What does Matthew 17 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
The previous chapter concluded with a prediction: some of those with Jesus would not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom. That is what happens six days later when Jesus selects Peter, James, and John to climb a high mountain with Him. Once there, they see Jesus transfigured into His glorious reality, His face shining like the sun and His clothes gleaming white as light. Not only that, but the three disciples also see Moses and Elijah, long gone from the earth, standing and talking with Jesus (Matthew 17:1–3).

Peter, ever eager to act, feels the need to say something in response to wonder. In awestruck haste, he blunders by offering to build three tents, one for each of these figures. That suggestion is literally interrupted by a voice from heaven. God the Father arrives in a bright cloud and describes Himself as being well-pleased with Jesus, His beloved Son. He commands the disciples to listen to Jesus. They fall to their faces in terror. When they look up again, all has returned to normal. Jesus commands them to tell nobody about this until after His resurrection and then answers a question about Elijah (Matthew 17:4–13).

The three return to the base of the mountain to find the remaining nine disciples in a crowd of people. A man kneels before Jesus and asks Him to have mercy on his son. The boy has seizures, caused by a demon, that make him fall into fire and water to hurt himself. This detail distinguishes the condition from something natural like epilepsy. The man tells Jesus the disciples could not heal the boy (Matthew 17:14–16).

Jesus responds with exasperation. The same men who He'd earlier empowered to perform such tasks (Matthew 10:5–8) seem to be doubting their mission. He asks how long He will have to put up with this faithless and twisted generation. He rebukes the demon and the boy is healed. When asked by the disciples why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus says it is because of their little faith. With even a mustard seed-sized faith, nothing will be impossible for them (Matthew 17:17–21).

Jesus tells the disciples, once again, about His impending death (Matthew 16:21). He will be betrayed and handed over to those who will murder Him (Matthew 17:22–23).

Back in Jesus' adopted hometown of Capernaum (Matthew 4:13), collectors of the annual two-drachma, half-shekel temple tax approach Peter. They ask "if" Jesus will pay the sum required of every Jewish man 20 years and older. Most likely, they are not really wondering, but are there to collect the payment. Peter says yes, Jesus will pay it (Matthew 17:24–25).

Before Peter can bring this up to Him, Jesus explains that, as the Son of God, He is exempt from the tax. However, Jesus agrees to pay the tax to avoid giving offense over the issue. He commands Peter to get the money for the tax by catching a fish in the Sea of Galilee. Peter will find a shekel coin in the mouth of the first fish he catches. He should use that coin to pay the tax for both himself and for Jesus (Matthew 17:26–27).
Verse Context:
Matthew 17:1–13 follows Jesus' prediction that some of the disciples won't die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28). Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured—radiating the glory of God––while talking with Moses and Elijah. Peter blunders in his attempt to contribute to the moment. The voice of God the Father identifies Jesus as His Son and commands the disciples to listen to Him. Jesus tells the three not to tell anyone else what they've seen until after He is raised from the dead. He answers their question about a prophecy involving Elijah.
Matthew 17:14–21 finds Jesus and three of the disciples returning from the mountain, to find a crowd gathered around the remaining nine. A desperate father pleads on behalf of his demon-afflicted son who has seizures and often falls into water or fire. The disciples could not cast the demon out (Mark 9:14–29). Jesus, exasperated by the doubt of His disciples, rebukes the demon and heals the boy. When they ask, Jesus tells the disciples their faith was too small to cast out the demon. Even faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain. Verse 21 nearly duplicates Mark 9:29 but is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew.
Matthew 17:22–27 begins with Jesus once again predicting His death at the hands of religious enemies in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21). Collectors of the annual two-drachma temple tax approach Peter and ask if Jesus will pay. Jesus explains to Peter why He is exempt from the tax, but He says that He will pay it to avoid giving offense over the issue. He commands Peter to pay the tax for them both: by catching a fish in which he will find a coin sufficient for the task.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. There, they see Him "transfigured" into a shining, divine form. They also see Christ speaking with Moses and Elijah but are commanded not to speak of this event until later. Jesus heals a demon-afflicted boy after the disciples cannot cast the demon out. Jesus very clearly tells the disciples He will be delivered into the hands of men, killed, and raised on the third day. After explaining why He is exempt from a temple tax, Jesus agrees to pay it and tells Peter to find the money in the mouth of a fish.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 17 begins with the fulfillment of Jesus' prediction at the end of the previous chapter: that some of those present would not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom. Jesus casts out a demon, predicts His death, and commands Peter to pay a temple tax with a coin from the mouth of a fish. This leads Matthew back to extensive records of Jesus' teachings, continuing through chapter 20.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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