Matthew and Mark say after 6 days Jesus went up a high mountain to pray, but Luke says after 8 days. This is based on a Greek way of speaking meaning "about a week". He took Peter, James and John with Him. While on the mountain praying, he was transfigured before their eyes. Transfigured means changed of the innermost nature that may be outwardly visible. His face was as bright as the sun and his clothes became white as the light. Mark 9 says His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. Luke 9 says His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Then two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor talking with Jesus.
Jesus was transfigured to benefit both Himself and His disciples. It was an encouragement to Jesus for He was about to suffer on the cross. It was important for the disciples to see this also, because it confirmed that Jesus needed to go to the cross. They needed assurance who Jesus was and they needed to be witnesses to the people later.
Why Moses and Elijah? Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets. Moses lived some 1400 years before and Elijah lived 900 years before - yet here they were alive and in a resurrected glorified state. The disciples had great respect for them. "For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'" - Acts 3:22-23. They had a lot in common with Jesus: They both fasted forty days and nights, they did miracles, they were leaders of the people of Israel, they preached the Word of God, many did not accepted their message, and they were suffering servants. Moses and Elijah talked with God on a mountain and wrote God's words down.
What is the significance of their appearance here? In these two the Law and the Prophets honored Christ. They were witnesses to who Jesus is. They talked about Jesus' upcoming crucifixion and His resurrection that would follow. The Law showed the need for a Messiah and the Prophets taught about the coming of the glorious Messiah who is now before the disciples. It shows that those who fall asleep in Christ will not perish, but are alive. 1 Cor. 15 - says we will get resurrected bodies when Jesus come again.
Peter suggested they erect shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But while Peter was still speaking, God interrupted him. Peter was rebuked by a voice from the cloud of God's glory, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" - Matt. 17:5. Jesus is God's son and deserved special attention so they needed to "Hear Him!". Peter was making them equal to Jesus, but Jesus was above them. Peter was probably excited so he spoke before thinking. Mark and Luke say he didn't know what he was saying. This was the same thing spoken by God at Jesus' baptism. (Matt. 3:17).
Do you listen to Jesus when He speaks to you and do what He says?Do you put Him above all others?
When the disciples heard the voice of God, they fell face down and were terrified. Jesus touched them told them, "Get up. Don't be afraid". - Matt. 17:7. When they looked up, only Jesus was there. Through the witnessing of the transfiguration and hearing the voice of God was the assurance they needed that Jesus was the Messiah and would be crucified.
Jesus told the disciples to not speak of the transfiguration until after His resurrection (Matt. 17:9). The resurrection would be His final confirmation of His ministry and glory.
Principles:When God speaks, we should listen.
Jesus comforts and encourages us when we are afraid.
Matthew 17:14-23 - Jesus Heals a Boy
A man approached Jesus and knelt humbly before Him asking Him to heal his son who suffered from seizures. He had previously brought his son to the disciples, but they could not heal him. Remember Jesus had given them authority to cast out demons in Matthew 10:8. This time they could not. Some demons are stronger and more stubborn than others. This failure was probably good for the disciples. It taught them the superiority of Jesus and to come to Him with problems. It taught them to be humble and their dependence on Him.
Jesus seemed to be frustrated with them. The cross was getting nearer and they didn't have enough faith. Jesus said, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me. Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment." - Matt. 17:17-18. The disciples asked Jesus why couldn't they have driven the demon out. Jesus 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 and there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." - Matt. 17:20-21. "Everything is possible for him who believes." - Mark 9:23.
To be successful against demons there must be trust in God who has complete authority over the demons. Without faith we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Unbelief increases Satan's dominion and power. Unbelief means defeat.
How do you obtain stronger faith? - Sometimes through God's mercy in difficult situations, through more fervent prayer, and through the study of His Word. It involves trust and dependence upon God.
When you doubt, do you ask God to help you in your unbelief?Do you truly believe that God can do the impossible?
What is the difference between little faith that Jesus condemned and the small faith that He blesses? Little faith means there is doubt. Small faith means you believe and trust God. As you grow in your walk with God, your faith grows larger. As you study His Word and deepen your relationship with Him, your faith just keeps growing and growing.
Principle: Nothing is impossible for God.
Jesus then told His disciples that the Son of Man is going to be betrayed and killed, but will rise on the third day. The disciples were filled with grief. Mark 9:32 says they did not understand and were afraid to ask.
Are you afraid to tell God you do not understand something?Do you ask for His help to understand?
Matthew 17:24-27 - The Temple Tax
Jesus and His disciples arrived in Capernaum. The temple tax collectors asked Peter if his master paid the temple tax. The temple tax was a annual tax paid by all males for the needs of the temple. Jesus was actually the owner of the temple and the priest who served God really served Him so it really was unnecessary for Him to pay taxes. Jesus wanted to avoid unnecessary cause for misunderstandings that might turn people away from the gospel. He surrender His rights for the sake of the Gospel. Then as to not offend them, Jesus told Peter to catch a fish in the lake and he would find in its mouth a coin. He was to take the coin and give it to them to pay the tax.
What lessons do we learn here?We learn that we should sacrifice our own privileges for the sake of the gospel.
We learn that God always provides as we have learned in all of the studies of Matthew. We learn the payment was a foreshadow of the work of redemption for all men. Jesus did not actually owe the price He paid for us on the cross, but He paid it anyway. He paid it for Peter and for you.
How do you sacrifice your own privileges for the sake of the gospel?
Principle: Jesus paid the price for our sins even though it wasn't His to pay.
Wow! These studies in Matthew get better and better. Hope to see you next week for Matthew 18.