Matthew 17:1-27 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
This chapter flows directly from the last (Mat 16:28).
17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother,
and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
17:2 And was transfigured before them:
and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
17:3 And, behold, there appeared unto them
Moses and Elias
{Elijah} talking with him. {Luk 9:30,31}
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
{ie., tents or booths};
one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
17:5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them:
{cp. Ex 40:34,35}
and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said,
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
{cp. Mat 12:17,18; Acts 3:22,23}
17:6 And when the disciples heard [it], they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
17:7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
17:8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save
{ie., except} Jesus only.
an high mountain...- The location is uncertain.
Some suggest Mt. Tabor (elevation 1,929 feet) about 45 miles southwest of Caesarea Philippi (but many more miles on foot). Others suggest Mt. Hermon (elev. 9,232 feet). From Caesarea Philippi, at the foot of Mt. Hermon, the mountain peak was about 15 miles northeast. This destination would seem more probable, given the limited travel time.
he was transfigured {GK=metamorphoo, to be changed in form (metamorphosis)}.-
cp. Mark 9:1-13; Luk 9:27-36
''The Transfiguration scene contains, in miniature, all the elements of the future Kingdom... (Mat 16:28):
  1. The Lord, not in humiliation, but in glory (v.2).
  2. Moses, glorified, representative of the redeemed who have passed through death into the kingdom (Mat 13:43; cp. Luk 9:30,31).
  3. Elijah, glorified, representative of the redeemed who have entered the kingdom by translation (1Cor 15:50-53; 1Thes 4:14-17)
  4. Peter, James and John, not glorified, representatives (for the moment) of Israel in the flesh in the future kingdom (Eze 37:21-27).
  5. The multitude at the foot of the mountain (v.14), representative of the nations who are to be brought into the kingdom after it is established over Israel (Isa 11:10-12, etc.)'' [ScofRB]
his face did shine as the sun.- This glimpse of Jesus in glory...
  1. revealed His prior glory as God the Son. cp. Joh 1:14; 17:5; Acts 26:13-15; Rev 1:13-17
    However, John's Gospel, which emphasizes the Deity of Christ, does not include the account of the Transfiguration. Therefore, this may not be the primary point of this occasion.
  2. previewed His future glory as the Son of man, who would accomplish God's salvation.
    Luk 9:30,31; 1Pet 1:10,11
  3. previewed the future glory of the redeemed. cp. Mat 13:43; 1Joh 3:2
Moses and Elijah...- are representative of the Law and the Prophets.
Peter would have placed them on an equal plane with Jesus. v.4
But, he was rebuked, by the voice of God. v.5
This is my beloved Son... hear him.- cp. Heb 1:1-3
More than 30 years later, Peter reviewed this incident, with greater understanding (2Pet 1:16-18).
they saw... Jesus only.- He alone is our Hope and Salvation.
The Scriptures (the Law and the Prophets) point to Him (Joh 5:39).
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.
17:10 And his disciples asked him, saying,
Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
17:11 And Jesus answered and said unto them,
Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
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
{ie., desired}.
Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
17:13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
tell... no man, until the Son of man be risen (cp. Mat 16:20,21).-
The Transfiguration account would become part of the Gospel message, but not until the sacrifice of the Lamb of God had been completed.
At the time Jesus spoke these words...
  • The offer of the Kingdom had been postponed.
  • The Lamb had been tested and found perfect (as the one in whom God is 'well pleased').
  • The work of redemption had not yet been accomplished. cp. Luk 9:30,31
Why then...? (v.10) -
The disciples apparently interpreted Jesus' transfiguration as the start of His Kingdom.
They were puzzled that a prophetic prerequisite had not been fulfilled.
Elijah truly shall first come...- cp. Mal 3:1,2; 4:5,6
Note that, in Malachi 3:1,2, there are two messengers.
The first prepares the way for the second, who is identified as:
  1. 'Me' - the One speaking (ie., the LORD, Jehovah).
  2. 'the Lord' {HB=Adonai, the one with authority}, ie., the King for whom Israel waits.
  3. 'the messenger of the covenant'- ie., the One anointed to fulfil the Old Covenant and establish the New Covenant.
...Elijah is come already... He spake unto them of John the Baptist.-
cp. Mat 11:9-14 (and related Notes); Luk 1:13-17
17:14 And when they were come to the multitude,
there came to him a [certain] man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed:
for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
17:16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
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.
{here, read Mark 9:20-27}
17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him:
and the child was cured from that very hour.
When they were come...- down from the mountain top to the multitude (v.14),
where the other disciples were waiting, probably in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. Perhaps the proximity to this center of satanic religion was a factor in the boy's condition. (Parallel passages: Mark 9:14-29; Luk 9:37-43)
How long {lit., until when} shall I be with you?...-
How out of place Jesus must have felt. Heaven's Glory stepped down from the Father's Presence into the human condition. He is met by: a distraught father, a demon possessed boy, a perversely curious crowd, and His powerless disciples. He is face to face with a race of beings that is:
  • perverse {ie., turned aside from the right and true} -
    under the domination of demons, finding entertainment in the effects of sin and the troubles of others.
  • faithless {ie., unbelieving} - eg., the boy's father, and also the disciples (v.19,20).
How long {lit., until when} shall I suffer {ie., endure, forbear, bear with} you?
How He longed for His Kingdom of righteousness, as He stood there, the Son of Glory, in the midst of man's ruin. See Isa 32:1,2; Psa 72:1-4,12-14,17-19
17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said,
Why could not we cast him out?
17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:
{cp. v.17; Mat 16:8}
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.
17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
but {ie., except} by prayer and fasting.- Note that v.21 is not included in many MSS.
Likewise, the word 'fasting' is omitted in many MSS at Mark 9:29.
Apparently, we should not place too much emphasis on 'fasting,' based on these verses.
The disciples failed, not due to a lack of fasting, but due to their lack of faith. v.20
if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed...- (''which is the least of seeds,'' cp. Mat 13:31,32)
It is not the greatness of our faith, but the Object of our faith that is critical. cp. Luk 17:5,6
The One who said, ''Bring him here to me'' (v.17) is able...
Today also, the church is powerless, because we are ''faithless'' {GK=apistos, unbelieving} and ''perverse'' {GK=diastrepho, turned aside}.
In Mark 9:14,16, the phrase 'questioning with them' is translated from one word {GK= suzeteo, enquiring together, reasoning together, examining together}. This word can refer to an argument over a disputed matter, or to a search for a common answer. It may be, that in the absence of the Master, the powerless disciples had turned to the unbelieving 'scribes' for answers. Isn't this the tendency of the church today? Don't we also turn aside to human resources with our hard cases (eg., to psychology, in a case like this one), rather than resting upon the Rock?
cp. Mat 16:16-18; Deu 32:4-6; 2Tim 3:5; Luk 18:27; 2Pet 1:2-4
17:22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them,
The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
17:23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again.
And they were exceeding sorry.
Again, Jesus prepared His disciples for His crucifixion. They were overwhelmed with sorrow. But He "must" do this (Mat 16:21), to deliver men out of the kingdom of darkness, and into the Kingdom of God's glory.
cp. Mat 20:17-19; Mark 9:30-32; Luk 9:43-45; Joh 16:6
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?
17:25 He saith, Yes.
And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented
{ie., anticipated} him, saying,
What thinkest thou, Simon?
{This name means 'heard' or 'hearing.'}
of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute?
of their own children, or of strangers?
17:26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers.
{cf. this word in Joh 10:4,5}
Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
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.
tribute {GK= didrachmon, half-shekel} - This word occurs twice in v.24.
This was apparently the annual Temple tax, which was collected from every Jewish man. Ex 30:13; 38:26
...then are the children free {ie., exempt, not bound by obligation}.-
Since Jesus was the King of Israel, He and His disciples were the true children of the Kingdom, and therefore, should have been exempt from this tax. cp. Joh 8:36
...lest we offend them {ie., cause them to stumble, cp. 1Cor 8:9}...-
Compliance, with civil duty, avoids confusion. cp. Mat 22:15-22; Rom 13:6,7; Titus 2:7,8
(Note: In Mat 22 and Rom 13, the GK words for 'tribute' refer to Roman taxes.)
The tax would be paid by money from the mouth of a fish!
The rulers had rejected His dominion over the Kingdom.
He paid their tax by exercising His dominion over the Creation.
In His sinless manhood, Jesus possessed the dominion over creation, which Adam had lost.
cp. Gen 1:28; Psa 8:4-8; Heb 2:8,9
     Note that this was not a public demonstration, but a private lesson for Peter.
Like Peter, we whom the King has delivered, out of a faithless and perverse generation, to become children of His Kingdom, must also learn to turn to Heaven's Glory (the Beloved Son of God, v.5) and to trust Him completely. Whatever our need, He has anticipated and met it, before we ask (Mat 6:7,8).

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