Matthew Seventeen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

Matthew 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

Matthew 17:3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Moses and Elias. It is significant that this experience was said by Jesus to be a vision rather than the actual physical presence of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:9). Moses was dead, whereas Elijah was still living, having been translated into heaven without dying (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; 2 Kings 2:11). So far as Biblical revelation is concerned, all the souls of the Old Testament saints (except Enoch and Elijah) were still confined in Sheol at this time, and were not released until Christ freed them at His death and resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10). At that time, “many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matthew 27:52), but that great event was still in the future at this time.

Matthew 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; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Matthew 17:5 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.

my beloved Son. This was the second of three occasions on which the Father in heaven validated His Son on earth (see also Matthew 3:17; John 12:28). Many years later, Peter referred again to this voice from heaven (2 Peter 1:17-18).

Matthew 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Matthew 17:7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

Matthew 17:8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

Jesus only. It is significant that this amazing vision was withdrawn as soon as Peter wanted to place Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus (Matthew 17:4). When Peter later described the event in his epistle (2 Peter 1:16-18), he did not even mention Moses and Elijah. This example is important to remember when people supposedly see visions of Mary or other saints associated with Jesus in the past. As He did on the Mount, when people want to idolize such visions, God would say again: “This is my beloved Son … hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:5).

Matthew 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.

Matthew 17:10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?

come. The disciples evidently thought that the appearance of Elijah on the Mount was his promised return (Malachi 4:5-6). But now he was gone!

Matthew 17:11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.

Elias truly shall first come. The Lord Jesus, after telling them that Elijah had only been seen by them in a vision, assured them that He really would come and restore all things, as Malachi had prophesied.

Matthew 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. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.

Elias is come already. John the Baptist had come “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), as the forerunner of Christ at His first coming, and he had been slain. Elijah will actually return as prophesied, as the forerunner of Christ at His second coming, and he also will finally be slain (see notes on Revelation 11:3-12). Thus, John was a type of Elijah.

Matthew 17:13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Matthew 17:14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

Matthew 17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

Matthew 17:16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

Matthew 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.

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Matthew 17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

Why could not we. The disciples had previously been empowered to cast out evil spirits from demon-possessed people (Matthew 10:1, 8), and presumably had done so. It may be, however, that they had begun to have faith in their own power, rather than in God. If one's faith is in the omnipotent Creator, nothing is impossible (Matthew 17:20), for He controls all things. However, such true faith will also recognize that the prayer of faith will acknowledge dependence on the will of God (Luke 22:42; xTerm 5:14-15).

Matthew 17:20 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.

Matthew 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

this kind. A more detailed description of this very extreme case of demonic abuse is given in Mark 9:17-26. See also the note on Mark 9:29.

Matthew 17:22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:

Matthew 17:23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Matthew 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?

Matthew 17:25 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?

Matthew 17:26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

Matthew 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.

thou shalt find. This was not a miracle of creation (Jesus did not create the coin out of nothing) but a miracle of providence—that is, controlling and directing natural processes to produce a desired result, one that otherwise would have an almost infinitesimally small probability of occurring.