Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-13

  1. Intro: Show Me Your Glory
    1. Remember what Moses asked back in Ex.33:18? Please, show me Your glory.
    2. 6 days have passed since Peter tried to barricade Christ from His Cross.
      1. Now, we have before us the dress rehearsal of His 2nd Coming, in all His splendor.
      2. Here we get a Glimpse of Jesus’ Glory. This whole story is about GLORY.
    3. Note, Behold or look/see used twice in vs.3 & 5. As if Matthew couldn’t even tell the story w/o stopping to catch his the sheer staggering wonder of it.
      1. 3 disciples get to catch a glimpse of the intersection between heaven & earth, as they observe Jesus in His heavenly glory.
    4. This was the only time His glory, veiled in human flesh, was allowed to shine through.
      1. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  2. A GLANCE AT GLORY (1,2)
    1. ​​​​​​​Just as high altitude transforms a landscape in the physical does real prayer in the spiritual realm.
      1. You climb to the top, & things you thought so massive, are now so puny. Other objects you greatly underestimated look very impressive now.
    2. Look who Jesus loves taking up on Mountain Tops?
      1. He took Peter with his blunders (not so Lord). And he took the sons of thunder, who had asked to call fire down from heaven on the very people Jesus came to save. [He loves taking us to mountain tops also]
      2. Maybe Jesus this week, is going to invite you up onto a mountaintop, to give you a God’s eye view of your situation. To show you your perspective is skewed. To show you those big things that you see, are actually really small ...from His perspective...from that vantage point.
    3. Transfigured Greek / metamorFO - a change on the outside that comes from the inside.
      1. ​​​​​​​For that brief moment, they saw Him as the heavenly Lord.
      2. The prefix Trans means literally across (Transatlantic flight).
        1. In the Transfiguration a limit or barrier was crossed. It was the crossing the line between the natural & supernatural; between human & divine.
  3. GOD GIVEN GUIDES (3) best pic on Mo & Elijah
    2. (4) Why Moses & Elijah? [Moses had been dead 1400 years; Elijah 900 years]
      1. Both these men had previously conversed w/God on mountaintops.
        1. Moses on Mnt. Sinai (Ex.31:18). Elijah on Mnt. Horeb [Sinai’s whole mnt range] 1Kngs19:9
      2. Both had been shown Gods glory.
      3. Both represent something: Moses the Law and Elijah the Prophets.
      4. Both had amazing departures from earth.
      5. Both had interesting deaths. Moses died & was buried by God. Elijah was raptured up into heaven in a flaming chariot.
      6. Both were talking to Jesus about His decease (death/departure) Lk.9:31.
        1. I used to think, what a theological conversation that must have been? ...Now I think, what a relational conversation that must have been?
          1. When facing the hardest thing in your life, you want perseverance, encouragement, hope, promises...not terms & definitions.
          2. His Suffering would not be an accident, but an accomplishment.
          3. They came to encourage Him to Go On!
        2. And this encouragement helped Jesus to walk the way of the cross.
    3. We learn a lot from them showing thinking of saints that have died & gone b4 us
      1. ​​​​​​​They are still the individuals they were - they aren’t extinct.
      2. They have continuing personalities - Moses was still Moses. Elijah still Elijah. There was personal identity & recognizable differentiation between them.
      3. They are still human beings - they didn’t grow wings, or become angels, they remained human just like Jesus after His res.
      4. They are alive consciously - nothing here of soul sleep, unless they were walking in their sleep...but then the greater miracle for both to be sleep walking at the same time, in the same place, & talking in their sleep about the same thing.
      5. They are in glorified bodies - they can suddenly appear or disappear.
      6. They are similar to, yet different from, the bodies they had - like Jesus’ res body, similar in structure, different in texture.
      7. They enjoyed fellowship - here with Jesus.
      8. They were in touch with earth - they were alive to concerns here on earth, especially matters of salvation.
    1. ​​​​​​​(4) What a great reminder there are times to NOT DO.
      1. Peter, a man of action, always looking for something to do, say, build.
        1. But, we must make way for space in our lives, a time of stillness, contemplation, wonder, adoration, meditation. A time for awed reverence especially in the presence of the superior Glory.
        2. Zec 2:13 Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation.
    2. ​​​​​​​3 ta~bernacles/tents – Peter wanted to make the event into a perpetual Feast of Tabernacles.
      1. ​​​​​​​Peter went from, not so Lord (in regards to his suffering & death) to let’s immortalize this moment of Glory.
      2. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Peter was saying, Let’s stay on this mnt of glory, & not go to Jerusalem & die.
        1. ​​​​​​​(Pete) Now that’s how I like my Messiah, a glorified one, not a dead one!
      3. We like our heroes bright, shiny, strong, w/capes, who can fly.
        1. But suffering leads to glory.
          1. Peter emphasizes this in 1Pet.1:6-8,11.
          2. So I guess Peter, deity & death are not irreconcilable after all.
          3. They are not a contradiction, but a consistency. A means to a great end.
      4. I don’t think Peter wanted to go back down to the common things again after he saw the glory. [Nacho: Don't you want a little taste of the glory, to see what it tastes like?]
      5. Barclay, The moment of glory does not exist for its own sake, it exist to clothe the common things with a sheen & a radiance they never had before.
        1. ​​​​​​​Was a job of hewing out small limestone caves for dead bodies important?
        2. Imagine just 1 man in that 1st cent, lazy & tired 1 day at work & sloughing off on just this one tomb in Jerusalem. What if he would’ve made it just a little bit shorter. Or chiseled a weak shelf that wouldn’t support a body.
        3. But who ended up viewing his work? Only...the son of God, 2 angels, the apostles, the women. And if we have the right tomb today, hundreds of thousands of people still view it monthly.
        4. Martin Luther King Jr. If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven & earth will pause to say, Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well
          1. ​​​​​​​Be faithful in the common things, we can’t live in glory yet...but it’s coming.
    3. Lk.9:32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.
      1. ​​​​​​​What a snapshot of humanity being glorified.
      2. For that brief moment they saw Him as the heavenly Lord.
        1. Heb.1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory & the express image of His person.
    4. Different Glory
      1. Moses Glory – Ex.33 Moses’ face shone with Reflected glory.
      2. Jesus Glory – Christ didn’t reflect the brightness of divine glory, but His glory is the brightness of divine glory.
        1. Jesus didn’t reflect light but was the source of light.
        2. This is the glory He willingly veiled…for us.
          1. At crucial moments the splendor of Jesus’ deity burst through the cloak of His humanity. R.C.Sproul
        3. This was an open display for the disciples to see Jesus’ glory that He had before the Incarnation & also a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection & return.
        4. Jn.17:5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
          1. This was His own glory showing through.
            1. Not just a reflection, not just His clothes. This showed plainly His divinity…glory from within.
      3. Our Future Glory – What is it? What is, us being glorified?
        1. We are promised, on Paul’s golden chain of redemption in Rom.8:30 whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
        2. Written in the past tense because the final step is so certain, that in God’s eyes, it is as good as finished/complete.
        3. Did you know our glory is just like Jesus Glory – Phil.3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.
          1. Jn.17:22 (Jesus to Father) I have given them the glory that you gave me.
    5. So, our nature will be made whole. Our heart will be set free. Our sin completely eradicated. The possibility of sinning forever extinguished. It will not be fleeting, but permanent.
    6. (5) Now the Father Gives Course Confirmation.
      1. Earlier Jesus had the 2 greats from Israel as His encouragement, but now the very voice of the Father came to Him telling Him that He was on the right way, the right path...and that He was well pleased by His course/life.
    7. A bright cloud (the Shekinah Glory) was often used to represent the presence of Almighty God.
      1. Ex: at the giving of the Law. At the Tabernacle & later the Temple. Here. At His Ascension. And later at His Return. [Heb. Kabod - Gk. doxa]
      2. It is been 600 years since anyone seen the Shekinah glory of God.
    8. Hear Him - Hearing God’s word is more important than seeing Gods signs.
      1. The father didn’t say, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, see this sign. No, hear Him.
        1. Peter never forgot hearing this spectacular event. 2 Pet. 1:17,18 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. & we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
        2. But let’s not diminish seeing this spectacular event..John never forgot seeing it. Jn.1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
      2. All 3 men needed to hear this: James was the 1st to die. John was to suffer persecution on Patmos. Peter experienced many occasions of suffering & would end up giving his life for Christ.
      3. The Father interrupted Peter to remind him…Hear HIM!
        1. ​​​​​​​Hear Him in route to Jerusalem. Hear Him through the suffering. Hear Him to the crosshear Him.
        2. We also need to hear from Him in His Word. As we look into the Word of God, we see the Son of God, & are transfigured by the Spirit of God, into the glory of God.

Verses 14-27

  1. Intro: A Boy w/a Demon & a Fish w/a Coin
    1. Last we gazed into the transfigured face of Christ. Contemplate the words of Thomas Merton:
      1. Make ready for Christ - Whose smile - like lightning - Sets free the song of everlasting glory, - that now sleeps in your paper flesh - like dynamite.
    2. But after the Incredible event of the Transfiguration they were told, don’t tell anyone.
      1. This is a big deal because they’re going to be comparing with the other disciples who is the greatest real soon & this would really help :)
    3. From the Mountain of Glory to the Valley of Need. www Mnt Top to Valley Flop
      1. ​​​​​​​The Famous painter of the Renaissance, Raphael painted this scene with both the Mnt. & the Valley in view [note light/dark area]
        1. What a contrast we have here. From Glory to Shame. Mountain top to the Valley floor. Light to Darkness. Power to Helplessness.
    4. So, Jesus goes from an appointment with the divine to an appointment w/a demon. He set His Face to the Valley. [The Glory / power, commission, humility / of the King]
    1. ​​​​​​​The Scene: The Scribes were prodding the disciples of their failure. The Disciples were defending themselves. And, The Demon was all but killing the helpless boy.
      1. The only Son heals an only son.
    2. The Severity: He deals w/epileptic seizures. He also suffers severely. It’s even deadly when the attack occurs near water or fire. Mrk adds: the boy was mute, deaf, & dumb. He often fell to the ground, foaming at the mouth, & grinding his teeth, then sometimes pulls a temporary rigor mortis. Lk. adds: that the boy was an only son, & that he would scream as he went into the convulsions.
      1. Ken Gire described the demon well. A cruel spirit that lies in wait, like a bully waiting to pounce on a kid coming home from school. It sneaks up on the boy, jumps him, from behind, & mashes his face into the dirt - all the while, delighting in the tyranny!
        1. ​​​​​​​Like a lion, he singles out the youngest, most vulnerable one & ruthlessly runs him down.
      2. No wonder the Father runs to Jesus feet.
    3. The Agony of Defeat:
      1. The Scribes were defeated (Though they wouldn’t admit that). They were quite unable to offer assistance to this family.
      2. The Disciples were defeated. The boy had been brought to them, & they were unable to exercise any power that would get him free from this evil case. [they should have been able to 10:1,8]
      3. The Father was defeated. Utterly helpless. I’m sure that he did all to restore his only son to a decent life.
      4. The Boy was the supreme illustration of helplessness & defeat.
    4. (17) What strange words from Jesus, How long shall I be with you...bear w/you?
      1. ​​​​​​​Yet we’ll see Him bearing with their unbelief & failure (here). With their spiritual blindness (22,23). With their pride (Lk.9:46-48 who greatest?). With their lack of love (Lk.9:49-56 calling fire down). And their lack of dedication (Lk.9:57-62 follow Me, let me 1st go...).
      2. Wait, haven’t you ever said the same (or at least thought the same) regarding your own children?
        1. You were frustrated…but you knew the answer…your lifetime! Yes, your lifetime! [w/a son struggling with his addiction; w/the daughter that continues to cut herself]
        2. And, we have the rest of the gospel to prove Jesus’ answer was the same!!!
    5. (18) Remember, they were given the power before this (Lk.9:1) but something had happened??? What?
      1. Apparently they stopped praying & fasting. Their faith had become weak.
    6. The Boy’s Father
    7. Imagine being in his shoes - While others were teaching their sons a trade, he was just trying to keep his son alive.
      1. He couldn’t leave his son alone for a minute. Who knew when the next attack would come.
      2. His father remained on call 24/7. [you caregivers can relate]
      3. He was desperate, tired, & his prayers reflect both. He drops to his knees (14).
    8. In Mark(9:22-25) this man asked Jesus something, If you can do anything? Jesus responded, If you can believe?
    9. The misplaced If – The tense implies doubt. (i.e.) this one’s probably a little out of your league…but if you can…
      1. ​​​​​​​Jesus turns it back on the father, If you can believe?
      2. His unbelief needed to be healed 1st and thus was more important than the demon possession.
      3. Like this man, we often see an if in relation to our problems. And we too put it in the wrong place. If Jesus can help me overcome this sinful habit. If He can change my life. No, the real issue is, if we can believe, He both can and will respond.
        1. Don’t misplace your if and put it on Jesus...wear it yourself!
      4. Then the man said to Jesus, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.
      5. 1 of the most honest men in all the bible. [he must have grappled w/saying this right]
        1. Help me to understand. And where I can’t understand, help me to trust. And where I can’t trust, help me to overcome my unbelief. (Ken Gire, Incredible Moments, pg. 78.)
        2. Jesus was saying, the working of this miracle depends on your faith, not on my power alone. (other times, Jesus just did it not dependent on their faith)
          1. Don’t you warm to this man’s raw honesty for our faith is always mixed w/unbelief.
        3. I agree with Max Lucado when he said, Some of you pray like a Concorde jet – smooth, sleek, high, and mighty. Your words reverberate in the clouds and send sonic booms throughout the heavens. If you pray like a Concorde, I salute you. If you don't, I understand. Maybe you're like me, more a cropduster then a Concorde. You aren't flashy, you fly low, you seem to cover the same ground a lot, and some mornings It's tough to get the old engine cranked up.
          1. ​​​​​​​Yah, more often we come more like a crippled lamb coming to a shepherd than a proud lion roaring in the jungle.
    10. This boy only had one hope...that one of his parents would plead For him.
      1. Parents Plead On for your unbelieving children, for your sick children, for your distracted children, no matter their age. [Be like Job in his dedication, Job1:4,5]
    11. The Private Meeting (19-21)
    12. Hey, when we fail, let us own that we failed.
      1. Take the blame of it ourselves & apply to our Lord for His gracious intervention.
      2. Let us sit at the Lord’s feet humbly ready to receive rebuke or instruction, as He sees fit.
    13. Mountain Moving - speaks of removing difficulties.
      1. The Semitics used this style of writing to make a point using exaggerated and unqualified terms. This hyperbole of casting of a mountain into the sea by faith signals the exaggeration in these statements about prayer. The point of the saying is the absolute necessity of trust in God’s unlimited power, not a blank check for answered prayers.
        1. ​​​​​​​Slide13c Doubt makes the mountain which faith can move.
      2. Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path. Mountains become plains.
    14. ​​​​​​​(21) While Jesus was away they neglected prayer, & their faith weakened. Then when crisis came they were unprepared.
      1. Like Samson who woke up to battle the philistines, only to realize that his power was gone. We need to stay spiritually healthy.
    15. Jesus was teaching them that the faith which brings power is a faith that prays.
      1. ​​​​​​​Prayer is the vital link (fasting is not in most manuscripts) between the transforming power on the mountain top & the desperate needs in the valley.
    16. For them, as for usPrayerlessness leads to Powerlessness.
    17. Do you spend too much time in discussion (Mrk.9:14) & too little time in prayer? (21)
      1. An organist was getting ready to play as the service began. When he put his hands in the keys there was no sound. Everyone knew something was wrong, so the preacher quickly got up and led in a prayer. The janitor was aware of the fact that they hadn't plugged in the organ. So we went over there during the prayer, plugged in the organ, wrote a note, and handed it to the organist. The note said, after the prayer the power will be on.
    1. ​​​​​​​They didn’t understand & were afraid to ask. Mrk & Lk.
    2. It’s amazing that the disciples after the res didn’t believe He rose, but His enemies did.
      1. Mt.27:62-64 the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, After three days I will rise. Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day.
        1. ​​​​​​​Jesus here sugared the bitter pill of His death w/the sweetness of His assured Res.
    1. TAX IN A TILAPIA (24-27) or, having One Fish Faith!
    2. This is only recorded here by the former Tax-Collector.
    3. Temple Tax / a piece of money - Double drachma / Gr. Stater, exact temple tax for 2
      1. Jesus didn’t need a coin that said In God we Trust on it.
      2. The coins bore the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart or Baal (accepted as the Olympian Heracles by the Greeks and derided as Beelzebub by Jews) wearing the laurel reflecting his role in the Tyrian games & ancient Olympic Games
      3. On 11/13/1861 Rev. Watkinson wrote to the Sec of the Treasury P. Chase appealing to recognize the Deity on US coins, “otherwise in the future they will think we were a heathen nation.” [Is it was is stamped on our coins or inscribed on our hearts?]
    4. Just as children of earthly kings are tax-exempt, so too the children of the heavenly King, Jesus, have no obligation to pay a tax for His temple.
      1. So Jesus was free from this Tribute/free from paying this Tax. (hey like D.Trump)
        1. Interesting that the Son of God was too poverty stricken to pay even a 1/2 shekel
    5. Jesus takes care of Peter’s Tax - Jesus healed Peter’s Mother-in-law. Helped him to catch fish. Enabled him to walk on water. Will later heal Malchus ear & deliver him from prison.
      1. ​​​​​​​Maybe that’s why later Peter could say, Cast all your cares/worries on Him for He cares/is concerned for you.
    6. An Amazing Miracle - Someone had to lose a coin in the water. This specific fish had to pick it up. Had to hold it in his mouth & not swallow it. Then bite specifically Peter’s hook (w/this impediment in its mouth). And allow himself to be landed/caught.
      1. ​​​​​​​This is too complex for an accident & too difficult for human arrangement.
    7. Question: Does the bible say that Peter found a coin in a fishes mouth to pay the Temple Tax? No. (there is no vs.28)
      1. It is the only miracle that doesn’t have the results recorded.
      2. How do we know the miracle took place? Because Jesus said it would!
        1. Solomon said, There has not failed one word of all His good promise. 1Kgs8:56
        2. We concur w/Joshua when he said, Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed. Joshua 23:14
        3. 2 Cor.1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Matthew 17". "Bell's Commentary". 2017.