Matthew 17


The Transfiguration

Chapter 16 ended with Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”  That verse sometimes  confounds people because they wonder why Jesus didn’t return before the disciples died.  The problem is solved by reading the passage in context.  This story is also told in Mark and in Luke, and every time it is followed by the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain (it was viewed by three of the Disciples).  That is most likely what He meant by saying that some of them would not taste death before seeing him coming in his kingdom.  Read on and see what I mean:

 1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

 4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

 6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 10The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

 11Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

We can only imagine how magnificent the transfiguration was to view. 

Once again Jesus predicts his death, though the Disciples didn’t understand it until after the resurrection.  Denial is not a new defense mechanism. 

Moses and Elijah were the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament.  Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt roughly 1,300 years earlier and wrote almost all of the first five books of the Bible.  Elisha was a great prophet of God who did many spectacular things around 900 years before this time.  Their appearance shows that we retain our individual nature upon death.

Peter, impulsive as he was, wanted to build shelters to make this event more permanent.  But this “mountain top experience” was meant for worship and revelation and not to be a permanent state. 

The Healing of a Boy With a Demon

 14When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

 17“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

 19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

 20He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

V. 20 is always challenging to understand in context, because many prayers don’t get answered.  I may do a prayer series on the 4Simpsons blog sometime.  Some think that since Jesus was just speaking to his Disciples with verses like this and not to broader crowds that it wasn’t a universal statement on prayer.  Other passages on prayer make it clear that the key is to pray in accordance with God’s will.  The closer we get to him and know his will the more effective our prayers will be.  Also, He won’t answer prayers that would ultimately be bad for us.

 22When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

The Temple Tax

 24After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

 25“Yes, he does,” he replied.
      When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?”

 26“From others,” Peter answered.

   “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27“But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

That is an interesting miracle.  Jesus is the King of the universe, so He owes taxes to no one.  But people didn’t understand that, so He didn’t avoid paying the tax.  Peter did have to do his part to get the money.

What passages stood out to you, and why?


4 Responses

  1. Moses is the representative of the old covenant and the promise of salvation, which was soon to be fulfilled in the death of Jesus. Elijah is the appointed restorer of all things (Malachi 4:5-6; Mark 9:11-13). The disciples here witness the confirmation fo Jesus’ claim (5:17) that He fulfills the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).

    Luke 9:31 says that they talked about Christ’s death.

  2. Neil,

    I always learn something good from you. The Transfiguration makes sense now. I always read too fast that I missed the little things.

    I always associated the “some of you will not taste death” statement with the resurrection, but the transfiguration fits perfectly also.


  3. Hi Edgar – thanks, I appreciate that. I wish I could say that I discovered that all by myself, but I just read it somewhere else!

  4. Hi Neil,

    When Jesus invited Peter to walk on water, Peter started to do so but began to sink when confronted by the elements of wind and waves because he began to doubt. Based on Matthew 17, we don’t know if Peter followed through on Jesus’ instructions this time either. On his way to the Sea of Galelee, Peter may have begun to doubt the fantastic suggestion that he could catch a fish with a coin in its mouth, for he was an experienced fisherman and would know that such a happenstance was impossible. Thus, it is wrong to say that Jesus paid the temple tax. To be accurate we can only say that Jesus afforded Peter a miraculous way to pay the tax and redeem his impetuous assertion that Jesus would pay the tax. For a comprehensive analysis of everything Jesus is recoreded in the Gospels to have said regarding taxes and tax collectors, visit the website,, and download the essay entitled JESUS OF NAZARETH, ILLEGAL-TAX PROTESTER.

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