Matthew 17

Matthew 17

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 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.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

The Temple Tax

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”


Matthew 17 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The half-shekel tax was equivalent to about 2 days of wages. It was collected annually from every male Jew above the age of 20. This was required for the upkeep of the temple. It was a tradition that kings did not require their sons to pay taxes. In this sense, Jesus was technically exempt, because His Father, God, owned the temple.

This is a very strange story. Matthew records the irony of Jesus’ ownership of the temple, but also the willingness of Jesus to pay the tax so that the tax collectors would not stumble. The text reads “so that we do not offend them,” but that’s a tricky translation for the way our culture thinks about offending others. The literal meaning is ‘stumble’ or ‘scandalize.’ It’s more accurate that Jesus did not want to make a big deal out of something that would only cause division.

Jesus did scandalize and offend the Pharisees but His issues with them came over Kingdom matters that dealt with the heart. Here, it seems people are questioning His attitude within customary practices and, even though they are ignorant, Jesus decides it’s not worth the fight. This lesson alone is a hidden gem.

These days I hear a lot of Christians talking about their rights. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that our nation has decided to allow churches and ministries to have rights. But just because we have a right does not mean God always gives us the green light to exercise that right. In our westernized culture, we are the exception to the rule. The early church didn’t have religious rights as we know them today. They risked their lives gathering together and preaching the Gospel. It takes more faith to forego your “rights” and trust that God will sustain you than to trust in the protection of state or federal laws.

In this specific case, Jesus decided that preserving the weak faith of others was more important than His own rights.

A Fish Tale

The most peculiar part of the story comes with the instructions given to Peter to throw out a hook and catch a fish which will contain the coin needed to pay the tax. Was it a faith test for Peter? Was it sending a message that Jesus would not pay from His own money since He was God’s Son? Was it illustrating that the disciples had no money, so they had to get it from God alone? We don’t know for sure, because Matthew doesn’t tell us. In fact, he doesn’t even record if Peter actually went and completed this task.

I believe he did. Peter was a professional fisherman who used nets to catch fish in large numbers. It would have been extremely humbling for him to have to use a hook and line, and he probably hoped none of his colleagues saw him out there trying to catch one fish at a time. There are many different applications we can take from this passage, but as is the case with many stories in Scripture, we should be in awe of the power and knowledge of Christ above all else. If we stick close to Him, we will always have what we need each day.

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