Ghost is here leading the Church by the hand, to contemplate Christ in his glory, and Christ in his humiliation. We follow him, by faith to the Mount of Transfiguration, and we hear him informing his disciples, soon after, of his sufferings which were shortly to follow at Jerusalem! Precious Lord Jesus! cause both views to have their gracious influences upon the hearts of thy redeemed! Oh! may it be my portion to follow thee often, by faith, both to the Mount of Tabor, and to the Garden of Gethsemane. Surely every meditation will tend, under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, to strengthen my soul in the belief of Jesus. What, though the privileges of thy people now, are not like those highly favoured disciples, to behold Moses and Elias ministering to my Lord, yet in Jesus himself I have all. In the sweet communion with the Master, I shall miss not the absence of all his servants, Yea! I shall rejoice to be alone with Jesus, having to communicate to my Lord, and to receive from him those precious soul-transactions, in a joy with which no lookers-on can meddle. It is blessed, yea, very blessed, my honored Lord, to behold the inability of thy disciples, that my God and Savior's power and grace may be more fully known. And whatever fears, from the weakness of faith in my poor heart, and nature's feelings by reason of the remains of indwelling sin, may arise on entering the cloud, yet will my soul receive an holy joy, unspeakable, and full of glory, when I hear my God and Father's gracious voice proclaiming the divine approbation; this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/matthew-17.html. 1828.
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