“He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'”
– Matthew 17:5
We have already discussed how Jesus is both fully God and fully man. We also see in passages such as that Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of man so that he could bring us into complete union with him. In Matthew 17, we see the most amazing spectacle of his glory and we see his humble submission to the ways and laws of human life.
Jesus brings his three closest disciples with him to a mountain. As they ascend the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, or transformed, into a radiant light. The glory of God shone through Jesus and his disciples probably shielded their eyes because of the sight. Suddenly, Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the Prophets, appear on the mountain with Jesus. Peter suggests building tents for each of them on the mountain, but Peter draws away from the uniqueness of Christ. The point was not to honor Moses and Elijah, but to behold the radiance of Christ. God’s voice, reminding us of the time when God spoke at Jesus’ baptism, draws Peter’s attention back to Christ. They response God desires is for Christ’s followers to listen to him.
You can imagine that after such an experience, you would be a bit shaken up as well. The transfiguration confirmed, beyond any doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus instructed the disciples not to tell anyone of what they saw until he was raised from the dead. The purpose of the transfiguration was so that his disciples would have eyewitness evidence of Jesus’ divinity. Peter recounts the event in .
Despite what they just beheld, the disciples ask Jesus why the religious teachers said that Elijah must come first before the Messiah. They are referring to which says that Elijah will come before the great day of the Lord. Elijah himself may not have literally returned before Jesus entered his ministry, but John the Baptist was the Elijah before the Messiah. John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ, but many did not recognize him as Elijah. Instead, they did with Elijah as they wished, even beheading him because of a foolish oath. Jesus says that he will also suffer at the hands of those who killed John the Baptist.
Before commenting on , it is important to note that the text is not saying that all seizures are the result of demon-possession. All it says is that this specific demon caused seizures in the boy. There are also various medical reasons why someone may experience seizures.
When the man comes and begs Jesus to help his son, he tells Jesus that his disciples were not able to cast out the demon. This is interesting because we know that the disciples had been given authority to cast out demons and had done it before (). The reason the disciples were not able to cast out this demon was because the disciples had little faith. This may not necessarily be the quantity of their faith, but the quality of their faith. Jesus said that even with the smallest faith, nothing is impossible. When Jesus says that we can move mountains, he does not mean that we can literally pick up mountains and move them from one place to another, but we have the power to deal with seemingly mountain-sized challenges. It is nothing about our own power, but the power of him who we have faith in.
Jesus again tells his disciples that he would soon die and be raised to life. The disciples were distressed because of what Jesus said. They did not want their rabbi to die! The disciples, however, missed the key point to what he said – yes, he would die, but the good news was that he would be raised to life again. Unperceptive to this, the disciples were distressed.
The temple tax was an annual tax for all Jewish men over the age of 20 to help support the costs of operating the temple. At the end of , Jesus asks Peter if the children of kings need to pay tax. The answer is, of course, that they do not need to pay tax, but others do. Jesus is showing that those who are children of the Father have no need to pay any sort of temple tax, but despite this freedom, Jesus encourages Peter to pay the temple tax so that others may not be offended by this freedom. Jesus provides the money that is needed to pay the temple tax for Peter and himself in the form of a fish with a shekel in its mouth. Jesus emphasizes that, although there are freedoms associated with being children of God, we still have an outward, moral obligation.