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Matthew Chapter 17

Memory verses for this week:  Isa 65:25  The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. 

Introduction: In last week’s lesson, Christ rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for  seeking after a sign.   Later on, we studied how the church would be built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, and that even hell itself could not prevail against it.  This week we study about Christ being transfigured. 

I.    The Transfiguration of Christ 

Mat 17:1  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

Mat 17:2  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

When we closed our study last week in Chapter 16, the last verse was:

Mat 16:28  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

This had to do with what happened six days later as recorded here in Chapter 17.  Christ chose Peter, James, and John to witness this glorious sight.   These men truly got to witness a glimpse of the kingdom in its future form and see Christ in His glorified body.  It was in a mountain it says in verse 1.  We have a record of several important things that happened on a mountain.

            a.  Moses received the law (10 commandments) on a mountain.

b.  Moses died on the mountain and was buried by God.

c.  Christ prayed all night on a mountain before organizing his church.

d.  Abraham brought Isaac up to offer him as a sacrifice on a mountain.   We know

God provided a ram to substitute for Isaac.

Jesus was transfigured before them.   This means he literally underwent a change of form.

Rev 1:13  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

Rev 1:14  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

Rev 1:15  And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

Rev 1:16  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

Rev 1:17  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

Rev 1:18  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.


Mat 17:3  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Mat 17:4  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

There appeared two Old Testament characters talking with Christ.  Moses represented those who have died in the Lord and will be resurrected at Christ’s coming.  Elijah represents those who are alive at the Lord’s coming and who will be changed in a moment.   They also typify the Law (Moses) and the prophets. (Elijah)

Peter was always one to speak quickly, and he didn’t know what to say, so he makes a statement.  The first part was very good.  “It is good for us to be here.”   That was so true, and is true today when we gather together to worship the Lord in church capacity.  However, his last part that he speaks was not pleasing to God.  He says “Let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

Matthew Henry made these notes about Peter.

Yet in this zeal he betrayed a great deal of weakness and ignorance. What need had Moses and Elias of tabernacles? They belonged to that blessed world, where they hunger no more, nor doth the sun light upon them. Christ had lately foretold his sufferings, and bidden his disciples expect the like; Peter forgets this, or, to prevent it, will needs be building tabernacles in the mount of glory, out of the way of trouble. Still he harps upon, Master, spare thyself, though he had been so lately checked for it. Note, There is a proneness in good men to expect the crown without the cross. Peter was for laying hold of this as the prize, though he had not yet fought his fight, nor finished his course, as those other disciples, ch. 20:21. We are out in our aim, if we look for a heaven here upon earth. It is not for strangers and pilgrims (such as we are in our best circumstances in this world), to talk of building, or to expect a continuing city.

Yet it is some excuse for the incongruity of Peter’s proposal, not only that he knew not what he said (Lu. 9:33), but also that he submitted the proposal to the wisdom of Christ; If thou wilt, let us make tabernacles. Note, Whatever tabernacles we propose to make to ourselves in this world, we must always remember to ask Christ’s leave  .[i]

Mat 17:5  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Mat 17:6  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Mat 17:7  And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

God speaks out of the cloud and declares that Jesus is the one whom He has chosen to be heard.   Two things are said about Jesus.. “He is my beloved Son” and “In whom I am well pleased.”   The disciples fall on their faces when they heard this, and were very fearful.  But Jesus tells them to “Arise, and be not afraid.”   How many times does the Lord help and encourage us when we are down and think we can’t go on.

Mat 17:8  And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

Mat 17:9  And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

It says when they looked up, that they saw on one except Jesus Christ. That is what you and I need to see.   Jesus and Jesus alone.  So many times, we let others or self get in the way to the point that we can’t see our Savior.   Our desire should  be to grow more like Jesus every day.   Christ tells them when they come down from the mountain to not tell vision to any man until He had risen from the grave.

Mat 17:10  And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?

Mat 17:11  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.

The appearance of Elijah caused the disciples to ask questions concerning the coming of Elijah before the messiah.  Christ declares that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah, and that he would certainly come before that great and dreadful day of the Lord.

Mal 4:5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

Mal 4:6  And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Mat 17:12  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.

Mat 17:13  Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist came in the power and spirit of Elijah and the Jews knew him not.  The prophecy we just read in Malachi 4:5 had a partial fulfillment in the coming of John.  By the treatment of Christ’s forerunner, Jesus foreknew what he would endure as the predicted King.

II.  The Powerless Disciples

Mat 17:14  And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

Mat 17:15  Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

Mat 17:16  And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

This man comes and kneels before Christ and asks for mercy at the feet of Jesus.  He is concerned about his son, who was like a crazy man falling into the fire and running into the water.  The man says he has brought the boy to the disciples and they could not cure him.  After coming to them and having no success, he comes to the right one.   When we have a need, we need to come to Jesus.  He and He alone can hear our petitions and heal us if we are sick, or deliver us if we are in trouble.

Mat 17:17  Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

Mat 17:18  And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

We see the problem was that the boy had been possessed of a devil.  Jesus rebukes the devil and it flees from him.   The boy is totally healed.   That is one thing about those who came to Jesus.   He healed them wholly and totally.

Mat 17:19  Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

Mat 17:20  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Mat 17:21  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples ask why they could not cast out the demon.   Jesus tells them bluntly that it was a lack of faith.   He gives an illustration that if we have as much faith as a mustard seed (the tiniest of seeds), and we tell a mountain to move, it will move.   But to have this kind of faith takes a lot of prayer and fasting.  I know I fall short in my prayer life.   We need to be men and women who pattern our lives after those great men of the bible like Daniel who would pray multiple times each day.  And when they prayed, they were serious in those prayers with the Lord.


III.  Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Mat 17:22  And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:

Mat 17:23  And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Jesus did not hide what was about to happen to him from the disciples.  For some reason, they seemed to not comprehend it, or just did not want to believe it.   They just seemed to not grasp the depths of his doctrine.   It says that the news of his death and resurrection caused them to be exceeding sorry.  But later, after it really happened, it caused them to rejoice.  There was a song written a few years ago by Don Francisco named “He’s Alive.”  It tells the story about what happened when Jesus died on the cross and how the disciples thought things were totally lost.  But when they came to that grave early on Sunday morning, they realized, that he had risen.    With tremendous power in the song, he comes into that part “HE’S ALIVE… HE’S ALIVE.”  And because he lives, we all can have that hope of being resurrected also.

Some of the greatest words of comfort we have in the word of God are recorded in John Chapter 14.

John 14:1  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

John 14:2  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:4  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

John 14:5  Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

John 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:7  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

IV.  The Miracle of the Tribute Money

Mat 17:24  And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

The tribute money was a temple tax paid voluntarily by all 20 years of age and older to maintain the temple.  Certainly, Jesus was under no obligation to pay this tax, but he does so to not offend the Jews who received it.

Mat 17:25  He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

Mat 17:26  Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

Mat 17:27  Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.  As the Son of God, he declares that he has no need to pay tribute to support worship of God.  However the people of Capernaum did not know He was the Son of God, so in order to not offend them, Jesus pays the tax.  I think there is a real lesson here for us.  In order that we might all get along, sometimes we may have to do things that are really going out of our way to keep all people happy.  But in doing that, we honor and glorify the Lord.  We know that Paul knew that to eat meat offered to idols was not in itself sin.  But it might cause his brother to sin, and he would not eat if that would be the case. 

1 Cor 8:7  Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

1 Cor 8:8  But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

1 Cor 8:9  But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

1 Cor 8:10  For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

1 Cor 8:11  And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

1 Cor 8:12  But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

1 Cor 8:13  Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.


1 Cor 9:18  What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

1 Cor 9:19  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

1 Cor 9:20  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

1 Cor 9:21  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

1 Cor 9:22  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1 Cor 9:23  And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

Paul did everything in his power to reach the lost.  He came to the Jews as a Jew… to those under the law he came under the law.   Whatever it took, he tried his best to reach others for Jesus Christ by preaching the Gospel to them after he found that common ground that others could love and trust him.

Note the command Jesus gave to Peter.   I’m sure as an old fisherman, Simon Peter found the Lord’s method of obtaining the money appealing.   No one but Jesus cold tell you to go and open up a fish’s mouth and find money.  Notice the words… take the money and “Give unto them for thee and me.”    Why did he not just say us?  Peter was paying the tax on a different ground.  He was responsible to pay.  Jesus was the only Begotten Son of God.  Peter needed a ransom for his soul.

J. Vernon McGee has this to say about the money in the fish’s mouth.

His method of getting the tax money was certainly novel, to say the least. Now our Lord demonstrates that He has recovered all that Adam lost. The creatures were obedient to Him. The fish as well as Peter followed His command. I believe that God had given to Adam the same dominion over all creation, but he lost it at the Fall. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

In the Transfiguration we see man restored to his original purpose. In the episode of the tribute money we see man restored to his original performance.




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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[i]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[ii]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.