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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Matthew 17

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-13

Matthew 17:1-13.
The Transfiguration

This is described also in Mark 9:2-13;

Luke 9:28-36. The scene of the Transfiguration is popularly supposed to have been Mount Tabor, in Lower Galilee. This opinion is expressed in the fourth century, and Origen cites from the "Gospel according to the Hebrews" a passage which probably relates to the Transfiguration, and would show that some held this view in the second century. Yet the tradition is almost certainly incorrect. The conversation (Matthew 16:21-28)

which preceded the Transfiguration by six days was very closely connected (see on "Matthew 16:21") with Peter's great confession, and this occurred in the district of Cesarea Philippi. It is of course possible that in these six days Jesus should have come back to Galilee and gone south to Mount Tabor, but we know that he was at this period keeping away from Galilee for many important reasons (compare on Matthew 16:5). Moreover, we find in Mark that from the place of the Transfiguration they went forth and passed through Galilee as privately as possible to Capernaum, (Mark 9:14, Mark 9:30, Mark 9:33) and thence went towards Jerusalem. All this leaves the hypothesis of a hasty journey to Tabor and back violently improbable. Besides, Robinson has shown that there was a fortified city on Mount Tabor at that time, which must have rendered its narrow and rounded summit anything else than a place of seclusion. In view of these facts nearly all recent writers agree that the Transfiguration must have occurred in the neighbourhood of Cesarea Philippi.

Matthew 17:1. Into a high mountain, might be any one of the numerous spurs of the Hermon range in the vicinity of the city. We can hardly suppose one of the three highest peaks of Hermon to be meant, because to climb any one of them on foot and return is a fatiguing journey of ten or twelve hours (McGarvey, Thomson). And it would be too cold to spend a night there without shelter. Conder found it very cold in a tent. After six days. So also Mark. Luke says 'about eight days,' i. e., about a week, which was often called eight days, counting both the first and the last (see on "Matthew 12:40"), just as in the French and German languages a week is frequently called "eight days," and a fortnight "fifteen days." If Matthew and Mark say 'six days' and Luke 'about a week,' there is certainly no conflict. It is not well to suppose (Chrys., Jerome) that Matthew and Mark give only the intervening days, while Luke adds the first and last, for this is supposing them to reckon in a way quite unnatural for Hebrew or Greek usage, and such artificial harmonistic hypotheses are to be deprecated. The real point to be observed is that all three Evangelists declare the Transfiguration to have occurred only a few days after the prediction that Jesus must suffer and be killed. Jesus taketh with him, as in Matthew 2:13, Matthew 4:5, Matthew 12:45. Peter, James, and John, alone were also admitted to see the raising of Jairus' daughter, (Mark 5:37) and to be near the Master in Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:37) They belonged to the first group of four among the Twelve (see on "Matthew 10:2"), and were evidently received to a peculiar intimacy. The conviction wrought in their minds by what they witnessed would impart itself to all, through their tone and general influence. Apart. Such an unearthly, almost heavenly scene must have no unsympathizing spectators. Luke says (Luke 9:28. Rev. Ver.) that he 'went up into the mountain to pray'(compare above on Matthew 14:23), and that the wonderful change of appearance took place as he was praying. We have several times found mention of special seasons of prayer at great crises of our Lord's history. (Luke 3:21, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, Matthew 14:23) As the three disciples were oppressed with sleep during the scene (Luke), and his return to the other disciples was 'on the next day', (Luke 9:37) it seems clear that the Transfiguration occurred at night. The shining of our Lord's face and garments, and the bright cloud, would thus be more manifest, and the whole scene more striking.

Matthew 17:2. And was transfigured, literally, his form was changed, meaning however, so far as we can see, merely a change in his appearance. Before them, within their full view, so that they could bear witness. His face did shine as the sun, compare as partially similar, Exodus 34:29, Acts 6:15. And his raiment, or, garments, was—or, became—white as the light;(1) Mark, Rev. Ver., 'glittering, exceedingly white", Luke, 'white and dazzling,'. (compare Matthew 28:3) All this was a temporary and partial anticipation of the glory that awaited him; (John 12:23; John 17:5, Philippians 3:21) compare his appearance to one of these three disciples in Patmos. (Revelation 1:13-16)

Matthew 17:3 f. There are here (Godet) three distinct points: the personal glorification of Jesus (Matthew 17:2), the appearance and conversation of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:3.), the theophany and divine voice (Matthew 17:5). Moses, and Elias, (Elijah), recognized at once (Matthew 17:4), and doubtless by intuition, as a part of the supernatural scene. Any question as to whether Moses appeared in a resurrection body lies beyond our knowledge and is idle. "The law and the prophets were until John; from that time the kingdom of God is preached." (Luke 16:16) Thus the Messianic reign is distinguished from the dispensation of the law and the prophets, though not intended to abrogate them. (Matthew 5:17) Accordingly we find the founder of the law, and the great reforming prophet, coming to attend on the Messianic King; and as they disappear, a heavenly voice calls on men to hear him. The Rabbis frequently speak of Moses and Elijah together; and a writer of several centuries after Christ says they were to come together in the days of the Messiah. Talking with him Luke says,(Luke 9:32) "spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem,"the announcement of which, a few days before, had so startled and pained the disciples. Plumptre : "It is significant that the word for 'decease' (exodos) re-appears in this sense once only in the New Testament, and then in close connection with a reference to the Transfiguration." (2 Peter 1:15) It is not clear whether the disciples heard this conversation; at any rate it was partly designed for the Saviour's own benefit, that he might be supported in view of the sufferings and death to which his mind was now especially turning. (Luke 12:50) Then answered Peter, not an answer to something said to him, but a response to the suggestions of the situation, an utterance called forth by the impression made on his mind. (Compare on Matthew 11:25) Lord. Mark has Rabbi, and Luke epistates, 'master,' see on Matthew 8:19. It is good for us to be here. Full of strange, bewildered, but delightful feelings, Peter wanted to stay there permanently, and not have the Master go to Jerusalem for the predicted sufferings and death. Keim fancies that Peter wished to summon the other disciples and the people from every direction to witness this opening manifestation of the Messianic glory—which is pure hypothesis, but not impossible. Meyer and Weiss imagine that Peter means, "It is a good thing that we are here," so as to take the necessary steps. The Greek will bear this sense, but the tone of the narrative will not.—It was indeed good to be there, but they could not stay. Down again must Jesus and his disciples go, amid human sorrow and sin, (Matthew 17:15) down to witness distressing unbelief, (Matthew 17:17) and presently to set out on the journey towards Jerusalem and the cross. As Moses and Elijah were parting from Jesus (Luke), Peter proposed to detain them by making three tabernacles, or 'booths,' shelters formed of branches of trees, such as the people were accustomed to make for the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem. In these their glorious Lord and his heavenly visitors might abide in comfort; as for the disciples themselves, they could remain without shelter, being accustomed to the open air in hot weather, even at night. This was a strange proposal with reference to beings come from the other world, and Mark adds, 'for he knew not what to answer; for they were (or became) sorely afraid.' I will make, is read by the earliest manuscripts, and was easily changed by copyists to let us make, through assimilation to Mark and Luke. It accords with Peter's ardent and self-reliant character, (Matthew 14:22) that he should propose to make them himself.

Matthew 17:5. A bright cloud. Clouds are usually dark, but this was a cloud full of light (same word as in Matthew 6:22), which in the night must have been a sublime spectacle. Compare in Old Testament theophanies, Exodus 38:9, 1 Kings 8:10. The three disciples seem to have been outside of the luminous cloud; Luke, in the correct Greek text, leaves this uncertain, as Matt. does; but a voice out of the cloud suggests that those who heard it were without. Matthew repeats behold three times in quick succession (Matthew 17:3, Matthew 17:5), the events being each very remarkable. On two other occasions a supernatural voice bore testimony to Jesus. (Matthew 3:17, John 12:28) The words here spoken are the same as at the baptism (see on "Matthew 3:17"), except the addition here (in all three Gospels) of hear ye him, a solemn call to listen to his teachings and submit to his authority. The phrase, 'in whom I am well pleased,' is not here given by Mark and Luke, and instead of 'beloved' the correct Greek text of Luke (Luke 9:35) is 'chosen.' Of course the words cannot have been spoken in all these forms; an unquestionable proof, if it were needed, that the Evangelists do not always undertake to give the exact words. (Compare on Matthew 3:17) The words 'hear ye him' probably refer to Deuteronomy 18:15, "a prophet.... like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken." It may be that Peter recalled them when he quoted that passage in addressing the Jews.(Acts 8:32)

Matthew 17:6-8. This solemn voice increased the awe and terror with which the disciples were overwhelmed. They fell on their face (compare Deuteronomy 5:25 f.; Hebrews 12:19), and were sore afraid, that fear which the supernatural so readily excites. (Compare on Matthew 14:26) This fear is mentioned by Mark as explaining Peter's mental confusion and strange proposition; by Luke, as felt when they saw Jesus with Moses and Elijah, entering the cloud; by Matt., as felt when they heard the voice out of the cloud. We readily understand that it was felt throughout, and might be emphasized at various points with equal propriety. And Jesus came and touched them, as the angel touched Daniel. (Matthew 8:18, Matthew 10:18) One can almost see the kindly Saviour stooping to touch each of the prostrate forms, so as to arouse them to attention, and saying, Arise, and be not afraid. They looked up (Mark, 'suddenly')—the luminous cloud was gone, and with it the bright forms of Moses and Elijah—they saw no man (or no one) save Jesus only. This means simply that the others were gone and Jesus was alone; the wonderful scene was ended. It is quite unwarrantable to "accommodate" the words as a text in the way sometimes adopted—trust Jesus only, obey Jesus only, take Jesus only as prophet, priest, and king—all correct in themselves, but by no means here taught.

Matthew 17:9. As they came (were coming) down from the mountain, more exactly, out of the mountain. People who live near a mountain constantly say, "he is gone up in the mountain," "when he comes down out of the mountain"; he is not in the earth composing the mountain, but is in the mountain as a locality. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of, 'out of,' in Matthew, and probably so in Mark 9:9; it was changed by copyists to apo, 'from,' by way of assimilation to Luke, (Luke 9:37) just as it was changed in Mark 1:10 by assimilation to Matthew 3:16 (see on "Matthew 3:16"). This descent in the summer morning must have been accompanied by delightful reflections on what they had witnessed. Here was new and wondrous confirmation of their faith that Jesus was the Messiah. They would naturally wish to speak of it to the other disciples and all the people; and were doubtless surprised! and disappointed when Jesus not only said to them, but charged them, Tell the vision, or sight, (Acts 7:31) the word meaning simply something seen, to no man, more exactly, to no one, until the Son of man, the Messiah (see on "Matthew 8:20"), be risen from the dead. He is repeating what he had said a week before, (Matthew 16:21) that he must die and rise again.

But they do not understand. Mark says, (Mark 9:10) 'They kept the saying, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.' They were familiar with the idea of a general resurrection, but could not see how the Messiah was to be killed and come to life again (see on "Matthew 16:21"). They doubtless supposed it must mean something figurative, and never thought of understanding it literally. The other disciples would naturally feel a similar difficulty concerning the prediction as made before and repeated afterwards; (Matthew 17:23, Matthew 20:19) but some of them mentioned that such a prediction had been made, and when the rulers heard of it, they thought only of a pretended literal resurrection, which they endeavoured to prevent.

In considering the design of the Transfiguration, we may be aided by this fact that it was not to be made known till after the resurrection of Jesus, and by the question which the disciples proceeded to ask (Matthew 17:10), showing a deep conviction that he was the Messiah. The wonderful scene was suited to fix this belief so firmly in the minds of these three leading disciples that it would not be shaken by the repeated prediction, nor utterly destroyed by the heart-rending reality, of his ignominious death. Henceforth, no disappointment of their cherished Messianic expectations, no humiliation instead of honour, and death instead of triumph, could ever make them doubt that he whom they had seen in such a form of glory, and receiving such testimony, was indeed the Messiah. Even when Peter so mournfully fell, he did not utterly lose this conviction, even as Jesus said the night before, 'I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not.' (Luke 22:32, R.V.) This unconquerable conviction on the part of the three foremost disciples would keep the rest also from wavering, though they could not be told what had occurred. When their lips were unsealed, we may be sure that they delighted to tell the sublime story, even as Peter speaks of it in glowing terms in his last Epistle, (2 Peter 1:16 ff.) and John perhaps alludes to it in his Gospel. (Matthew 1:14) As to the effect of the Transfiguration upon Jesus himself, see on "Matthew 17:3". But why could it not be told until after his resurrection? He had forbidden the disciples to tell any one that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:20) An account of this wonderful scene, if given to the people in general, with their mistaken conceptions of Messiah, would only have excited fanaticism and precipitated the crisis. When his resurrection and ascension had put an end to the thought of a mere temporal kingdom, and the minds of believers had been lifted up to a just conception of their exalted Lord, then the story could be appreciated, and would do good and not harm.

Matthew 17:10-13. His disciples, viz., the three. (Mark 9:2) Why then? There is now no doubt that he is the Messiah. Why then, say the scribes that Elias (Elijah) must first come? The thought of Elijah had been suggested by his appearance on the Mount. The Scribes were accustomed to teach that Elijah in proper person would come before the Messiah, and prepare the way for him by a new work of reformation—thus interpreting literally the prediction of Malachi 4:5 (compare on Matthew 16:14). Some of the Jews held that Elijah would anoint the Messiah. But here is Messiah present beyond question, and no such preparatory ministry of Elijah has occurred. They ask him therefore to explain why the Scribes say that Elijah must come before the Messiah; and this he proceeded to do. Meyer and others suppose, with far less probability, that the disciples took this appearance of Elijah on the mount to be the predicted coming, and were only perplexed that Elijah had not come first, but after the Messiah had appeared. And Jesus (he) answered and said. The words 'Jesus' and 'to them' are not part of the correct text; nor is 'first' in Matthew 17:11, though genuine in Matthew 17:10. Elias (Elijah) truly shall come. 'Indeed,' or 'truly,' expresses contrast with something to follow, as in Matthew 9:37. That Elijah cometh is the divine arrangement, and the prediction of Scripture. (For such uses of the present tense, see Winer, p. 265 332.) And restore all things. Malachi predicted (Matthew 4:6) of Elijah, "he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children," etc., viz., as a preparation for the great day of the Lord. This 'shall turn' is translated in the Sept. 'shall restore,' and hence doubtless (Bengel, Fritz.) the word here and in Mark. (Matthew 9:12) Elijah will effect a preparatory reformation, compare Luke 1:17, 'to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.' Our Lord means to say that so the prediction stands. The future tense does not appear to mean, as Chrys. and others have imagined, that there was to be some other coming of Elijah still future when our Lord was speaking. Elias (Elijah) is come already, compare Matthew 11:14. Whatsoever they listed, or wished, the old English listed being a modified form of lusted, i. e., desired. 'They' is here impersonal; a very common use in Hebrew of the third person plural, like the Eng. 'they say.' The reference is to the way John had been treated by the people in general, and by Herod in particular. John was not Elijah reappearing in his own proper person, but he was Elijah in "spirit and power", (Luke 1:17) in character and reforming influence. (Compare on Matthew 3:1) Some of the rabbinical writers represent that Elijah will bring back the ark, the pot of manna, etc.; Jesus regards him as coming to affect a moral renovation or restoration. In Acts 3:21, Peter points forward to a future "restoration of all things" in connection with the second coming of the Messiah. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them, viz., at the hands of the people, not necessarily the same persons who had maltreated John, but the same generation. He here recalls to the three the prediction of a week before, which Peter had found it so hard to bear.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 17:1-8. The Transfiguration. (1) The glorious appearance. (2) The holy visitants. (3) The Father's voice. (4) The effect upon the disciples. (5) The lessons for us; (a) as to the Saviour's glory, (b) his authority, (c) our service of him.

Matthew 17:3. Hall: "A strange opportunity! in his highest exaltation to speak of his sufferings; when his head shone with glory, to tell him how it must bleed with thorns; when his face shone like the sun, to tell him it must be spit upon; when his garments glistened with that celestial brightness, to tell him they must be stripped and divided; when he was seen between two saints, to tell him how he must be seen between two malefactors."

Matthew 17:4. Henry: "We are out in our aim, if we look for a heaven here upon earth. It is not for strangers and pilgrims to talk of building. Whatever tabernacles we propose to make to ourselves in this world, we must always remember to ask Christ's leave."

Matthew 17:5. Hear him. (1) As completer of the law. (Matthew 5:17) (2) As last and greatest of God's messengers. (Hebrews 1:1 f.) (3) As the suffering Saviour. (Matthew 16:21) (4) As destined to be the final Judge. (Matthew 16:27)

Matthew 17:6. Henry: "Through the infirmity of the flesh, we often frighten ourselves with that wherewith we should encourage ourselves."

Matthew 17:8. Chrys.: "If we will, we also shall behold Christ, not as they then on the mount, but in far greater brightness. For then, to spare his disciples, he discovered so much only of his brightness as they were able to bear; hereafter 'he shall come in the very glory of the Father, not with Moses and Elijah only, but with the infinite host of the angels, not having a cloud over his head, but even heaven itself being folded up so that all men shall see him sitting, and he will make answers to them by himself, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father,' 'Depart from me, ye cursed.'"

Matthew 17:9. Tell the vision to no one. (1) It is a difficult and important duty sometimes to keep silence when we burn to speak. (2) Some points of religious truth are best withheld from persons not prepared to understand. (3) Delay in telling sometimes prepares us to tell more intelligently and impressively.


Verses 14-21

Matthew 17:14-21.
Jesus Heals The Epileptic Boy

Mark here gives (Mark 9:14-29) many vivid details not found in Matthew or Luke. (Luke 9:37-42)

Matthew 17:14-16. And when they, viz., Jesus, with Peter and James and John, (Matthew 17:1, Matthew 17:9) were come to the multitude. The place was near the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, (Luke 9:37) and so pretty certainly in the neighbourhood of Cesarea Philippi. (See on "Matthew 17:1".) The great picture by Raffaelle, seizing upon the close connection between the Transfiguration and this scene, has taken the artistic license of representing them as contemporaneous, the Master in glory on the Mount, the nine disciples vainly attempting to heal the demoniac boy at its foot. 'The multitude' were surrounding the nine disciples (Mark), and 'were greatly amazed,' probably at the sudden appearance of Jesus after a night's unexplained absence, and after this failure of his followers. Some think there was still a light in his countenance, as when Moses descended with dazzling face. But this would have excited a curiosity which he and the three could not gratify. (Matthew 17:9) Mark adds that the multitude ran to him and saluted him; they were perhaps curious to know where he had been, and were doubtless eager to see whether he could heal when the disciples had failed. It was probably in regard to this point that 'Scribes' were 'questioning with them.' The fame of Jesus numerous healings in Galilee had long ago spread far and wide. (Matthew 4:24 f.) A man, kneeling to him, in humility and reverence, not in worship. Lord, see on "Matthew 8:2". It is not clear what amount of reverence the word here expresses. On my son, an only son, (Luke 9:38) and still a boy. (Matthew 17:18, Mark 9:24, Luke 9:42) Lunatic, or epileptic , as in, Matthew 4:24; the word does not occur elsewhere in New Testament The symptoms described, and more fully and vividly in Mark, (Matthew 9:18-20) are those of epilepsy; and the boy had been so affected from childhood (Mark). The epilepsy was in this case connected (Matthew 17:18) with possession by a demon (see on "Matthew 8:28"), which might either have caused the bodily ailment, or taken occasion there from. In Mark (Mark 9:17) it is called 'a dumb spirit,' indicating that the demoniacal possession had caused the child to be dumb. I brought him to thy disciples, the nine who had been left behind, and they could not cure him. Mark and Luke, 'cast it out.' They had doubtless repeatedly cast out demons during their mission in Galilee the previous winter or spring, (Matthew 10:1-8) and they might have done so now but for weakness of faith. (Matthew 17:20.)

Matthew 17:17 f. O faithless (unbelieving) and perverse generation. The terms are borrowed from Deuteronomy 32:5, Deuteronomy 32:20; compare Philippians 2:15. They were not unbelieving through lack of evidence, but through perverse neglect or rejection of the evidence. The Greek word means thoroughly twisted, crooked, etc., and so does the Latin perversus. (Compare Eng. wrong from wring.) Tyn., Cram, Gen., here render 'crooked:' The term 'generation' seems to be used generally, not meaning specifically the disciples or the Scribes, etc., as various writers have supposed. The father, the nine disciples, the crowd, the Scribes, (Mark 9:14) would all in varying degrees and ways suggest that the current generation was unbelieving and perverse. So Zwingli, Bengel, Ewald, Trench (see Morison). 'Unbelieving' does not necessarily mean that no one in the generation believed at all; the disciples had 'little faith' (Matthew 17:20), the father believed and did not believe. This prevalence of perverse unbelief made it painful to live amid such a generation, and to suffer, or bear with, them. He had shown keen distress at unbelief before, Mark 8:12 (see above on Matthew 16:4); Mark 8:5 (see above on "Matthew 12:13"). Our Lord's sensitiveness of feeling appears in many ways, but only here is recorded as taking the form of momentary impatience at dwelling amid such an environment; it must have been all the more distressing from the contrast with the scene of the Transfiguration, a few hours before. How long? literally, until when? as if expecting a time of release. Yet he did bear with that generation for yet many months (see on "Matthew 19:1"), and did on this occasion, amid all the disheartening and intolerable unbelief, promptly recognize and bless a faith that was confessedly weak. This confession was made by the father in a touching dialogue recorded by Mark. (Matthew 9:20-25) Bring him hither to me. Even the disciples have been weak in faith, and what they ought to have done must be done by him. And Jesus rebuked the devil, literally, him, the demoniac, which of course means that he rebuked 'the unclean spirit' (Mark and Luke); the rebuke doubtless related to his unlawful and malignant possession. The apparent confusion of persons in speaking to the child and the demon is natural on the assumption of a real demoniacal possession, and repeatedly occurs in the Gospels. Tyn. and his followers transposed 'the devil' into the first clause. The devil should be the demon, see on "Matthew 8:31". Departed out of him, and being united, compare on Matthew 3:16. The dispossession caused the child frightful suffering, and presently he lay as if dead till Jesus raised him up (Mark). The child; boy is the exact translation, and more definite than 'child.' Was cured from that very hour, at once and permanently, as in Matthew 15:28, Matthew 9:22. Luke adds, (Luke 9:43, R.V.) "And they were all astonished at the majesty of God."

Matthew 17:19-20 (21). The disciples, viz., the nine who had tried and failed. Apart, Mark, (Mark 9:28) 'when be was come into the house,' apparently that in which he and they had been sojourning. Why could not we cast him (it) out? 'we' being expressed in the Greek, and thus emphatic; he had authorized them to cast out demons, (Matthew 10:1-8) and we cannot doubt they had done so. (Compare the Seventy, Luke 10:17). Because of your unbelief, cor, text, little faith,(1) compare 'ye of little faith' in Matthew 6:30, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 14:31, Matthew 16:8. To this corresponds the answer given in Mark. 'This kind can come out by nothing save by prayer,' viz., as increasing their faith and spiritual power. For gives a proof of the preceding statement. Your failure must have been on account of your weakness of faith, for a very minute faith can work a very great miracle. As a grain of mustard seed, often used for anything very small (see on "Matthew 13:31"); their faith must therefore have been extremely minute, being less than this. Unto this mountain. He probably pointed to the mountain on which he had the night before been transfigured; so in Matthew 21:21 it is the Mount of Olives. This faith that could remove mountains (compare Luke 17:6, Matthew 21:21 f.; Mark 11:23, 1 Corinthians 13:2) was proper and possible only in those to whom it was granted to work miracles. For us to attempt such a thing is folly. And nothing shall be impossible unto you is of course an exaggerated expression, such as all men use, and all understand, and answers to what he had just before said to the father. (Mark 9:23) "All things are possible to him that believeth;" compare also Philippians 4:13.

Matthew 17:21. This verse is spurious,(2) having been added by copyists from Mark 9:29. Already, before this was done, the passage had been enlarged in Mark by adding 'and fasting,' due to the asceticism among the early Christians. A similar addition of' fasting' was made by copyists in Acts 10:30, 1 Corinthians 7:5, and so came into the common text. The word fasting is genuine in Luke 2:37, Acts 13:2 f.; Acts 14:23. For our Lord's instruction as to fasting, see on "Matthew 9:15"; and see on "Matthew 6:18".

The events of Matthew 16:13 to Matthew 17:20 occurred within a short time, apparently little more than a week, and soon after Jesus reached the neighbourhood of Cesarea Philippi. He appears to have stayed in that region, so far as our information enables us to judge, several weeks, perhaps two or three months (compare on Matthew 16:13), but there is no record of further sayings or doings.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 17:14 f. A father's remarkable experience. (l) The distressing calamity. (2) The disheartening failure. (3) The struggling faith. (Mark 9:22-24) (4) The great blessing.

Matthew 17:14. Henry: "Sense of misery will bring people to their knees..... Parents are doubly concerned to pray for their children, not only those that are weak and cannot, but much more that are wicked and will not, pray for themselves."

Matthew 17:17. The Saviour grieving at unbelief. (1) He felt an unbelieving atmosphere to be utterly uncongenial. (2) He saw clearly the perverseness and general sinfulness of unbelief. (3) He considered what blessings men were missing through unbelief. (4) He observed how attempts at usefulness were marred by unbelief. (5) He was pained by unbelief in him as a personal unkindness and injustice. (6) He perceived that unbelief is obstinate and hard to conquer.

Matthew 17:19. Henry: "Ministers, who are to deal for Christ in public, have need to keep up a private communion with him, that they may bewail the follies and infirmities of their public performances, and inquire into the cause of them."

Matthew 17:20. Little faith. (1) It restricts usefulness. (2) It hinders spiritual perception. (Matthew 16:8) (3) It makes men timid amid perils. (Matthew 8:26) (4) It leaves them consumed with temporal anxieties. (Matthew 6:30)


Verses 22-27

Matthew 17:22-27.
Returning To Galilee, Jesus Again Foretells His Death. He Pays The Temple Tax

Here are two matters.

I. Matthew 17:22 f. He Again Foretells His Death And Resurrection

Found also in Mark 9:30-32, Luke 9:43-45. Mark tells how they left the place of healing the demoniac boy, near the Mount of Transfiguration, and passed through Galilee. And while they abode, etc.,—were gathering themselves together in Galilee (Rev. Ver., margin), is in all probability the true text?(1) It implies that they returned by different routes to a fixed point in Galilee. Upon reflection, this is seen to agree exactly with Mark's statement that Jesus 'wished no one to know' (compare above on Matthew 16:5) of the journey through Galilee, for a natural expedient to this end would be the separation of the Twelve into several parties, taking different routes. We then understand that at the rendezvous, as they were assembling, Jesus made the statement that follows. Mark's 'for' (Matthew 9:31) perhaps indicates (Alford) that he wished to pass on unnoticed, because he was engaged in privately teaching his disciples about his approaching death. Or it may mean that he wished to avoid the fanatical multitude, who, at his last recorded visit to Capernaum, wanted to make him a king after their own notion. (John 6:15) The Son of man, see on "Matthew 8:20". Shall be (or is going to be,) the same construction as in Matthew 16:27. Betrayed, or delivered up, into. So Com. Ver. rightly in Mark and Luke, though rendering 'betrayed' in Matt. (compare on Matthew 10:4); and we shall find similar inconsistency throughout in translating the term. The words which really mean 'betray' and 'traitor' occur only in Luke 6:16, Acts 7:52. Into the hands of men. In Matthew 20:19 it becomes more definite, 'unto the Gentiles'; Matthew 26:45, 'into the hands of sinners.' The idea of losing liberty and being rudely handled by other men, is always in itself painful. This being delivered into the hands of men is the new idea here added; the rest is repeated from Matthew 16:21. (See note.) And they were exceeding sorry, or exceedingly grieved. Mark and Luke state that they did not understand the saying (compare on Matthew 17:9), and feared to ask him about it—probably with that feeling which often restrains persons from seeking more precise information that would probably but increase their distress. The three who had witnessed the transfiguration must have been better able to bear this renewed and painful announcement; but they could not tell the others what they had seen and heard.

II. Matthew 17:24-27. Paying The Temple Contribution

Found in Matthew only, except the statement in Mark, (Mark 9:33) that 'they came to Capernaum.' This seems to have been our Lord's final visit to Capernaum, which had so long been his abode (see on "Matthew 4:13"), and was probably short. (Compare on Matthew 18:1) He had just come from the neighbourhood of Cesarea Philippi. (See on "Matthew 17:22".) They that received the tribute money (half shekel). The Greek didrachmon, or double drachm, was a silver coin equal to two Attic drachms, and in the times of the New Testament and Josephus was nearly equal to a half shekel, or something over thirty cents. 'Tribute money,' Cranmer and K. James, is too indefinite; 'poll money,' Tyn., Gen., fails to suggest that it was a specific poll-tax for the temple. It is better in such cases to use the definite term of the original, and let this become matter of explanation. But as the Greek didrachm or double drachm is unfamiliar, it is convenient to use the half shekel, the Hebrew shekel being familiar to us from Old Testament Moses directed (Exodus 30:11 ff.) that whenever the people were numbered, every male over twenty years old should give a half shekel, rich and poor alike, for the support of the tabernacle. Upon this Josiah based his demand for a special contribution to repair the temple. (2 Chronicles 24:6) After the return from the captivity, Nehemiah and his followers "made ordinances"—not as being required by the law of Moses, but as a voluntary agreement—to pay every year the third part of a shekel (they were poor then), in order to provide sacrifices, etc., for the temple. (Nehemiah 10:32 f.) In the Mishna, as here in Matt., we meet with a well known contribution of a half shekel. The Rabbis had kept Nehemiah's plan of making it annual, but had returned to the sum which the law of Moses required for the occasional gift, and doubtless held that they were but carrying out the law. The Mishna has a separate treatise on this subject. Priests, women, children, and slaves, were exempt, but might give if they wished. The Jews in Palestine were expected (Edersheim) to give before the time of the Passover; those in foreign countries were allowed till Pentecost or even Tabernacles, and there was a special chest in the temple for contributions due the previous year. Commissioners were sent through Palestine to collect—'they that received the half shekel,' distinct from the publicans who collected the government tax; in foreign countries the money was deposited by the leading Jews in some fortified city till it could be escorted to Jerusalem. (Josephus "Ant.," 18, 9, 1.) Cicero states that gold was, every year, in the name of the Jews, exported from Italy and all the provinces to Jerusalem, and commends Flaccus for prohibiting this exportation from Asia, i. e., the region of which Ephesus was the chief city. (Cicero, "for Flaccus," 28.) Josephus says ("Ant.," 3,8,2) that the gift in Exodus 30:11 was from men between twenty and fifty years old, which statement makes it likely that the age was thus limited in his times, which were those of the New Testament. After Titus destroyed Jerusalem, Vespasian decreed that the Jews everywhere "should bring two drachms every year for the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, as before they were wont to pay for the temple at Jerusalem." (Josephus "War," 7,6,6.)—Quite distinct from this yearly half shekel, which was required by custom, if not by the law, were the voluntary contributions made at the temple, which varied indefinitely in amount. (Mark 12:41 ff.) Entirely distinct also was the tax (Matthew 22:1) to the Roman government in Judea and Samaria, which two districts formed at the time of our Lord's ministry a Roman province.

It is not at all clear with what design the collectors asked the question, but most likely in a reproachful tone, as if he was slighting a duty recognized by all devout Jews. Doth not your master—that is teacher (didaskalos, see on "Matthew 8:19") pay the half-shekel, as everybody else does? The regular time for paying was in the spring, while it was now near the beginning of autumn. Jesus and his followers had been long absent from Capernaum, and the collectors now seized their opportunity, perhaps wishing to send up all that was behind to the Feast of Tabernacles.

Matthew 17:25 f. Peter's ready answer, Yes, most naturally suggests that Jesus had paid in previous years, and so there was no doubt that he would pay now. The fact that Matt. records this incident without any explanation as to the nature and design of the contribution, is one of the many proofs that he wrote especially for Jewish readers, to whom the matter would he familiar. Into the house, probably the house of Peter, which Jesus usually appears to have made his place of abode at Capernaum. (compare on Matthew 4:13, Matthew 8:14). Jesus prevented, that is, spake first to, him, saying. The Greek means to get before, anticipate, (compare on Matthew 12:28), and would be exactly translated now by 'anticipated him, saying.' Tyn. and Gem gave 'spake first to him.' The Latin prevent (originally 'to come before') was introduced by Cram and Rheims, and at that time was a good translation; but it has now lost that meaning in Eng., and acquired a different sense, which makes it very misleading, (e. g., Psalms 119:147 f.; 1 Thessalonians 4:15) To avoid the word 'anticipate,' which is not used in K. James, the Rev. Ver. has returned to 'spake first to him,' a rather inadequate rendering. Jesus knew what had occurred without needing to be told. (Compare John 1:48) Custom (rather toll), or tribute. The first Greek word denotes taxes or tribute in general, the second is the Latin word census, which, from meaning a registration for the purpose of taxation, might naturally in the provinces be applied to the poll-tax; its sense here and in Matthew 22:17. Of their own children (sons), or of strangers? The latter term means those of other blood, of other than the royal family. Then are the children (sons) free, i. e., exempt. And so the Son of God, as Peter had recognized Jesus to be, (Matthew 16:16) ought to he exempted from paying tax to the temple for the support of divine worship. He uses the plural, 'sons,' because he is stating the inference from his previous argument in a general form; but the application is obviously designed to be to himself. The Romanists in Europe have absurdly applied this to the clergy, as showing that they ought to be exempted from taxation, at any rate when it is for religious purposes. When our Lord adds, 'lest we cause them to stumble,' the plural refers not to any notion that Peter was exempt, but to the fact that Peter as well as himself had not paid; and he proceeds to direct how Peter may pay both for the Master and himself.

Matthew 17:27. Lest we should offend them, or better, cause them to stumble, give them an occasion for objecting to my claims, and refusing to receive me. (See on Matthew 5:29.) They would have said that he did not keep the law, did not perform a recognized duty of every Israelite, and so he certainly could not be the Messiah. Go thou to the sea. The preposition is that usually rendered 'into.' In a case like this it signifies into the locality represented in a general way by the sea, which would include its shores. We are not at liberty to understand it here in a stricter sense, such as would be expressed in English by 'into the sea,' because that would be manifestly inappropriate to the action which Peter was to perform, viz., catching a fish with a hook. (So in John 11:38, John 20:1) Wherever it would not be distinctly and decidedly unsuitable to the action in question, the natural and common sense of 'into' must be retained. (Compare on Matthew 3:16) The sea was of course the Lake of Galilee, on which Capernaum was situated. (Matthew 4:13) Thou shalt find a piece of money, (a shekel, Greek stater,) an attic silver coin, equal to four drachms, or two half-shekels. For me and thee, is strictly, 'instead of me and thee,' the notion being of a substitution, which was the original and proper meaning of this contribution. (see Exodus 30:11-16) Jesus never wrought miracle for his personal benefit. If he had procured the money for this purpose in an ordinary way, it might have obscured the fact of his extraordinary position as the Messiah. Matthew probably recorded this incident to show his Jewish readers on the one hand that Jesus felt himself entitled to the respect due to the Messiah, and on the other, that he was very careful to keep the law in all respects, so that no Jew had a right to stumble at him. Our Lord's disposition to forego a privilege to which he was justly entitled, rather than that men should have an excuse for misapprehending him, was imitated by Paul, (1 Corinthians 9) and stands before us all as a part of the example of Christ. A hook. Fish-hooks are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible only in Isaiah 19:8, Amos 4:2, Habakkuk 1:15, Job 41:1, etc., and are not now used in the Lake of Galilee. Peter had previously had experience of a miracle in catching fishes. (Luke 5:4 ff.) Commentators compare here the story of the ring of Polycrates (Herod. III., 39-42).

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 17:24-27. Jesus giving for the support of the temple. (1) He takes pains to avoid being misunderstood; (a) speaking so as to prevent Peter from misunderstanding him; (b) acting so as to prevent the Jews. (2) While avowing himself the Son of God, he performs every duty of a good man, (compare Matthew 3:15) including that of taking part in religious contributions. He relinquishes an avowed claim to exemption, lest his course should injure others. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:13, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 1 Corinthians 9:22.

 


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 17:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-17.html. 1886.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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