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					                                        Matthew 17

There was a gap of some six days between Jesus‟ prediction of his death and resurrection
and the transfiguration. The gospels have nothing to say about what happened in those
intervening days, but there must have been deep discussion, further explanations from
Jesus, growing fears of what the future held and possibly a lowering of morale.

The transfiguration took place on a high mountain in the neighbourhood of Caesarea
Philippi. It was possibly Mount Hermon. Jesus, Peter James and John went up the
mountain to pray and before Jesus was transfigured the disciples fell asleep. This
information comes from Luke‟s gospel. It may have been late in the day and they had
possibly spent several hours climbing the mountain. The future for Jesus and the disciples
was the issue that had filled minds during the last week and perhaps this was the subject of
prayer. The transfiguration can be seen as God‟s answer to prayer.

The three disciples were close to Jesus and he had chosen them to accompany him when he
raised the ruler‟s daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37) and when he went into Gethsemane
to pray before his arrest (Mt 26:37). Perhaps the faith of the other nine disciples was not
sufficient for the experience.

By choosing the three disciples to go with him up the mountain it is an indication that Jesus
knew that something significant was going to happen.


Read Matthew 17 v 1 – 13

The disciples saw a change in Jesus – a transfiguration. The change involved the face of
Jesus shining and his clothes became as white as the light. The Greek word literally means
to change into another form. It is also used to describe the change in the lives of believers
when they follow Jesus. The dictionary defines „transfigure‟ as „to change the appearance
of‟. The same Greek word is used in 2 Corinthians 3.18 when Paul describes believes being
transformed into the likeness of Christ. Paul is referring to a permanent change, while the
transfiguration of Jesus was a temporary change.

Jesus was clothed in glory by God see 2 Peter 1:16-18.

From this statement it appears that the transfiguration was intended for Jesus to strengthen
him for his coming ordeal of the trial and the cross. This is supported by the fact that the
disciples only appear to have woken up at the last minute Luke 9.32
Jesus had earlier received support from his Father at his baptism when the Holy Spirit came
on him.

The transfiguration could be described as God showing is approval of Jesus. It was a n
assurance to Jesus and the disciples that the future was certain and beyond any human
power to change the outcome.


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The cloud was bright; normally cloud produces a dull effect.

Some 1500 years earlier Moses appearance had been changed when he was in the presence
of God, but the change was not described as a transfiguration. See Exodus 34.29.

It is not clear how Peter recognised Moses and Elijah Moses. Their appearance could
represent the Old Covenant and the promise of salvation or that all history was centred on
the work of Christ, the cross, the resurrection and the ascension.

Peter‟s motive for suggesting that three tents should be put up may have been to preserve
the moment. Perhaps he believed that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived and the cross
was no longer necessary.

Peter was interrupted by God who said “this is my Son … Listen to him.” The message for
the disciples was that the cross must come first.

The transfiguration confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah and the disciples knew that Elijah
would prepare the way for him. Jesus had previously told them that John the Baptist had
fulfilled the role of Elijah, but they were still struggling with the idea.

There is no indication that any of the other disciples knew anything about the
transfiguration before Jesus‟ resurrection, so they Jesus‟ wish that they say nothing was
respected.


Read Matthew 17 v 14 – 23

When Jesus, Peter, James and John came down from the mountain they were met by the
crowd and by a man who had taken his son to the disciples to be healed, but the healing
was unsuccessful. The Scribes were part of the crowd – see Mark 9.14.

There was a marked contrast between the transfiguration, which had take place recently
and the scene with the father, his boy and the crowd. The glory of God was clear on the
mountain, but here, in the valley, human frailty reigned supreme. Jesus woul go from a
spiritual height to a spiritual low. He perhaps wondered how much difference he had made
in more than three years of his ministry. The disciples, although given power earlier to
heal, had failed to heal the boy with seizures, the crowd were not convinced about Jesus‟
role and the Scribes were totally opposed to him. This was an unbelieving and perverse
generation.

The disciples asked why they were not able to heal the boy and Matthew quotes Jesus as
saying that it was lack of faith. Mark records that it was lack of prayer. The two go together
and there is no conflict.



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When Jesus reminded them that his future was death and resurrection they were filled with
grief.


Read Matthew 17 v 44 – 27

This incident probably fixes the date in the mission of Jesus. The Mishnah, compiled about
200 AD requires that the payment of the Temple Tax is announced on the first day of Adar
and that collection should start on 15 th Adar. This is one month before the start of the
Passover. It was therefore about 30 days before the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

The tax was for the upkeep of the Temple and it originated in Exodus 30.1. There were
differing views about paying it. The Pharisees thought is should be paid annually, the
Essenes, once in a lifetime and the Saducees never. Rabbis and priests were exempt.

Although the tax was collected by tax, collectors, it was in effect paid to God.

Although Peter gave a direct response to the tax collectors he must have had doubts about
whether Jesus did pay the tax, because Jesus spoke before he could do so. Jesus used the
incident to show that he and the disciples were exempt because of their relationship to
God.But they made a voluntary offering to God.




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