Let us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 16.
Today, we will begin the Transfiguration of Jesus. We’ll then look at a tough passage where boy is set free from an unclean spirit by the Lord Jesus Christ, but only after the disciples had failed. We close the chapter with a clear warning of the coming death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as a demonstration of the provision of God.
Matthew 17:1-13 (ESV) | The Transfiguration
17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered,“Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
This must have been quite a sight. I often wonder, ‘how did they recognize Moses and Elijah’? It’s not a serious question, just a curiosity on my part, because clearly they recognized Moses and Elijah. Since this is a short chapter, let’s take a moment to see some of the significance of the appearance of these two men in testifying of Jesus as the Messiah.
John 5:30-47 (ESV) | Witnesses to Jesus
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Jesus made this point abundantly clear. The Scriptures are about Him. We see here mention of John the Baptist, and in our Matthew 17 text, we see Jesus described John the Baptist as the Elijah who came ahead of the Messiah. A day will come when we who believe will see all of these men, and Jesus will still be the focus of our attention, the reason we are all there. Before we move on in Matthew’s account, let us take a look at how Peter reflected on this event in his letter to the church.
2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV) | Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Peter confirms his eyewitness account of the Majesty of Jesus Christ, and the voice of God testifying of His Son, Jesus. Peter then points his readers to pay attention to the prophetic Word more fully confirmed, and affirms that scripture comes from God. Scripture is sufficient… and what the Apostles witnessed was amazing, unique to them, but we are to focus on the God-Breathed Scriptures. Let’s continue our reading in Matthew 17.
Matthew 17:14-21 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon
14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
This is a difficult passage of scripture. Jesus laments a faithless and twisted generation, and points to the little faith of the disciples in this matter. Mark gives us more detail to this story in his account.
Mark 9:14-29 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Reading both accounts together, we see there is a problem in regarding faith, doubt, and prayer. The evil spirit recognized Jesus and reacted. In Mark’s account, we see Jesus expose and rebuke the unbelief of the boy’s father. In Matthew’s account, there we see the disciples culpable in the unbelief or having little faith. In Mark, the issue is closed out with a reference to prayer. For our overview of the Gospel, I can only leave you with this reminder: faith is not a thing unto itself. It’s not “the Force” (Star Wars). Faith requires an object, and unless the object of our faith is Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God, it is worthless. We don’t graduate from the call to live lives of prayer, and growing in faith by the hearing of the Word of God. If you are looking for more in-depth exegesis of this passage, I encourage you to make an appointment with your Pastor or Elders to discuss this passage in detail.
Matthew 17:22-23 (ESV) | Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection
22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
Jesus continues to prep His disciples for what was about to happen, the Son of Man was going to die at the hands of men, and on the third day He will be raised from the dead.
Matthew 17:24-27 (ESV) | The Temple Tax
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
This is an important passage, particularly given our present day. Jesus demonstrates a legal freedom from the tax, but goes on to pay the tax “…not to give offense to them…” The Lord will provide, He will meet our needs. Jesus didn’t send Simon to fish up a fortune, He sent Simon to fish up a shekel to pay the Temple tax and be above reproach, to not give them an offense. Dear Christian, trust in God to meet your needs, and the needs of the ministry of the Church.
Until Next Week
Next week we’ll be working through some parables. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,