About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

This Section - Chapter 17

Previous Section - Chapter 16

Next Section - Chapter 18

ch. 1:1-17  ch. 17:14-23   ch. 1724-27

The Transfiguration (ch. 17:1 – 17


In verse 1 Matthew mentions that after 6 days Jesus took Peter, James and John up onto a high mountain.  I’m not sure why Matthew mentions the six days, but he does.  This would mean that this day would be the seventh, which might have some significance, because what was to take place was very significant in itself. 


As I mentioned in the last section, Peter’s confession, linked with the events of this chapter begins a new segment in Jesus’ three year ministry.  The road to the end is now in sight.  Jesus is more focused on His final trip to Jerusalem and His death, and the events of this section is important for these three men to understand.


Verse 2 tells us that Jesus was “transfigured” before them.  This means that Jesus’ body was changed into something other than what it was. His face was as shiny as the sun and His clothes became very bright.  This appears to be Jesus’ appearance after He returned to Heaven, as seen in the Book of Revelation.


Verse 3 tells us that after Jesus’ body was changed, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him and they began to talk.  It would be understandable to think that Peter, James and John did not know what Moses and Elijah looked like so their names must have been mentioned in conversation with one another.  I’d wish that we could have the contents of this conversation.  It would have been very enlightening.  We do know that they talked about Jesus’ death as seen in Luke 9:31, but beyond that, we don’t know.  My guess is that they also talked about the coming of the New Covenant in relation to the Old Covenant. 


Unless Peter interrupted the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah,  verse 4 is the end of  conversation.  Peter told Jesus that if He’d like, he would build three shelters, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.  These shelters would be a place of remembrance, a place to worship.  I often think, when man doesn’t really know how to respond to something  God does,  he decides to build something to remember the occasion by.  We always want to build, whether it’s a building, a monument, a denomination, or a doctrinal belief system.  


Concerning the shelters, or the memorials, that Peter wanted to build, we should understand that such a thing was culturally acceptable in Jewish circles throughout the Old Testament.  When men with the Lord, or had a heavenly vision, or, any other such things, they built altars of worship and memorials. I say that to say this.  We should not think down on Peter for what he said here.  He was only following in the tradition of Israel.   


In verse 5 we learn that while Peter was asking Jesus this, a cloud enveloped them and from the cloud a voice came saying, “this is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him”.  Obviously this was the voice of God the Father.


The words that God spoke to Peter, James and John are very important to the context of what just happened.  Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah.  Beyond all of the important Old Testament men, Moses best represents the Law, and Elijah best represents the prophets.  God in times past spoke to Israel through both the Law and the prophets, and Israel was expected to respond appropriately.  But a new age was about to appear in the history of humanity.  This is the age of the New Covenant.  The Old Covenant would lose its meaning and be replaced by the New Covenant. 


What God was saying here is this.  Jesus is my Son and I love Him.  It’s now time to listen to Him and not the Law and the prophets. It’s now time to follow Jesus.  The days to strict obedience to the Law and prophets will soon be over.


I just mentioned that Moses represented the Law while Elijah represented the prophets.  Some suggest that Moses represented the whole of the Old Testament, while Elijah represented the Elijah that would come to announce the coming of the Messiah.  This might well be why the disciples asked Jesus about the coming of Elijah in verse 10.


In verses 6 through 8 we see that the three men were full of fear and they fell to the ground.  This is how man responds when in the powerful presence of God.  They are unable to stand before the living God.  Jesus then came to them and touched them and told them to get up.  When they came to their feet the event was over.  Moses and Elijah were gone and Jesus was back to his normal appearance. 


In verse 9 we see Jesus telling them not to tell anyone what they saw until He had been raised from the dead.  So once again, we see another mention of His death by Jesus, which we will see more of from here on out.  What these three men learned in the transfiguration was important, but it was too explosive to be spoken about in public.  It would hasten the death of Jesus and His death was set at an appropriate time and date by God. The mere fact that the Law and the prophets would take on a diminished meaning would be blasphemy to the Jewish leadership.


So Jesus told these three men not to speak of these things until after He rose from the dead.  It’s only conjecture, but it might well be possible that Jesus told these men not to repeat what He heard Him speak to Moses and Elijah.  It might well be that this was meant to be hidden from our ears.


In verse 10 the disciples ask Jesus why the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come back first.  It was the common teaching of the day, with notable Scriptural evidence, that Elijah would return to announce the coming of the Messiah.  The Jews were thus waiting for Elijah to return.  Some even thought that Jesus was Elijah, but we know that Elijah was really John the Baptist because Jesus told us that.


Jesus answers the disciples’ question in verses 11 through 13. He told them that Elijah must come first to restore all things.  So Jesus agreed with the teachers of the Law on that point. 


The question arises, “what does restore all things mean”?  To answer this we need to look at who Jesus said Elijah was, and in this respect, He disagreed with the teachers of the Law.  Jesus understood Elijah to be John the Baptist. So it was John that was to restore all things, and that being so, it must be that John did restore all things. 


So in the light of John restoring all things we can better answer this question.  What got restored by John?   The restoration spoken of here was the coming of Jesus.  That was John’s message – repent for the Messiah is coming.  The Messiah would begin the restoration process while on earth and through His atoning work on the cross.  The completion of this restoration of all things to God’s original intention would come at the end of this age when the Messiah returns to earth again. 


Jesus also mentions how John the Baptist suffered at the hands of the Jewish leaders, and told His disciples that He would suffer like John.  Once again, Jesus speaks of His death.


The Healing Of A Boy With A Demon (ch. 17:14-23)


In verses 14 and 15 a man comes to Jesus from out of the crowd and kneels before Him.  You can see how desperate this man was since he fell to his knees before Jesus. Besides being desperate, falling to his knees might also suggest that he had a certain reverence for Jesus. 


We often see people falling to their knees before Jesus, begging Him for one thing or another.  I believe this is a combination of reverence and desperation.  I say a combination, because most of these people, although they followed Jesus from place to place, really did not have faith in Him in the sense of Jesus being their Lord and Saviour.  They viewed Him as one who could heal them.  They could trust Jesus for healing because they saw His miracles, but understanding salvation, well, I think that was another thing altogether.


In verse 16 we see that this man had already brought his son, who had bad seizures, to the disciples, but the disciples could not heal him. 


Jesus’ reply is interesting.  In verse 17 Jesus  replies, “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you”?   


You clearly notice the disgust in Jesus’ reply.  Some may ask, “who is Jesus disgusted with”?  Is He upset with the disciples for not being able to heal the boy?  I think the lack of ability on the part of the disciples triggers Jesus’ response, but when He uses the word “generation”, He’s speaking of all the people of Israel .  He says that they are both unbelieving and perverse.  It’s interesting to me that Jesus links unbelief with being perverse, as if they were both equally bad.  We need to understand unbelief as an act of rebellion, an act of not believing by choice.  It’s not just a fault, or something we neglect by mistake.  It’s an act of our will and that is why it is bad as being perverse.


Jesus appears  to be ready to hang up His whole mission here, although I know He’s won’t because He certainly knows better.  Times like this could well be a temptation of the devil.  When He asks “how long do I have to put up with you and how long shall I stay with you”, that suggests to me that He wants to get to the end of His mission as soon as possible. 


Another reason for Jesus  being upset and saying these words is that He knows His time is now short.  His stress levels are increasing, and in times like these, He might just well feel that He’d prefer the end to come right now.


In verse 18 Jesus rebukes a demon and the boy is healed.  We see by this, that the seizures were demonic. 


In verse 19 the disciples privately asked Jesus why they could not drive out this demon.  Jesus answers their question in verse 20 by saying that His disciples had little faith.  He goes on to say that even if they had as little of faith as a mustard seed is small, they could move mountains. 


By saying the words “little faith”, Jesus is simply saying that these men have little trust in Him.  Then He says that all they need is a little trust, because He compares the amount of trust one needs in Him with a very small seed.  From this we gather that faith, or trust, is not something that is big, that you need to get more of, or that you strain at finding.  Faith is resignation.  Faith is surrender.  Faith is actually more passive than aggressive.


What the disciples might well have been doing is trying to cast out this demon n their own strength, as if they had the power to do so on their own.  They might not have been relying on the power of the Spirit, or trusting in Jesus as they attempted to cast out the demon;. 


When Jesus speaks of moving mountains, He’s not talking about real physical mountains, although the Greek word used here is the real mountain.  It’s simply another one of His analogies.  Mountains mean obstacles in one’s life.  Trusting Jesus can move things that hinder us from serving Him, and I believe that this is the context here. When Jesus says we can do anything, I believe it’s anything in His name, not anything for our own gain.    


Some manuscript have an added phrase which is, “these come out only with prayer and fasting”, as you can see in the other gospel accounts of this event.  To me this implies struggle, or spiritual warfare. 


In verses 22 and 23 Jesus predicts His death again by saying that He would be delivered into the hands of men and be killed, but He’d also be raised from the dead on the third day.  Again, you can see the intensity in Jesus as things get closer to His death.  The disciples were grieved with His words.  There’s no account this time that Peter or anyone else responded by saying that they would protect Him from such a thing.  Maybe they were finally beginning to understand that Jesus would die, and that they could do nothing about it. 


The Temple Tax   (ch. 17:24 - 27)


In verse 24 we see that Jesus and His followers returned to Capernaum .  Once they were in town some men approached Peter and asked why Jesus doesn’t pay the “two drachma tax”.   Some scholars suggest this tax might well be about two days of work for the average person back then.  This tax was voluntary for every man over 20 years old and was paid every March.  It may well have been voluntary but there was probably some pressure put on men to pay it as seen here.  The money went to help maintain the Temple in Jerusalem .


Scholars who have put together time tables of Jesus’ ministry suggest that He and His disciples have been away from Capernaum for six months and so they were late paying this tax. 


In verse 25 Peter answers by saying that Jesus did in fact pay taxes. 


In verse 26 Peter entered the house where Jesus was.  Jesus spoke to Peter first, as if He knew what Peter was going to ask Him.  So Jesus asks Peter from whom do the kings of the earth collect their money from, their own, or from others?


What Jesus means by this question is that the royal family does not pay taxes.  The words “their own” refers to family members of the king.  So in verse 26 Peter is right when he says that “others” pay taxes, not the family members of the king.


Jesus goes on to say in verse 26 that “the sons are exempt”.  The sons of the kings on earth don’t pay taxes.


This chapter ends in verse 27 with Jesus telling Peter to go to the lake and put his fishing line into the lake.  Peter did so and inside the fish was a 4 drachma coin, enough to pay the tax for both Jesus and Peter. 


The reason Jesus gives for paying the tax was that He did not want to offend the tax collector.  This was the case even though He felt that He didn’t have to pay the tax since He was royalty, meaning, He was the Son of God to whom the Temple was built for.  As in the kings of the world who didn’t have to pay taxes, so by the same reasoning, Jesus shouldn’t have to pay the Temple tax.


It’s a little interesting to note that the money for this tax came from within the fish.  It’s only speculation, but might this imply that Jesus did not have the money to pay the tax?  


Next Section - Chapter 18

Previous Section - Chapter 16

Home Page