Matthew 17
People's New Testament
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
17:1 The Transfiguration


The Transfigured Lord. Moses and Elias. The Voice from the Cloud. The Lunatic Healed. The Son of Man to Be Betrayed. Slain and Raised the Third Day. The Tribute Money.

And after six days. Compare Mr 9:2-8 Lu 9:28-36 Joh 1:14 2Pe 1:18. Six days after the conversation recorded in the last chapter. Luke says, about an eight days (Lu 9:28). About, not exactly. Luke's eight days include the fractional days at the beginning and end of the day of the conversation and the day of transfiguration. Matthew's six days are the six complete days intervening between them.

Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John. The three apostles who were chosen to be nearest to the Lord.

Into an high mountain. Not Mt. Tabor, for, as we learn from Josephus, who lived in that time, the top of Mt. Tabor was then occupied by a town and fortress. On the other hand, the Lord was in the vicinity of Mt. Hermon. See PNT Mt 16:13. Hermon was a high mountain, ten thousand feet high, visible over most of Palestine.

And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
17:2 He was transfigured before them. That is, transformed, changed in form. The great object was to reveal to the disciples his Divine glory before they beheld his humiliation upon the cross, in order to sustain their faith in the hour of trial.

His face did shine as the sun. Thus John describes the glorified Savior when he beheld him on Patmos: His face as the sun when he shineth in his strength (Re 1:16).

His raiment was white as the light. Mark says, white as snow (Mr 9:3). The comparison may have been suggested by the snow of Hermon. It was a vision of supernatural splendor.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
17:3 There appeared unto them Moses and Elijah. (1) Among all the prophets and saints of the Old Testament, these were the two, of which one had not died (2Ki 2:11), and the other had no sooner tasted of death than his body was withdrawn from under the dominion of death and of him that had the power of death (De 34:6; Jude 1:9). Both, therefore, came from hades, but from hades conquered. (2) Again, these two were the acknowledged heads and representatives, the one of the law, the other of the prophets Compare Mt 7:12.

Talking with him. The subject of their conversation is given in Luke. It was the decease (exodus, departure, referring to his death and ascension) which he should accomplish at Jerusalem (Lu 9:31). In this brief interview between the greatest worthies of the old dispensation and the Founder of the new dispensation their conversation would be confined to the most important theme of earth and heaven. That was the Savior's death.

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.
17:4 Answered Peter. The words were spoken as they departed (Lu 9:33).

Lord, it is good for us to be here. It is too brief, too transient a glimpse and foretaste of the heavenly glory. He would fain detain these august visitors.

Let us make here three tabernacles. Three booths of boughs, like those of the Feast of the Tabernacles. It seemed to him that the hour for the long-looked-for reign had come.

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.
17:5 A bright cloud overshadowed them. Christ, Moses and Elijah are represented as in the cloud which separated them from the disciples' sight; and out of this cloud the voice spoke to the disciples. By the disciples such a luminous cloud would be instantly accepted as a symbol of Divine presence. A bright cloud, the Shekinah, is throughout the Old Testament dispensation employed as a symbol of God's presence, being very generally entitled the glory, or the glory of the Lord. (See, for example, Ex 16:10 19:09 24:16,17.)

This is my beloved Son. The same voice which had once before been heard at the baptism. Such a confirmation of the great confession of Peter was never to be forgotten. Almost a generation later, when he wrote his second epistle, the remembrance of this night was as vivid as ever: For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory (2Pe 1:17).

Hear ye him. The Divine voice that spoke at Sinai and the baptism is heard, declaring Christ's superiority to Moses and Elijah, in that he is the beloved Son, and commanding all to Hear Him. Henceforth, not Moses, or Elijah, are the lawgivers of the people of God, but Christ. The saints are bidden to turn from every human teacher, even those as revered as Moses and Elijah, to listen to our Lord. To hear Him will lead from error and sin into truth, righteousness and fitness for heaven.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
17:6 They... were sore afraid. Like the children of Israel at Sinai, they were filled with awe at the Divine voice (Ex 19:9,16).
And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
17:7 Arise, and be not afraid. So the Lord ever speaks to his disciples in danger or fear (Mt 14:27 28:10:00 Mr 5:36 6:50 Lu 12:4 Joh 6:20 Ac 18:9).
And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
17:8 They saw no man, except Jesus only. When they rose from their prostration the glorious vision was gone.
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.
17:9 Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man. Even they themselves did not yet understand what they had seen. Still less could they, in present circumstances, make others understand. All was plainer after Christ had died, risen, and had ascended to glory. The time had not come to proclaim the mystery of the Sonship of the world.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
17:10 Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? They knew that the scribes, in their capacity as interpreters of prophecy, were wont to say that Elijah must come before the Messiah could appear. They said this on the strength of Mal 3:1 4:05 If Peter, James and John were of those who asked this question, they were probably seeking to ascertain if the vision they had seen was the coming of Elijah and why he did not remain.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
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.
17:12 Elias is come already. John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Mr 1:2-8 Lu 1:17).

Have done unto him whatsoever they listed. List and lust were originally one word, meaninf to desire or wish. The account of his martyrdom is given in Mt 14:6-12 and Mr 6:21-29.

The Son of man suffer by them. Henceforth he keeps the lesson of his suffering constantly before their minds. After all, his disciples were not prepared for it when the hour came.

Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
17:14 When they were come to the multitude. Come down out of the mountain. Compare Mr 9:14-29 Lu 9:37-42. Luke says this miracle occurred the next day (Lu 9:37).
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.
17:15 My son; for he is lunatic. Epileptic, in the Revised Version. The symptoms are those of epilepsy, in this case caused by demoniac possession. The son was a child (Lu 9:38). He was dumb as well as epileptic (Mr 9:18).
And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17:16 Thy disciples. The nine apostles who had been left below when the Lord with three ascended the mountain.
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.
17:17 O faithless and perverse generation. Intended especially for the disciples who had failed in the cure from weakness of faith.

How long shall I suffer you? Bear with your shortcomings.

Bring him hither to me. The emphasis is upon me. This act of mercy could have been done by his disciples had they been devout, prayerful and believing.

And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
17:18 The devil... departed out of him. Compare Mr 9:26 Lu 9:42.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
17:19 Why could not we cast him out? The answer is, Lack of faith.
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.
17:20 This mountain. Lofty Hermon, in plain sight.

Nothing shall be impossible unto you. Upon the condition of perfect faith. Compare Heb 11:1-40. Faith in Christ, faith exercised in fasting and prayer, are the conditions of power.

Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
17:21 This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Compare Mr 9:29. Only by devout waiting before the Lord for strength. Such strength is always needful to the victories of faith. Often, too, we have demons, envy, pride, covetousness, a revengeful spirit, that must be cast out by prayer.
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
17:22 While they abode in Galilee. Mark says: They departed from there (from the vicinity of Mt. Hermon) and passed through Galilee (Mr 9:30). Compare also, Lu 9:43-45.
And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
17:23 They were exceeding sorry. Because he said that he must be put to death. There is only grief now, but no remonstrance.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
17:24 When they were come to Capernaum. They had now returned from the journey north.

Doth not your master pay tribute? Not tribute, which would be a tax due an alien, but the half shekel, an annual tax demanded of every male Jew above twenty years for the support of the temple. It would be from twenty-five to thirty-five cents, as the shekel is variously estimated from fifty to seventy cents. The collectors were not publicans, but Jewish authorities.

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?
17:25 He saith, Yes. Peter, as usual, answered before he reflected, and then came to Jesus with the matter.

Jesus prevented him. Peter came into the house to speak about it, but Christ knew his thoughts and spoke first.

Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom? Not of their own children, but from subjects. Hence, Christ, the King's Son, for whom the temple was built, was not subject to tax for the benefit of the temple. The Son of the King would not pay tribute to the King. For the origin of this temple tax, see Ex 30:12 2Ch 24:5.

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
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.
17:27 Lest we should offend them. While not compelled to pay it as a due, he would pay it as a matter of expediency. Sometimes things are expedient for which there is not the letter of the law.

Go thou to the sea. Of Galilee, close at hand.

Cast an hook. Peter was a fisherman.

Take up the fish that first cometh up. A miracle. The Lord by his power would draw the fish that had sought to swallow the coin to Peter's hook.

A piece of money. Greek, a stater, corresponding to a shekel, enough for two. The Lord would pay the tax, but in a manner in accord with the Divine dignity.

The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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