What does Matthew 17:6 mean?
ESV: When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
NIV: When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.
NASB: When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.
CSB: When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown and were terrified.
NLT: The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.
KJV: And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
The response of the disciples is familiar and reasonable. Overshadowed by the presence of God the Father, seeing figures like Moses and Elijah, and spoken to by the voice of God the Father, they are terrified. They fall on their faces, which is both a common expression of both terror and one of reverence. This is an entirely natural and completely appropriate response to any encounter with God.
Prior to this, Peter seems to have understood on an intellectual level that Jesus was the Son of the living God. He had said so in response to Jesus' earlier question (Matthew 16:13–16). Twice since then, however, Peter had shown that he did not yet fully understand that being the Son of the living God meant that Jesus was God. Otherwise, Peter would not have rebuked Jesus when Jesus said that He must suffer and die before being raised on the third day (Matthew 16:21–23). Peter would certainly not have suggested worshipping Jesus alongside Moses and Elijah on the mountain (Matthew 17:1–5).
Peter will eventually come to understand that his natural response to God the Father, falling on his face in fear, is also an appropriate response to God the Son, Jesus. This is the same man who had declared a week earlier that He would come in judgment with His angels and the glory of the Father when He returns to earth (Matthew 16:27).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Accessed 11/30/2023 6:25:38 AM
© Copyright 2002-2023 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.