In today's study from Matthew 17:3-27, we take a longer look at the Transfiguration, the healing of the demon-possessed young man, and the apostles continued inability to see the impending crucifixion.
Moses and Elijah
v.3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Why Moses and Elijah? Most would contend that they represent those who go to heaven (Jude 1:9; 2Ki 2:11). Some, like Moses, will die to get there; while others, like Elijah, will go without dying, i.e., the rapture in 1Th 4:13-18. Another might be because they represent the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). This is why they are considered to be the two witnesses of Rev 11:3-13.
The Supremacy of Christ
vv.4-5 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. 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. In effect, Peters statement about building three shrines was putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, which drew a strong rebuke from the Father. Why did Peter make this suggestion? Apparently, he didn't even know why! Mark tells us in Mark 9:5-6 "Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-- (6) because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid."
The Apostles Reaction
vv.6-8 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. The apostles react in abject fear. Getting rebuked by God is not exactly on anyone's list for the day. However, I am sure that the Transfiguration served as a reassurance for the apostles as to Jesus' identity.
The Question about Elijah
vv.9-13 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. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 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. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. Again, he reassures them that Elijah will come before the Second Coming, and he will in Revelation 11 as one of the two witnesses. He again, reiterates that had they accepted John, he could have been Elijah.
Too Tough to Handle
vv.14-16 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 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. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. This boy was might have had epilepsy. The symptoms are certainly the same. However, it was apparently demon possessed as well. Of course, that is not to imply that everyone today who has epilepsy is demonized. Notice that the disciples were unable to cast this demon out.
Jesus Rebuked the Demon
vv.17-21 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. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 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. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Now Jesus does what his disciples could not. He furthermore tells them that their unbelief hindered their ability to cast the demon out. Apparently, in this case, they did not even have the faith of a mustard seed.
He also says that "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Most likely the Devil merely knew the extent of their faith and succeeded it. Makes you wonder if the Devil knows the extent of our faith? I am going to go with, yes, he does.
vv.22-23 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry. This is another somber announcement for the disciples.
Notice that the Lord offered them the bad news but with the good news as well. Of course, they still did not totally understand what he was truly saying to them.
Jesus and Taxes
vv.24-26 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? 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? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. The questioning goes along these lines…of who do the kings of this earth take taxes? Do they take them from their own children? No! They take them from strangers. Conclusion: if the king does not tax his own family, then the Father would not tax the son since it is His temple.
Lest we Offend
v.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. However, Jesus saw no reason to offend them (they were already all over him and he apparently saw no reason to provoke them further) and told Peter to go and cast in his hook and look in the mouth of the first fish he catches to find the tribute money for him and Peter. It's just a little curious to me that Jesus would be concerned about offending them now.