This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
Jesus had just gotten through saying, in the previous verse, Matthew 16:28: "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." HOW did these three disciples see Jesus coming?
Greetings, friends around the world!
Once again, this is Roderick C. Meredith, bringing you a commentary on the book of Matthew. We have been going through this series for quite some weeks now and I hope that you will be able to understand this book a lot better. We are going in detail, covering nearly every verse of the book of Matthew and opening up your understanding to the real meaning. I hope you will follow me in your Bibles. As I tell you each time, please go get your Bible. Open your Bible, think it through, notice carefully and PROVE these things to yourself. You may be amazed, frankly, about what the Bible really says.
We left off after finishing Matthew 16 last time. Let's begin Matthew 17:1.
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.
Why did He do this? Jesus had just gotten through saying, in the previous verse, Matthew 16:28: "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." HOW did these three disciples see Jesus coming? Jesus took them up here in what was, plainly, a vision. He showed them the glory and the power of the coming Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is not some feeling set up in your heart. It is not an emotion. It is not a warm feeling like John Wesley felt that night in his church there in London, England. It is not that at all. It is a coming government. Kingdom means government. God is going to set up a government on this earth, with Jesus Christ as King of kings. Christ is going to be glorified when He comes back as King of kings, and His risen saints are going to be glorified also.
He was "transfigured." We know what "trans"-continental means—it means "from one part of the continent to the other" as with a transcontinental airplane flight from New York to Los Angeles. But we are transfigured when we are taken over and "figured" in a different way. So Christ, Moses, and Elijah appeared, in this vision, as they would appear in the Kingdom of God in glory.
And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
Will Christ look like that in the Kingdom of God? Does He look like that now—now that He has been resurrected from the dead? Yes, of course! We see here in Revelation 1:16, speaking of Christ: "He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." That is the way Christ looks now, like the SUN SHINING in FULL strength—that kind of glory and majesty and power. That is awesome!
Think about that! Do you want to look like that someday? It not our goal in this life just to look like that. But on the other hand, that glory and power of God is what Christ looks like—and that is what we are going to look like if we make it into the Kingdom of God. We will have the tremendous opportunity to rule over cities and perhaps even nations. God will give us that kind of glory.
He was transfigured:
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Moses and Elijah were still dead, but in the vision, they were revealed as talking with Jesus.
Then Peter answered and said to Jesus…
Peter was always the leader—the aggressor. He was sometimes presumptuous and made mistakes. But notice, as in verse 1, he was the leader. He is nearly always mentioned first. He was not the "pope" and he was not perfect, but he was nevertheless the leader.
Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
The average Protestant or mainstream Christian would not know what Peter was talking about—"three tabernacles" Yet those who keep God's festivals would understand. The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Kingdom of God, so Peter immediately thought of that.
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" [Here is a powerful voice speaking right out of the sky.] And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. [It was a bright cloud—some great, awesome display of power and heat and intensity like the sun right behind that cloud.] But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision [So, this was a vision, my friends. This verse explains it. It is a vision of the coming glory and power of the Kingdom of God.] to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" [Why is Elijah coming?] Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. [Of course, He is referring to Mal. 4 when that prophecy was made.] But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist came as a type of Elijah. The book of Luke tells us that He came in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was not Elijah, but he was a type of Elijah. At the very time of the end, another man is prophesied to come in the spirit and power of Elijah to witness to the people of the earth and to wake them up and to turn them back to the ways of God, at least in his teaching. All the people of Judah were not converted when John the Baptist was there, but they were convicted, at least, by his teaching. So John was the Elijah of that time.
And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." [So, here Jesus' disciples have tried to pray for this young man, but he was not healed.] Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." And Jesus rebuked the demon…
He just spoke to the demon, not to the young man. Remember, if there is a demon you are not dealing with a person. You are dealing with a fallen spirit that occupies the mind of an individual—which has come into that person's body and controls his mind and his voice. You have to speak to the demon, not to the person.
…and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" [Here were Jesus' disciples, including Peter—who was certainly not an affable pope at that time or any other time.] "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief [They did not have the faith they should have had.]; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
It is awesome to realize there is nothing impossible with God. If we can have real faith in God, even though that faith is small, nothing is impossible. It is hard for us to understand, but most of us in this day and age—cut off from God by an atmosphere of materialism and hedonism, the vain pursuit of pleasure—God is very unreal. Quite often we are not sure of God's promises. We are just not sure. We don't have any amount of faith. We have hope—we sort of "think and wish" things would happen—but we are not really sure. If we just had a little bit of faith many more things would be done.
"However [Jesus said], this [particular] kind [of demon] does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
Some modern translations leave out the word "fasting." The New King James Version has it in, as does the King James Version, but some of the newer Bible versions don't. The main text that the Bible is based upon—which most scholars acknowledge is the full text, the received text, the majority text—has it in. It should be there.
"This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." People don't like to talk about fasting today. But you should learn to pray to God, on your knees, with all your heart. Talk to God while you are on your knees, and perhaps lift up your hands and think of God as "up there"—not just a feeling inside yourself, but the great God sitting at the controls of the universe. And from time to time—perhaps every month or two if you are in good health and can do it—fast. Do with absolutely nothing. The fasts in the Bible were always without food and water. You read several times in the Bible—that they simply did with no food and no water. The Apostle Paul fasted for three days and three nights when he was struck down and blinded. He was trying to get close to God, and he fasted. Such examples are there for us all through the Bible. Moses fasted with neither bread nor water back in Deuteronomy 9:9. Verse 18 tells how he did it again. Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights—a remarkable demonstration of fasting.
"This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting"—humbling yourself before God, realizing how weak you are and how much you NEED God. You do not fast just to make God do something. You fast to humble yourself and to ask God to show you where you are wrong—to draw closer to Him for Him to hear your prayer if it is God's will.
Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up." And they were exceedingly sorrowful. [So, of course, they did not understand that and they were just sorrowful, but they did not really get it—as we will see later.] When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?"
Do we pay various kinds of taxes? We should, in our society today. God tells us to be subject to the authorities. But here was the Son of God—the One to whom the temple was dedicated—He WAS the God of that temple. Why should He have to pay that tax? Frankly, He should not. He was the King of Israel, to whom that temple was dedicated—the God of Israel. He had been their God in the Old Testament as the Logos, the Spokesman who dealt with ancient Israel in place of God the Father. He was the One who led them out of Egypt. He was the One who parted the Red Sea. He was the One who was the Rock of Israel spoken of that way in several places, in Deuteronomy 32 and several other places. Why should He pay that tax?
He said, "Yes." And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him [Christ wondered why Peter said "Yes" as though Christ had to pay that tax. Well, Peter did not understand yet, of course.], saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?" [Does the royal household pay taxes? Not in that kind of absolute monarchy—the princes and the princesses, the royal household, would never pay taxes in an absolute monarchy.] Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. Nevertheless [Notice Jesus' humility. He did not want to offend the others unless they misunderstand Him as the cheapskate or One who did not honor God or the temple.], lest we offend them [We are to try to do everything we can not to offend others.], go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first."
This was amazing, but Christ had perfect faith. He must have asked God the Father to do this. Christ is the One who created the world. He created the fish, so certainly God could do that and did do that. He caused a little fish to swim up and He caused one of the little pieces of money, a stator, to be in that fish's mouth. Perhaps He caused the fish to just dip down and pick it up off the edge of the water, the shallow water, where someone had thrown it or lost it. We don't know how He did it. God does not have a problem doing those things. How BIG is your God?
Before we finish this chapter, in fact, I want to mention a booklet called The Real God. This is a very powerful and very helpful booklet revealing to you that God is the Creator. It answers some of the broad questions about creation versus evolution. It shows you the nature of the real God and the power of that God and gives you proof about that God—the real God. If you would like to understand more about God, contact us and ask for this booklet. It will be sent to you absolutely FREE. The Real God—Proofs and Promises. You will love this booklet. You will receive your copy absolutely free upon your request.
"…take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money [That is amazing. God caused a piece of money to be in that fish's mouth.]; take that and give it to them for Me and you."
So they did pay the tax. But Christ showed Peter, in effect: "I don't really have to pay the tax. I am not going to take my money to pay the tax. But lest we offend them, look what God is going to do to back up My statement that I don't need to pay the tax." He did it that way because Jesus was Immanuel—"God with us."
Next time we will begin Matthew 18. Keep with us in this series and you will learn a lot more. This is Roderick C. Meredith, speaking for the Living Church of God.