Matthew 17

Jesus Concludes His Galilean Ministry  

The Transfiguration (1-9)  

Six days after the disciples' excursion with Jesus to Caesarea Philippi, He took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain. There Jesus was transfigured before their eyes and Jesus' body was given a heavenly glory, sheen, and light-effusing brilliance. His face lit up like the sun, clothes cloaked in white brilliance. Two Old Testament figures showed up with Jesus—Elijah and Moses. Elijah was representing those who would not die at the Lord's second appearance, and Moses was representing those in faith who would die before the Lord's return. It was over Moses' body that God was contending (Jude 9) just as He contends for all His followers that they may be resurrected (1-3). All of this was in demonstration, predicting the future glory of the resurrected Kingdom.  

On cue, Peter popped off, wanting to build three shrines to memorialize the event and begin a New Feast after the order of the Feast of Booths. His idea was right in attitude, sensing a new season had come in Christ. His idea was wrong in that the new Kingdom was not going to be based on shrines and pilgrimages to places of worship, or for that matter a new set of feasts to be observed. Jesus had come to do away with religious ritual and working under God to earn one's way and had come to enable all people to walk with Yahweh (4).

Then it all broke loose—a cloud filled with great light overshadowed the entire group, while at the same time a Voice sounded from the cloud announcing, “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." The Father was revealing that Jesus belonged to the Father; He was loved and His life gave the Father pleasure. Then the Voice commanded Jesus be listened to (6). The disciples fell down to their faces in fear. Jesus then went to the disciples and touched them, telling them to arise from the ground and fear no more (7). When they opened their eyes, only Jesus was visible (8). Peter worked this whole event into his epistle years later (2 Peter 1:16-18).

On the way down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to speak of their vision until after the Son of Man was raised. Jesus continually faced the prospect of those around Him wanting to make Him King. Jesus knew that if He was made King by those following Him, He would have been made the wrong kind of king (9).

Clarification About Some Finer Points of Theology (10-13)

The disciples asked Jesus why the scribes were discounting Jesus being the Christ by interpreting the Scripture to say that Elijah must come first (10).

Jesus explained Elijah was to come first and would restore all things (Malachi 4:5). In restoring all things, Elijah was to usher in the time and Person Who would restore all things. Jesus was the One to restore all things, and by restoring all things He meant to restore all things necessary to restore human souls into a life of walking with God.  

Jesus made His statement in an interesting way: "Elijah does come," as if to say something happened in the past that still had impact and validity. Second, He said Elijah had come, a past tense statement.

Then Jesus said the Jewish leaders:

a) did not recognize Him,
b) did whatever brought them pleasure,
c) and what brought them pleasure was killing the One Who was coming to usher in the restoring of every good.   

Jesus ended by announcing that He as the Son of Man would also suffer at the hands of Jewish leaders (11-12).

The disciples knew Jesus had been referring to John the Baptist before His comments on being treated like John had been treated (13).

Healing the Boy with the Demon (14-21)

As Jesus and His disciples came down the mountain, a crowd met them. In the crowd was a man who knelt down and asked for mercy on his son, describing him as having seizures and being intensely distressed as he would often fall into the fire or water (14-15).

The father went on to express despair over the disciples of Jesus being unable to heal his son while on their mission (16).  

Jesus then began to rebuke the crowd, calling them a faithless and twisted generation. The crowd was bringing the boy and his father to Jesus as a point of proof that Jesus was unable to do what He had said and what He had sent His disciples to do – cast out demons, so He was therefore not from God.  

The boy was used as proof of Jesus' own inability. Jesus referred to their assessment as demonstrating that they were without faith, and their motives were twisted.  

Jesus continued to lament them by asking how long and how much He was going to need to do before they would finally come to believe (17).

Jesus then rebuked and removed the demon, and the boy was instantly healed (18).

The disciples wondered why they could not cast that particular demon out (19). Jesus told them it was a faith issue. They had assumed the boy's problem outweighed their depth of faith. The boy's symptoms in their minds were greater than Jesus' Word to cast it out. Jesus then told them it was not the size of their faith which was the problem because faith of any size, even a speck, is capable of having a huge and massive impact. Faith is faith, and it works. Jesus told the disciples that when faith in His Word is active, then there is nothing impossible or off limits. If God said it, He will do it, and faith is simply humans opening the door and inviting God in (20). By "little faith," Jesus did not mean their faith was actually too little, for He went on to tell them that very small faith can accomplish so much. "Little faith," to Jesus, meant they viewed their faith in God's Word to be too small and insignificant to get the job done.  

As they were gathered there together, Jesus then warned His disciples that things were changing. The events of His ministry were coming to a climax, and He was about to be delivered into the hands of men to be killed. He then told them that He would be raised on the third day. The disciples had no problem believing Jesus would live again after the third day; their problem was in believing in the resurrection. Jesus was seeking to let His disciples know that He was not merely just going to live beyond His death, but His body was going to be raised. They had no clue; the resurrection was going to shock them.

Hearing Jesus talk about His death did nothing more than cause the disciples to be extremely tormented (23).

Jesus on Taxes (24-27)  

Jesus' Galilean ministry was all but over, so He went to Capernaum to begin to make preparations to go to Jerusalem. When He came into the city, the collector of the two-drachma tax approached Peter seeking Jesus' payment by asking if He paid it or considered Himself exempt. The two-drachma was the tax every Jewish adult male would pay for temple upkeep (24).

Peter, always seeking to make Jesus look politically correct, told the tax-collector that yes, Jesus paid the tax. When Peter entered the house where Jesus was meeting with people and wrapping up His Galilean ministry, Jesus spoke before Peter had a chance. He asked Peter a question, “Do kings make the sons pay taxes or do kings seek taxes from everyone else?" (25)  

Peter told Jesus “everyone else," and Jesus said to Peter "the sons of the king are exempt" (26).

Jesus was seeking to correct Peter's answer to the tax-collector. Peter was so concerned about making Jesus look good that he failed to tell the tax-collector that he shouldn't be thinking about collecting taxes from God's King for a temple which was supposedly created to honor Him.  

Jesus then told Peter to go to the sea, cast in a hook, and the first fish he caught would have a shekel or four-drachma in its mouth, enough to pay His and Peter's taxes. Jesus told Peter to pay the tax, not because Jesus or His disciples should but so they would not create an offense (27).