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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Matthew 17

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-27

5. The Coming Glory;

the Helpless Disciples and the Power of the King. The Tribute Money.

CHAPTER 17

1. The Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1-13.)
2. The Helpless Disciples and the Power of the King. (
Matthew 17:14-21.)
3. The Second Announcement of His Death and Resurrection. (
Matthew 17:22-23.)
4. The Tribute Money.(
Matthew 17:24-27.)

The first part of this chapter gives us the record of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. The portion before us is one of the richest in the entire book of Matthew; so full of precious teachings and suggestions that one almost shrinks from attempting an exposition, for it seems impossible to touch on all the phases and lessons coming from this great event.

Let us remember that the Holy Spirit has given us three accounts of the transfiguration. Besides the one here we have one in Mark and in Luke. In each, special points of the great event are made prominent in full accord with the meaning and scope of the three Gospels. We find no record of the transfiguration in the fourth Gospel. It would be out of place in that Gospel, for John is the instrument to reveal Christ as the Son of God and the eternal Life. In Luke we find that something is said which is not found in the other two accounts. We read there: “And as He prayed the fashion of His countenance became different and His raiment white and effulgent.” The Gospel of Luke presents our Lord as Son of Man and we read there often that He prayed, and thus the information given to us in Luke is in full accord with that Gospel. In Matthew we learn something which is only reported there, namely, that His face shone as the sun. The importance of this fact we shall discover in the course of the exposition. In Mark and Luke the voice out of the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son; hear Him”; but in Matthew alone we read, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight; hear Him.” These and other differences are the mark of divine inspiration; the Holy Spirit, being the narrator of the event, reports the occurrence in harmony with the purpose of each one of these Gospels.

And now as we turn to the divine record of the transfiguration in the Gospel of Matthew we desire first of all to quote the inspired words of the man who stands out so prominently in the sixteenth chapter and who is likewise one of the witnesses of the transfiguration; that is Peter. In his last Epistle we read: “For we have not made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, following cleverly imagined fables, but having been eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from the Father honor and glory, such a voice being uttered to Him by the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I found my delight; (The “Hear Him” is here omitted.) and this voice we heard uttered from heaven, being with Him in the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic Word made surer, to which ye do well taking heed as to a lamp shining in an obscure place until the day dawn and the morning star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:16-20).

That Peter refers in these words once more to the scene of glory on that mountain top which his eyes beheld long ago needs no further proof. He does so “knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is speedily to take place” (Matthew 17:14).

We learn therefore that the transfiguration as interpreted not by men but by the Holy Spirit, is the pattern of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That wonderful scene on the holy mountain of which Peter had been eye-witness was a pattern of the return of the Lord, visibly and gloriously to the earth surrounded by His saints. The entire Old Testament prophetic word speaks of this great event, and for this reason the transfiguration of the Lord is a confirmation of these prophetic predictions, and more than that, the earnest of their final and complete fulfilment. We have the prophetic word made surer in the scene on the holy mountain, for in the transfiguration we behold that which prophet after prophet had declared.

What we have just stated is a most important key to the right understanding of the passage before. Let us call to mind again, the Holy Spirit tells us that the transfiguration is the pattern of the coming of the Lord.

Now this should silence once and for all the strange interpretations which are made of the last verse of the preceding chapter, which is, by the unfortunate division of these chapters, wrested from its true place. Some, the Lord had said, were standing with Him there who should not taste death at all until they should see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. The favorite expositions are that the Lord meant “the destruction of Jerusalem,” and others tell us “they were to see the Lord coming in the triumphs of the Gospel,” etc.

All these opinions are the opinions of men. Some of those standing there did not taste death until they saw Him coming, for after six days Peter, James and John beheld Him in His power and Glory, a pattern of the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

“After six days.” -- Even the number six is full of meaning as the number “eight” has a similar meaning in Luke where it says, “After these words, about eight days.” The number eight is the number of resurrection, and as the Son of Man in resurrection He appears in Luke; while “six” is man’s number, the number signifying the days of work -- after six days -- after work and man’s day is run out, the day of the Lord, the kingdom. And with Him He takes Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them into a high mountain apart. The mountain may have been Hermon, which is not far from Caesarea-Philippi. The men who were later with Him in the garden in that awful night scene, when they slept, while He prayed and His sweat became as great drops of blood, falling down upon the earth, are here on the mountain with Him to witness His Glory. But here, too, while He prayed they were oppressed with sleep (Luke 9:32). How this manifests what man is and how it brings out the perfection of Himself! The fact that the disciples were oppressed with sleep makes it evident that the transfiguration must have been at night. The Lord so often spent His nights in prayer and came down in the morning. Blessed type of His presence with the Father now as our intercessor and advocate and His coming again.

“And He was transfigured before them. And His face shone as the sun and His garments became white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). What a transformation it must have been! How the garment of light and glory is put upon Him and rays of glory shot forth from His person, the One whom Pharisees a little while ago had blasphemed and who had said, “The foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head.” The One who had hidden His glory beneath the form of a servant bursts forth in glory, and it was His glory. The word used here in the original for “transfigured” is used only twice besides in this passage. We find it in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. His Grace transforms us now, and by and bye in resurrection we shall be transformed according to the same image -- “conformed to the image of His Son, so that He should be the first born among many brethren.” We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. Thus may we, as children of God, look upon His glory here and know it is our Glory. Beloved! look upon Him and rejoice, for “when the Christ is manifested, who is our life, then shall ye also be manifested with Him in glory.”

And His face shone like the sun. He is the Sun, the Sun of righteousness, and as we have in Matthew the dispensational side, it is once more the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to put this description here and omit it in the other Gospels. The sun is the great light which rules the day, and when the sun is absent night rules. He does not shine now as Sun of Righteousness, the moon only -- the type of the church -- gives her faint light; it is night. But day will come and the Sun of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings. Then He the Sun cometh forth “as a bridegroom of His chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His circuit unto the ends of it, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (Psalms 19:5-6). Thus shall He come again, and the Sun He created will pale before Him in His wonderful Glory.

“And lo, Moses and Elias appeared to them talking with Him.” Two departed saints come into view first of all. Moses, the representative of the law, one who had passed through death, and Elias, standing for the prophets, the one who had never seen death, but had been removed in a fiery chariot, appear alongside the Lord. We may well think of Him as standing in the middle. He is the center of the Heavens and of heavenly beings. In the Gospel of Luke we read that Moses and Elias, appearing in glory, spoke of His departure which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Both Law and Prophets speak of His suffering and of His Glory as well. He the one in the middle is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.

Looked upon from the standpoint of a pattern of His coming into His kingdom, Moses is the type of those saints who died in Christ, who were put to sleep through Jesus, and whom the Lord will bring with Him when He comes. Elias, the one who did not see death, who was caught up from the earth, is the type of those believers who shall not sleep but be changed in the twinkling of an eye -- caught up to meet the Lord in the air. So we have even here the precious revelation in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “made surer.” When He comes He will bring us all with Him.

And of course Moses and Elias were known. Their individuality was not swallowed up by death or removal from the earth without death. This should answer definitely the oft made inquiry, shall we know each other in resurrection glory? Of course we will. As Moses and Elias were easily recognized by the disciples, so shall every saint be recognized. What joy it will be then to see him first of all and to be with Him, whom we have never seen and whom we shall see as he is, the Man in Glory. What joy to look upon a Paul, John, Peter and all the beloved of God! Yes we shall know each other, though all human, earthly relationship ceases forever in resurrection.

The three disciples who gazed upon this glorious scene typify here the remnant of Israel, those who in the night look up and see Him coming in the clouds of heaven. Thus the kingdom scene is complete.

And Peter answering said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good we should be here. If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; for thee one, and for Moses one, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4).

Poor Peter! What a failure he makes of it again. Once more he acts as spokesman for his fellow disciples and intrudes himself upon the scene of glory. He had absolutely no conception of what all this meant. He had of course later by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and opening the eyes of his heart. (How often in prayer meetings one hears requests that feelings of joy and blessing may come upon the meeting, that they might say “it is good for us to be here -- let us make here three tabernacles.” This is a much used phrase and indicates how little the vision is understood by Christian people.) But what was the harm in making the suggestion? It was simply the flesh speaking and Peter uttered still words as he did previously, which flowed from a mind which is not on the things which are of God, but that are of men. In the sixteenth chapter he rebuked His Lord and tried to keep Him back from going to the cross and was an instrument of the enemy, and here once more his words show the subtle cunning of the same enemy, whose tool Peter so readily became even on that holy mountain.

He lowers the dignity and person of his Lord by putting Him on the same level with Moses and Elias. And behind it lurked another thought, the very same attempt to keep the Lord from being obedient unto the death of the cross, which was made in the temptations in the wilderness, which was hid in Peter’s “God be favorable unto Thee,” is made here once more. Peter would have a Christ in Glory and the state of the kingdom there without the cross, and he is even willing with his two associates to work for it, for he says, “Let us make here three tabernacles.”

All this foreshadows what would be done with the Lord of glory. The corrupt forms of Christianity have put the Lord Jesus Christ alongside of holy men (holy in their estimation), or alongside of great men of the world, and thus robbed Him of His Glory. Not for a moment could this be tolerated. Peter is still babbling -- while he was still speaking something happens. It is God the Father Himself who interferes and who bears witness that this Jesus, this Son of Man, is His Son, is God. “While he was still speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and lo a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight, hear Him” (Matthew 17:5).

Wonderful heavenly answer. “And the disciples hearing it, fell upon their faces and were greatly terrified.” The heavens opened and the Glory of the Lord in that bright cloud is manifested. These three men well knew what that cloud meant. It was the cloud which spoke of Jehovah’s presence. That cloud which had been withdrawn from Israel for centuries had all at once appeared again. Then Jehovah had returned and condescended to be with His people once more. They knew they stood in His presence as Isaiah knew it when he saw the glorious vision. Therefore, they were terrified, for they knew as sinful men they stood in the Holy of Holiest and they had no sacrifice. And now the voice out of the cloud. The Father speaks and He speaks of the Son. He bears witness to the eternal relationship of Himself with Him, who was ever with Him and ever His delight. He calls them away from occupation with Moses and Elias; neither law nor prophets can help you and make you acceptable. Here He is -- my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him! He has pleased the Father and in Him the Father and the Father’s heart is revealed. Men are to hear Him, and refusing Him means refusing God. In Him we are brought to God. Of course the work of the cross is here anticipated. And thus in Him the Father speaks, to Him the Father directs us, through Him we are brought to the Father, and by Him the heavens are opened. And all the precious thoughts which here crowd to the heart and the mind we must leave untouched. Oh, may we find our delight in Him in whom God finds His delight! Never can we make too much of Him. As then the cloud appeared and there was an open manifestation of the Glory and Jehovah’s presence, so in the coming day of His return all will be repeated. Then He must be heard.

“And Jesus coming to them touched them, and said, Rise up and be not terrified. And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone” (Matthew 17:8).

He touched them as He will touch His poor frightened people, the remnant of Israel, in that day. But they saw Jesus alone. Blessed are we if we see Him and Him alone.

We have learned then from the transfiguration that we have in it a perfect picture of the kingdom to come. Christ in Glory, His face like the Sun, in the center. Resurrected saints and those who were caught up are with Him. His Glory covers Him and them. Living men are in His presence terrified. The heavens are opened and mercy and peace flow forth.

“And as they descended from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man be risen up from among the dead” (Matthew 17:9).

The sounding forth of His Kingdom glory was no longer in order, for the Kingdom had been rejected; after His resurrection this vision was to be made known and fully understood, but not before. The disciples, the witnesses of the transfiguration, had indeed little knowledge of its meaning. From the Gospel of Mark we learn that they kept this saying and questioned themselves what rising from the dead was (Mark 9:10). How all this became changed after the Lord had risen, ascended on high, and the Holy Spirit had come down from heaven!

The appearance of Elijah in that glorious vision on the holy mountain leads to a question which the disciples bring to their Master. The coming of Elijah as the forerunner of King Messiah was firmly believed by every Jew, and it is still held by all orthodox Jews. Elijah is first to come, and when he is come then the Messiah is about to come and with His coming begins the _olam _habo (the world or age to come), this is a strong article of talmudical Judaism. The disciples bring their question, “Why then say the scribes that Elias must first have come? And He answering said to them, Elias indeed comes first and will restore all things. But I say unto you that Elias has already come, and they have not known him, but have done unto him whatever they would. Thus also the Son of Man is about to suffer from them. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10-13). The difficulty which the disciples had about Elias was about the prophecy contained in the last prophetic book of the Old Testament: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6). They had seen Elias in glory. In the land and among the people all was dark; no restoration, no turning of the heart of the fathers to the children and the children to their fathers was noticeable. On the contrary, they had witnessed how He in whom they believed as the promised Messiah, the King of Israel, was being rejected and the nation knew Him not. And still they hoped for the kingdom and that age of blessing for Jerusalem. What then about Elias? Would he yet appear and restore all things? The Lord answers their difficulty, as He always does when His own turn to Him and put their difficulties before Him. He does not deny the fact that Elias comes first and will restore all things. Furthermore, He told them that he had come and they had not received him, but rejected him and his testimony. As he was rejected, so He the Son of Man was now about to suffer from them, is His third statement. All at once they understood that He meant John the Baptist. They were right. John the Baptist had come in the power and spirit of Elijah. He was the voice in the wilderness, the way preparer, the one in whom the last prophecy in Malachi might have been fulfilled, but they did not know Him. His rejection was the prelude to the rejection of the Lord as we have seen before (chapter 11). John surely was the Elias for that time.

But this does not fulfill Malachi’s prophecy. That prophecy is yet to see its fulfilment. Before the Lord returns to earth in power and glory another forerunner, an Elijah, will come and his testimony will not be rejected then; he will indeed be Elijah who restores all things and he will be followed by the coming of the King to set up His kingdom. This brings before us the questions, when will the Elijah who restores all things appear? where will he appear, and what will his work be? These questions are important in view of men who have of late arisen claiming that they are Elijah, one especially calling himself Elijah the Restorer, and boldly and boastingly declares that his mission is to establish a Zion in the earth and restore things before the Lord comes. When will Elijah appear? He will come upon the scene at the time of the end. This prophetic time of the end is specified in the entire prophetic Word; it is Jewish history resumed. As long as the church is in the earth that end time does not begin. The removal of the church will be followed by the last stage of the ending of the age. During that time, the great tribulation, Elijah appears. Any believer who holds the scriptural doctrine of the coming of the Lord for His saints before the great tribulation is in no danger to follow deceivers who claim to be something, for he knows he shall see not Elijah nor the Antichrist.

Where will Elijah appear? Certainly not in America, Australia or Europe, but in Israel ‘s land, where Elijah of old witnessed and John the Baptist, as herald of the King, stood. His ministry is confined to the land of Israel. What will his work be? It will not be a work to restore Christendom or to restore the church, or to purify the politics of this world and rid society of certain evils, but his work is exclusively among the people who are the kingdom people. His witness is to the remnant of Israel. Like John’s call to repentance, he will preach repentance and his testimony will be received; he will accomplish the mission of Malachi 4:5-6.

The appearance of Elijah, therefore, does not come as long as the church is present; he appears in Israel’s land and his work is not among Gentiles, but among the remnant of Israel. This stamps every man who arises at this time with the assertion that he is Elijah as one who is deceived or a deceiver, perhaps, both, deceived and a deceiver. It is not at all strange that such men find listening ears among Christians.

And now the Lord and His disciples are down in the valley again. They had descended from the holy mountain and once more they are among the multitude, who perhaps had waited through the night for Him. At the dawn of the morning He appears.

“And when they came to the multitude, a man came to Him, falling on his knees before Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is lunatic and suffers sorely; for often he falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to the disciples and they were not able to heal him. And Jesus answering said, O, unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me. And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon went out from him and the boy was healed from that hour. Then the disciples, coming to Jesus apart, said to Him, Why were we not able to cast him out? And He says to them, Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Be transported hence to yonder place, and it shall transport itself; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:14-21). (It is interesting to know that the twenty-first verse is not found in the two oldest manuscripts dating back to the fourth century, the Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.)

This is another very suggestive passage. It has many dispensational and spiritual lessons. The coming down of the Lord, the one who has been transfigured, from the mountain in the morning is clearly typical of His coming again in Glory. And what does He find when He comes? He finds Satan exercising his soul and body-destroying power. The boy possessed by a demon suffering sorely is the type of Satan’s dominion when the Son of Man comes again. Multitudes wait for His return, and when He comes He finds misery, suffering and unbelief. The disciples had the power conferred upon them to cast out demons, but they were helpless; they could not do it, and unbelief was plainly at the root of their inability. We must, however, be cautious to apply this in the right way. It would be incorrect to make these disciples the church. We have seen before that they represent the Jewish remnant (chapter 10). Such a remnant of Jewish believers will be in existence after the body of Christ, the church, is complete and come into the presence of the Lord. This future Jewish remnant will preach the Gospel of the kingdom and they will go once more through the cities of Israel manifesting the powers of the kingdom. And yet they will not be able to cast out the demon which holds dominion. The coming Lord can do this and does it with His manifestation.

However, the principles underlying the incident have a deeper spiritual application. Here is a company of believers, for such were the disciples, and the Lord had put power into their hands, yet they were not able to use it. Perhaps, as over and over again they attempted to drive out the demon and failure followed, the multitude jeered at them, and the effect upon the child must have been awful. Their failure made the case worse. Thus we are as believers in the midst of an evil world, which is under the sway of its god, the devil, and his demons. Complete victory and power over the world and its god is given to us by, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet here are many of God’s people as helpless and powerless as were these disciples at the foot of the mountain. Weakness and failure is seen everywhere, and instead of exercising full control and having full power over that which is evil, the evil has full control. And why? Oh, let us put the words prominently before the eyes of our hearts, “Because of your unbelief.” Unbelief is the only reason for this failure. Unbelief gives the world and Satan all their power. Faith lays him low and the walls of Jericho (the world) must crumble to dust without even a single hand lifted up against them. Nothing is impossible for him who believes. Faith can remove and does remove mountains, which mean obstacles and difficulties in our way. How little such faith is exercised among believers. And we may go still further and ask what is the reason of lack of faith? A severed communion with the Lord and occupation with self. If the Lord is ever before our hearts and self is out of sight, faith can readily be exercised. Therefore the Lord gives the remedy, “Prayer and Fasting.” Prayer means communion with the Lord and dependence on Him. Fasting (the least meaning of it, abstinence from food), the losing sight of self; self-denial.

The healing of the lunatic is followed by a second announcement of His suffering, death and resurrection. “And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and the third day He shall be raised up. And they were greatly grieved” (Matthew 17:22-23). This new declaration of His passion, following the transfiguration scene and the manifestation of His power over the devil, is a reminder that through the cross alone the glory could be accomplished. In the sixteenth chapter the announcement of the fact that He would build His church is followed by the first statement of His suffering, and there the elders, chief priests and scribes are mentioned, and His glory as the Son of Man is manifested. He speaks again of His death, and the chief priests and elders are not mentioned, but He speaks of being about to be delivered into the hands of men. This head of the body, His church, and head of the new creation as Second Man He was to become by death and resurrection. And His disciples, in hearing these words, were greatly grieved. All these sayings of the Lord were mysterious unto them. They knew not that all the hope of glory and the kingdom could only be realized by His death and triumphant resurrection, or they would not have been grieved.

The closing paragraph of the seventeenth chapter contains a most precious incident, which we shall find again full of most suggestive and blessed teachings. The scene is at Capernaum, meaning village of comfort. Let us read the text first. “And when they came to Capernaum, those who received the didrachmas came to Peter and said, Does your teacher not pay the didrachmas? He says, Yes. And when he came to the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, What dost thou think, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive custom or tribute? from their own sons or from strangers? Peter says to Him, From strangers. Jesus said to him, Then are the sons free. But that we may not be an offence to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish which comes up, and when thou hast opened its mouth thou wilt find a stater; take that and give it to them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:24-27).

One is at a loss how to give out a little of the wonderful riches of grace and glory which are manifested in this little incident there by the sea of Galilee. And even if we would bring out every point and lesson the Holy Spirit has put here for us, it would all be but imperfect stammering. The grace and glory of Himself is here most wonderfully brought forth. He manifests Himself as the omnipotent Lord; His divine majesty and power is shown forth in the miracle of the fish, and in wonderful condescension this Lord is servant, to make us sons with Himself, and as such, free. But let us point out the details.

The temple-tribute is here meant, which, according to Jewish custom, was collected at the end of the month Adar (March). That it was not the ransom money for the soul, spoken of in Exodus 30:11-16, is obvious. The amount of tribute was in our money about sixty cents. The collector came to Peter, perhaps for the reason that the Lord was not present. And Peter acts once more in his hasty manner. Without thinking he answers with a ready “yes.” But, Peter, hast thou forgotten thy wonderful confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?” Is the vision from the holy mountain so quickly gone that thou canst put again thy Lord down on the level with every other Jew who is obliged to pay temple-tribute? Alas! even so it was. The dignity and glory of His Lord was quite forgotten and out of sight.

We see Peter after his hasty reply in the house surprised by the Lord. He knew his heart and the question which had been asked, as well as the answer which Peter had given. Jesus anticipated him, and addressing him as Simon, He asks, “the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tribute? from their own sons or from strangers?” What a strong proof this is once more of the Divinity of the humble Jesus. He knew the thoughts of His disciple; this Jesus is the omniscient God, God manifested in the flesh. Peter now gives the correct answer, “From strangers;” to which Jesus replies, “Then are the sons free.” In this declaration all His glory is once more revealed. He is the Son, He is Jehovah, whose glory had appeared in the temple; how could He then pay tribute to that which is His own? As Son He was free, no such obligation was upon Him. Oh, how the dignity of His Person stands before us in these simple words. He shows His place as Son, and as such He is exempt from the tribute. But while thus He shows His divine right, He does not insist upon it. “But that we may not be an offence to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou wilt find a stater; take that and give it to them for me and thee.”

And here still greater grace and glory is revealed for our hearts to enjoy. First notice that the Lord speaks not of Himself alone, but also of Peter. He had not said that He as the Son is free, but the “sons are free.” In speaking of giving offence He says “we,” and when the money is miraculously provided it was to be “for me and thee,” for the Lord and for Peter. What precious thoughts these facts bring to us! The Lord, the Son of God, who is free, identifies Himself with His disciple, with Peter, who, as we have seen before, is the representative of the disciples. In this gracious identification of the Lord with His own, every believer is included. He is Son and we are sons with Him; He is free and He has made us free. “If therefore the Son shall set you free ye shall be really free” -- He has identified Himself with us and we are sharers of His grace, His humiliation and His glory. But what an example it is which He in His gracious action puts here before us for our consideration and “to go and do likewise.” He surrenders His personal right for the sake of “not giving offence.” Surely “He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps.” It behooves us now, though we are sons of God and sons of glory, to walk in humility, without asserting our right, willing in all things which concern ourselves to suffer. Alas! how little it is done -- how great the offence given again and again, by the self-assertion, the ungracious and worldly behavior of those who through the grace of God are not of the world as He is not of it. May we learn of Him in this sweet lesson. He could say, “I am meek and lowly of heart,” and His humility shines forth in His action. Like He the Son becoming a servant may we as sons be servants too. And then, think of it, He provided for all which was needed. Just the amount which was needed “for me and for thee” was at His command; it was ready and prepared. All is His and unto the riches of Himself He has taken us. “For me and thee” speaks of individuality and intimacy. Faith is to take hold of it and realize even better and more fully that all need is supplied by Himself and that from Him all comes to us. And by what a mighty miracle He provides the need. Once more His glory flashes forth. Again we learn that this Jesus who speaks here is God, God the Creator; as such He manifests Himself. It is a practical illustration of Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:3. He knows the deep sea, for He made the sea. He knows the mysteries of the deep, nothing is hid from Him. He knows the piece of money in the bottom of the sea, for the silver and the gold are His. As He spoke before to the restless sea and wind and waves obeyed Him, so here, the deep obeys His voice. A creature of His is there, a fish, and He commands the fish to take up a piece of money. Then He brings the fish to Peter’s hook. Omniscience and omnipotence is here which belong to God and God is present. And this Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He who knew the fish and commanded that fish to take the stater and guided it to Peter’s hook, is our Lord, with power in heaven and on earth. In view of such gracious and wonderful demonstration of His power the heart cries out -- Oh why do we not trust Him fully at all times and circumstances! Why do we not even hasten to such a Lord whose grace and power is all for us, and ever trust Him for all we want?

Perhaps here is also the thought of death in type and that through death our need is provided. Out of the water the fish was taken, and out of the deep provision was made.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Matthew 17:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/matthew-17.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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