Matthew Chapter 17 Transfiguration

Outline of Chapter 17

  1. The transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9),
  2. Elijah (Matthew 17:10-13),
  3. Healing the demon possessed boy (Matthew 17:14-21),
  4. Jesus predicts his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23),
  5. Taxes and the miracle fish (Matthew 17:24-27).


  1. The transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). This event confirmed 1. Jesus as Messiah and God, 2. the connection between the Old Testament predicted kingdom and the Kingdom Jesus taught—they are the same, 3. the kingdom is still future, 4. Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    • This is six days after Jesus predicted his arrest, death, resurrection, and coming in the glory of his father (16:21-28). Luke 9:28 has eight days. Matthew mentions the six complete days while Luke records the first and last days also. Tradition says the mountain was probably Mt Hermon (9100 feet above the Mediterranean) or Tabor or Meron (3963 feet).
    • In verse 2, Jesus was transfigured. The Greek word is metemorphothe (aorist passive indicative). He was changed. God’s glory revealed itself in him. Revelation 1:12-16 and Daniel 7:13-14 indicate the glory of the Messiah. Compare Exodus 34:29-20 where it is recorded that when Moses came down from Sinai with the two tables of stone his face shone from being with the Lord God.
    • In verses 3-4 Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus. Both had great respect in the Jewish community. Moses was the leader of the exodus and the law giver. Elijah was a great prophet who served in a time of blatant Jewish apostasy. Moses died, but his body was hidden by God. Elijah was taken to heaven without dying. Peter wanted to make a memorial to this great event.
    • God the father, in verse 5, spoke out of a bright cloud. This was the way he appeared to Moses and the Israelites. Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10; 19:16 and others say the Lord was in the cloud. God was present with them. God the Father was present with them during the transfiguration.  The father said that Jesus was his beloved and well-pleased son. The disciples were to listen to him—hear what he says. God the Father is here again (Matthew 3:17 at Jesus water baptism) saying that Jesus is God and Messiah and the Son of God. What Jesus says is important. Listen to him. Jesus was the ultimate prophet who would be like Moses as Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, and 19 says. Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35 all record God’s statement that Jesus is his son and the disciples are to listen to him.
    • Note the disciples’ response to God the Father speaking to them. They were terrified and fell to the ground. This was not a common occurrence, but it was real and it affected the disciples.
    • Jesus then told them not to be afraid. How could anyone not be afraid? God had spoken to them. Jesus comforted and encouraged them.
    • We can trace God’s glory through the Scripture. Right now his glory is in each believer through the Holy Spirit.
      • Second Corinthians 3 teaches us about God’s glory in us through the Holy Spirit and this is compared to the glory that Moses saw and reflected at Sinai. Paul contrasts the glory from the new covenant accomplished by Jesus with the glory of the old covenant accomplished by Moses. Our Christian lives are much better than Moses’ life. See especially 2 Corinthians 3:18, we believers with our unveiled faces (no veil like Moses wore) see the Lord’s glory as we hear about him and trust him, just like looking in a mirror (possibly in ourselves and each other), and we are being transformed into the new and greater image of glory. We are changed from one level of the experience and demonstration of God’s glory to another level, just as Moses had a level or amount of glory from the Lord and we have greater glory from the Holy Spirit in us. The point seems to be that we believers possess inside of us a much greater glory than Moses experienced. And our glory comes from the Holy Spirit living inside each of us. And this glory changes us to be more like the glory of God.
  2. The disciples asked about Elijah. Why did the prophets say that he must come (Matthew 17:10-13)?
    • Elijah must come to announce and preview the coming kingdom. Malachi 4:5 predicted this. Luke 1:17 predicted that John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. John the Baptist could have been that announcer, the Elijah person (Matthew 11:13-14), but the people rejected him and his ministry and eventually Herod killed him (Matthew 14). So, John was not the Elijah to come. Elijah or another Elijah like person will come before the kingdom begins (Matthew 17:11).
    • Jesus says clearly that he will suffer the same fate. He will die (Matthew 17:12 and Matthew 20:28).
  3. Jesus now heals and demon possessed boy whom the disciples were unable to heal because of their doubt and cynicism (Matthew 17:14-21).
    • Jesus has proved that he is God’s son, the messiah, by his miracles, by his messages, and by God the Father’s statements. In this incident, a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing because his disciples were unable to cast out the demon. Jesus addresses the entire generation (Matthew 17:17) because all they want is to have a personal miracle. They miss by choice the great chance to receive the messiah. He also reminds the disciples that their faith is very weak. They still are not completely convinced—mentally and emotionally and volitionally—that he is the long looked for messiah.
    • The disciples had an opportunity to do great thing as his disciples. The case in point was the demonized boy. Their faith was not up to it. In fact, they doubted that they could perform this miracle more than they believed they could do it. The moving mountains part (Matthew 17:20) is probably literal. In their ministry as his disciples, they were enabled to do many things, but they must believe him for success, and in that they failed.
  4. Jesus predicts his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23). Jesus clearly says this to prepare his disciples. Note how the purpose for his incarnation has become more and more clear. Jesus is preparing the disciples for action. They resist him. He often prepares us by teaching, by events in our lives, and we often resist him and therefore fail to realize the blessings of faith and service. Let’s not be like the disciples.
  5. Taxes and the miracle fish (Matthew 17:24-27). The point of this paragraph is not to teach about taxes. We are to pay taxes. The Jews had a very heavy tax burden. But Jesus’ point is to drive home his kingship to Peter. He is creator, king of the earth, and God. I am not sure that he succeeded at this point with Peter, due to Peter’s lack of attentiveness to the main message of Jesus.
    • In the Old Testament times the Israelites were to give one-half shekel every year to maintain the sanctuary (Exodus 30:13-15). In Nehemiah’s time an Israelite was to give one-third of a shekel to maintain the temple (Nehemiah 10:32). Every male Jew between 20 and 50 years old was to pay this to maintain the temple and temple service. Since there was no two drachma coin circulating at that time, two people would go together and pay one shekel (Carson, Matthew, 393, and Josephus Antiquities 3.8.2 and 18.9.1).
    • One shekel (Matthew 17:27) equals a silver coin or four drachmas. One drachma is a day’s wage. Two drachmas (Matthew 17:24) equal one-half stater or one-half shekel. Each person was to pay two drachmas or one-half shekel.
    • Jesus asked Peter who pays the tax, the son of the king or the populace. The son of the king does not pay because his father is the ruler and the father has authority over everything (Matthew 17:25). Peter answered correctly. The son does not pay (Matthew 17:26).
    • In verse 27, Jesus says, however. That means that Peter is right. And since Jesus is the son of God, he does not need to pay. I am not sure Peter got this point. Jesus did not want to offend the tax collectors so he told Peter to go fishing. Peter would fine a shekel in the fish. That would pay for the tax for both Jesus and Peter.
  6. Some lessons or so whats from chapter 17.
    • We have more evidence that Jesus is the son of God, the messiah, and we ought to listen to him when he speaks.
    • The Old Testament kingdom was confirmed as the same kingdom Jesus that Jesus offered, and it is yet future to the transfiguration event.
    • In the Old Testament times God’s glory was evident in physical and visible ways. In the church God’s glory lives inside each believer and this glory can become more evident in our lives and the Holy Spirit works in us to make us more like Jesus Christ. At this point can you recall the four verses in the doctrine of Christ-likeness?
    • Jesus the messiah predicted his arrest, death, and resurrection many times. He knew. He told the disciples. They were not so sure even in the face of all the evidence. Their faith was not very strong.
    • God wants believers to believe him. We may not be allowed to move mountains as the disciples were allowed to do, but our faith please God.
    • We ought not to miss the demonstrations of who Jesus is and what he wants to do in our lives. He wants us to learn to reverence him, to believe him, to serve him. He is creator, king, savior, and son of God. He has accepted us into relationship and fellowship with him.