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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Matthew 17



Other Authors
Verses 1-27

THE TRANSFIGURATION, WITH which this chapter opens, furnished a view of the kingdom, inasmuch as Jesus Himself, shining as the sun, was the central figure, and with Him in heavenly conditions were Moses and Elias, whilst three disciples in earthly conditions had a share in it. The “bright cloud” which overshadowed them was evidently the reappearance of that which once dwelt on the tabernacle, and out of it spoke the voice of God the Father, declaring Jesus to be the Son, the beloved Object and delight of His heart. Peter had been speaking in his impetuous way, showing that he had as yet no adequate sense of the exclusive and supreme glory of his Master. Not Peter but Christ is the One to whom we are to listen. Our ears are to be filled with His voice, and our eyes with His presence, so that, like the disciples when the vision faded, we too see “no man, save Jesus only.”

Though Peter at the moment had but small understanding of what it all signified he apprehended it later when the Spirit was given, as we see when we turn to his Second Epistle. He realized then that it was the confirmation of the prophetic word as to “the power and coming of our

Lord Jesus Christ,” for they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16-19). Not until the Son of Man was risen from the dead, and consequently the Holy Ghost was given, would the full significance of the transfiguration be understood. Hence the Lord’s charge to the three disciples recorded in verse Matthew 17:9 of our chapter. The vision did however awaken questions in the minds of the disciples as to the prophecy concerning the coming of Elias; and the Lord’s answer showed that as regards His first coming, that prophecy had found its fulfilment in John the Baptist who had been slain, and He took the opportunity of again predicting His own death.

On the top of the high mountain the disciples had been in the place of heavenly peace and communion; they descended with Jesus to the foot where all was distress and failure—distress on the part of the afflicted boy and his father; failure to meet the situation on the part of the disciples. The advent of Jesus altered everything in a moment, just as His approaching advent in glory will completely retrieve the situation which will then exist, meeting not only the power of the devil in the world but also all the failures of His saints.

The situation retrieved, the disciples invited the Lord to explain their failure, and thus they stood before His judgment seat, as we all shall in the day of His advent. His explanation of their failure in a general way was, “Because of your unbelief,” but He added that the demon involved in this case was of a special “kind” which could only be dealt with if there was “prayer and fasting.” As is so often the case with our failures the reason was not simple but compound. Three things were involved. First, absence of faith—little or no confidence in God. Second, absence of prayer— dependence upon God. Third, absence of fasting—separation to God, even from things quite right in themselves under ordinary circumstances. In these words we believe the Lord exposed the roots of all our failures in seeking to serve Him. We are defective in one or another or all of these three things. Let us enquire, searching our hearts and lives, and see if it be not so.

For the third time while in Galilee Jesus forewarned His disciples as to His death, adding the fact of His resurrection. Matthew’s comment is, “They were exceeding sorry,” which shows that they were more impressed by the tidings of His death than His resurrection. That is something which lies outside man’s natural experience and they failed to apprehend it. The incident which closes this chapter shows that Peter only thought of his Master as a good Jew, who paid all His dues, and was anxious that all others should see Him in this light. When he would have spoken of it, Jesus anticipated him with a question which showed that such as Peter were children of the kingdom, and hence in due course they would be free from this tribute for the service of the temple. Still the moment had not quite come for this, and no occasion of stumbling was to be given, so by a remarkable miracle the Lord provided the exact sum needed for two payments, and in wonderful grace He associated Peter with Himself. The coin was to be handed over “for Me and thee.” This was surely a token of the way in which saints as children of the kingdom were presently to be associated with Himself.


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 17:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 25th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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