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Bible: What Does Matthew 17 Teach Us About The Transfiguration of Jesus?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ


Appearing with Jesus on the Mountain

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The Purpose of the Transfiguration

Why was Jesus transfigured on the Mount?

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Matthew 17: Jesus' Transfiguration/ Jesus and Peter Pay Their Taxes

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Six days later, Jesus takes His “inner circle” (Peter, James, and John) on an exclusive trip to the mountaintop, figuratively and literally (v. 1).

There the three apostles experience a vision (v. 9) of Christ as the glorified Son of Man (v. 2; cf. Dan.7).

Moses and Elijah (representing those whom the Lord will bring with Him at His Second Coming to Earth to set up His one-thousand-year reign) accompany Him (v. 3).

That Peter wants to erect tabernacles (tents) indicates his belief (in his ecstatic state) that the kingdom had actually come.

He also mistakenly puts the prophets on par with Jesus (v. 4)—an error that God the Father (depicted as a Voice speaking from an overshadowing bright cloud) quickly corrects (“while he was still speaking”) by singling out and elevating His “beloved Son” as the One to whom the men should listen (v. 5).

Predictably, the disciples cringe in terror, and Jesus comforts their fears (vv. 6-7).

Matthew’s remark that after their recovery “they saw no one but Jesus alone” simply shows that the vision had ended (v. 8).

By telling His men to delay reporting this experience until after His resurrection (v. 9), Christ prompts a query about the scribes’ teaching concerning an eschatological Elijah and the restoration of all things (v. 10).

Jesus strengthens their belief in Elijah’s future coming (v. 11; cf. Mal. 4:5), but also asserts that John the Baptist is first in a series of Elijahs (v. 12a).

Finally, Christ reminds them that He, the Son of Man, will suffer as John had done under Pharisaic rule (v. 12 b).

[Walter Kaiser presents a convincing argument showing that John did come as a fulfillment of this prophecy, but that he conducted his ministry in ‘the spirit and the power of Elijah.’

He is therefore only one prophet in a series of forerunners who appear throughout history until that final and terrible Day of Yahweh arrives when the last prophet in this series of forerunners comes on the scene (86).

For further clarification of this interpretation, see Kaiser’s discussion of this “generic” prophecy (The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, 87-88).]

Mustard Seed


Jesus Heals an Epileptic

Back among the throng, Jesus encounters a father pleading for mercy for his epileptic (NKJV) [lit. moonstruck; lunatic, NASB] son whom the disciples could not heal (vv. 14-16).

After showing considerable ire over His disciples’ unbelief—Jesus’ patience seems stretched here—, He cures the boy (vv. 17-18).

[Just because a demon caused this particular condition does not mean that sufferers need an exorcist to cure every disease.]

Perplexed about their failure, the disciples ask Christ privately (so that they do not lose face among the people?) [v. 19].

Jesus comments that a small speck of faith—mustard seed faith—can accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.

Then He tells them that they failed to exercise any faith whatsoever (v. 20).

[Verse 21—a statement absent from many MSS—suggests that it is more difficult to cast out some demons than it is to expel others.

Why such may be the case is unknown.]

At this point, Jesus again predicts His death and resurrection, adding into the mix the detail of betrayal that causes great sadness among His men (vv. 22-23).



Jesus and Peter Pay Their Taxes

In Capernaum, tax collectors approach Peter and ask him if his teacher is going to pay the two-drachma temple tax (vv. 24-25a).

[In English, the question reads as if they expected Jesus not to pay; if Peter had agreed with them, his answer would have created more controversy.]

When Peter enters “the house” to seek further light on the subject, Christ, anticipating his question, turns the situation into a "teaching moment."

Probing His apostle’s mind, He asks him a question of His own regarding which group (sons or strangers) pays taxes to the “kings of the earth” (v. 25).

Peter answers correctly that kings take money from strangers, not their sons; in response, the Lord asserts that the sons are therefore exempt (v. 26).

[Ryrie’s note assumes that Peter was confused about whether Jesus should pay the tax or not.

Why would he be confused?

Was he asking himself, “Does the Son of God pay taxes to upkeep His Father’s house?”]

To avoid offending the people, however, Jesus commands Peter to go fishing, during which activity he would catch a fish that had swallowed a coin worth the exact amount that both Peter and He owed (v. 27).

© 2012 glynch1


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