Matthew chapter 17
FRIDAY, JULY 24
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 17
Author: Jeremy Witt
Reread from yesterday verses 27 and 28 from chapter 16. This will be partially fulfilled with the Mount of Transfiguration. This was a brief glimpse into the glory of Jesus. This is what scholars would call a “special revelation” of Jesus’ divinity for Peter, James, and John. This was an affirmation of Jesus, His ministry, and His role/relationship to the LORD God that only the disciples got to see.
This moment was a quick snapshot of heaven, of Jesus in His Kingdom, and a blending between the physical world and the spiritual world that had not been seen before. The fact that Moses and Elijah showed up only helped to confirm to the disciples who Jesus was and would shape their faith for the days ahead. Why Moses and Elijah? Moses brought the Law from God to the Jewish people. Moses was the symbolic representation of the old covenant as He wrote down the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the OT) and predicted the coming of the Great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Elijah represented the prophets who foretold of the coming Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6) Jesus meeting with them connected the Law, the prophetic message of the coming (or presenting Jesus as the Messiah.) When Moses was given the Law, the LORD God spoke to confirm the authority to the Law and to Moses before the people. The LORD God speaking to Jesus confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah and fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.
Then Peter speaks and does what only Peter could do. He knew that this was a significant moment. He wanted to make a shelter (possibly like during the Feast of Shelters in the OT) or a memorial for this moment. He wanted to “DO” something. However, Peter was missing the point of the moment until the LORD God spoke as in verses 5-6. The moment was meant for worship to Jesus and had nothing to do with Moses or Elijah.
The things that they saw were most certainly divine, but words could not contain all that they saw. If you notice once the LORD God spoke, the disciples said nothing. Only Jesus spoke until verse 10. I imagine the walk down the mountain was a time of processing and going over what happened on the mountain. When Jesus speaks in verse 9, He tells them not to speak of this “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Again, the disciples have no clue what Jesus is talking about, so they ask a question based upon their understanding which was so completely off-base. Because they had seen Elijah, they were focused on him rather than what God said about Jesus.
Reality sat in as soon as they neared the bottom of the mountain. People were waiting to have Jesus heal their sick. A father begged Jesus to heal his son after the disciples tried and failed. (verses 14-21) When they asked Jesus as to why they were unsuccessful, Jesus said that it was a result of a lack of faith. Was it because they tried to do it in their own power? Was it because they were trying to understand how or what they were doing rather than trusting and working in the Name of the LORD? Ultimately, we do not know specifically what they did wrong other than not have enough faith.
Was Jesus condemning them for the lack of faith? Or was Jesus preparing them for the days ahead when they would have to rely on their faith even more? When Jesus is arrested and the immediate days afterward, their faith would be tested greatly. Jesus predicts His upcoming death again in verses 22-23 which only brought more doubt, confusion, and grief in the disciples.
The story of the coin in the fish’s mouth in order to pay the temple tax is one that indicates to us the age of the disciples. It was paid by Jewish men over the age of 20. Notice that the collectors asked if Jesus paid it, not the disciples. A rabbi would pay for those younger males. You can read more on the temple tax 2 Kings 12:5–17 and Nehemiah 10:32–33
Jesus used the question about the temple tax to teach a lesson to the disciples. As Christ-followers, we are free, but we will yield our rights in order to show others our faith and not cause others to stumble. True Christian freedom is not serving ourselves or our rights but to serve others (see Galatians 5:13).