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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 17

Verse 1

17:1 After six days means after the last conversation Jesus had with his disciples. There seems to have been a peculiar nearness between Jesus and these three apostles, for they are mentioned as a sort of trio a number of times (Mar 5:37; Mar 14:33). Jesus selected them to be witnesses of the unusual scene that he knew was coming, and took them with him into a high mountain.

Verse 2

17:2 Transfigured is from META-MORPHOO which Thayer defines, "To change into another form, to transfigure, transform," and he comments on the word as follows: "To be resplendent with divine brightness; used of the change of moral character for the better." It is the word for "transformed" In Rom 12:2, and for "changed" in 2Co 3:18. It is the source of our English word "metamorphosis" which Webster defines, "2. A striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances." With all this authoritative information before us, we understand the meaning of our verse is that Jesus underwent a change in his appearance so that his face shone, and even his raiment was glistening white. However, his body was not replaced literally, and the change in his appearance did not prevent the apostles from recognizing him.

Verse 3

17:3 We have a very interesting assemblage here. The apostles had not died and hence represented the fleshly state. Elias (Elijah) had been transferred to heaven without death and represented the eternal state. Moses had died and represented the intermediate state. There were good men from each of the three states of intelligent creatures, thus representing the whole universe of beings responsible to God for their past or present conduct. A person in the flesh cannot see spiritual beings ordinarily, but God can adapt all circumstances to whatever purpose the case demands. He wished the apostles to see these men from the intermediate and eternal states and performed such miraculous changes as were necessary. That was (lone either upon the eyes of the apostles or the form of the other men.

Verse 4

17:4 In Mark's account of this event he states that Peter "wist not [knew not] what to say." He was overcome by the scene, yet had a feeling of reverence towards the three great persons in the group; Jesus, Moses and Elias, and proposed providing a suitable housing place that they might be retained longer.

Verse 5

17:5 This announcement was like the one that God made at the baptism of Jesus with the additional word hear ye him. (See chapter 3:17.) At the time of his baptism Jesus had not performed any of his great works nor done any of his teaching. He now was nearing the close of his earthly work and the apostles were supposed to be ready for an authoritative declaration concerning the rank and position of him with whom they had been so closely associated. The setting of the conversation was significant due to the importance of the main characters in the scene. Moses was the lawgiver of the Old Testament system and Elias (Elijah) was one of the great prophets who lived under that system. Those men were not to be regarded as the authorities under whom the apostles will be expected to work, but instead they were to take their instructions from the Son in whom the Father was well pleased; they were to hear him.

Verse 6

17:6 Afraid is from PHOBEO and Thayer says the word in this place means, "to be startled by strange sights or occurrences." The appearance of the two men from the other states did not overcome them, but this mighty voice and its announcement struck them with a feeling of awe so that they prostrated themselves on the ground.

Verse 7

17:7 Jesus assured his apostles that nothing would harm them.

Verse 8

17:8 The purpose of the great scene was accomplished and Moses and Elias returned to their proper places. They saw no man. The last two words are from OUDEN which Strong defines, "Not even one, i. e., none, nobody, nothing." This indefinite form of speech was appropriate in view of the unusual manner in which Moses and Elias had appeared, for they were evidently not just like other men except to such a degree that they could be recognized by the apostles.

Verse 9

17:9 For the explanation of this verse see the comments at chapter 16:20.

Verse 10

7:10 The disciples mistook the Elias spoken of by the scribes to be that prophet literally, who was to announce the mission and divinity of Jesus. Now they were forbidden to make a like statement until after that divinity has been proved by the resurrection. If they were not allowed to make statements on that subject, why should Elias be permitted to do so.

Verse 11

7:11 Shall oome is future tense in form but Jesus was only quoting the prophecy of Malachi. To restore means to bring about a reformation in the lives of the people of Israel (Mal 4:6; Luk 1:16-17).

Verse 12

7:12 Jesus then explained that it was not in person that Elias was to come. In other words. by describing the treatment that "Elias" received from the people who did not recognize his place in God's plan, the disciples perceived the point of the Lord.

Verse 13

7:13 The disciples did the proper kind of reasoning and it gave them the correct conclusion, and was a demonstration of the thoughts offered at chapter 13:1G, 17.

Verse 14

7:14 The act of the man kneeling down to Jesus was one form of worship. The reader should see the various meanings of the word in the comments at chapter 2:2.

Verse 15

7:15 Being possessed with a devil did not affect all people alike. That could be caused by either of two things; the peculiar condition of the victim at the time or the kind of devil that had entered into him. In the present case it caused the son to become a lunatick according to the Authorized Version. This word is from SELENIAZOMAI which Thayer defines, "To be moon-struck; to be epileptic," and in commenting on the word be says, "epilepsy being supposed to return and increase with the increase of the moon." Of course the people named the condition according to their theories as to the causes of disease, not knowing that it was the presence of the devil.

Verse 16

7:16 Could not cure him denotes the belief that the son had some serious disease as was explained in the preceding verse. It is true that the being possessed with a devil would sometimes result in a disease, in which case the casting out of the devil would be equivalent to performing a cure.

Verse 17

7:17 This criticism concerning the lack of faith was meant for the disciples as we shall see at verse 20. How long, etc., was an expression of displeasure at the amount of long-suffering he was called upon to show towards them. Then addressing the father of the child he told him to bring the afflicted one to him.

Verse 18

7:18 When anyone is being dealt with because of some condition brought on by his own sin, he is the person who is rebuked. Being possessed with a devil was not a sin but an affliction, hence the Lord rebuked the- devil. The child was cured from that very hour which was unlike the performances of professed miracle workers today who insist on having "plenty of time."

Verse 19

7:19 When Jesus chose his twelve apostles and sent them out to preach, he told them also to perform certain miracles. Among them was that of casting out devils (chapter 10:8), hence it was natural for them to be concerned about their failure.

Verse 20

7:20 The charge of their unbelief means their faith did not go far enough; it did not grow as it should. Jesus then used the mustard grain for an illustration of that subject. It will help us to grasp the meaning of the comparison if we consider the same event as recorded in Luk 17:6. The apostles asked the Lord to "increase" their faith, and in answer to the request he made the comparison to the grain of mustard seed. We also should remember the comparison between this grain and the kingdom of heaven in Mat 13:31-32. It is clear, therefore, that the reference to the mustard seed was on the principle of growth. Their faith should have grown instead of their expecting Jesus to "increase" it by some special means independent of their own part in the matter. Of course a grain of mustard seed or any other seed could not grow had not the Creator furnished it with the materials necessary for that growth in the earth and air. And likewise, Jesus had given abundance of evidence by his miracles and teaching to have caused them to have increase in their faith to the point where they could not only cast out this devil, but also remove a mountain if such needed to be done.

Verse 21

7:21 Howbeit is an obsolete word meaning "nevertheless," indicating that some special point is about to be made. This kind is from GENOS which Thayer defines, "The aggregate of many individuals, of the same nature, sort, species." Goeth out is from EKPOREUOMAI which Thayer defines, "To go forth, go out, depart." He explains the definition to mean, "demons, when expelled, are said to go out (to wit from the human body): Mat 17:21." Robinson defines the word, "To go out of, to go or come forth," and he explains it to mean, "Spoken of demons, absolutely Mat 17:21." We do not know why this class of devils required the special performance of prayer and fasting before yielding and coming out of human beings. We are certain, however, that at some time Jesus had given his apostles the instructions that should have induced them to show the faith necessary to be patient and use the weapons of prayer and fasting against the devil. Their faith had not led them that far and hence they failed to overcome the devil.

Verse 22

7:22 Before leaving Galilee Jesus predicted his betrayal.

Verse 23

7:23 Not only was Jesus to be turned over to wicked men of the world, but he was to be killed and raised the third day. The apostles were exceeding sorry because of the prediction of his death, and that sorrow seemed to blind their minds to the other prediction of his resurrection. When the sad affair had taken place the disciples showed such forgetfulness as we may learn in Luk 24:13-27.

Verse 24

7:24 Capernaum was a city of Galilee and the chosen residence of Jesus (chapter 4:13). When he and his apostles entered this city Peter was approached by those who collected the tax that was for the upkeep of the temple. Robinson says this was "the yearly tribute to the temple paid by every Jew," hence Pete• was asked if his master did not pay that tax.

Verse 25

7:25 Peter answered in the affirmative and intended to speak to Jesus about it. But when he came into the house where Jesus was he prevented him which means he could read his mind and hence anticipated what he was going to say. But the Lord changed the subject somewhat and the tribute he mentioned is from a word that means custom or taxes that should be levied upon foreigners.

Verse 26

7:26 Jesus and his apostles were citizens of that nation and would not rightly be under obligation to pay such a tax.

Verse 27

7:27 While not strictly bound to pay this tax, Jesus decided to pay it rather than offend the collectors, and enabled Peter to get the money by a miracle.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 17". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-17.html. 1952.