The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 17

Mat 17:1

See 2Pe 1:15-18: Peter and the others were eyewitnesses of Christ's majesty (cp also Jam 2:1; Joh 1:14; 1Jo 3:2).

SIX DAYS: Cp Mar 9:2; given as 8 days in Luk 9:28. Perhaps Luke counted beginning and ending days, whereas Matthew and Mark did not (WS 243).

A MOUNTAIN: Climbing the mountain: a parable of our journey to the Kingdom. Poss site: Mt Nebo, where Moses died (Deu 34:1-5) and Elijah ascended (2Ki 2:5,8,11).

Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Mat 17:3

TALKING WITH JESUS: About his "exodus" (Luk 9:31).

Mat 17:4

SHELTERS: "Booths" (RSV); "tabernacles" (KJV).

Mat 17:5

A BRIGHT CLOUD: Like the Shekinah Glory of the Presence of God in the wilderness.

THIS IS MY SON: God's Son: Mat 3:17; Mark 9:7; Luk 3:22. He came from God: Joh 8:42; 13:3; 16:27,28. God speaks through His Son: Joh 3:34; 12:49,50; Heb 1:1,2; 2:3.

Mat 17:7

JESUS CAME AND TOUCHED THEM: All the occasions of Jesus touching, or being touched, in the context of healing (notice that not one of them is in John's gospel): Mat 8:3,15; 9:20,21,29; 14:36; 17:7; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27,28,30,31; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22; 10:13; Luk 5:13; 6:19; 7:14,39; 8:44-47; 18:15; 22:51.

Mat 17:9

DON'T TELL ANYONE: Silence was his settled policy for most of his ministry (Mat 9:30; 17:9; 12:16; Mar 1:34; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; Luk 5:14), with one notable exception (Mar 5:19 -- Legion with his family). But in last days of ministry, a change of course (Mat 21:1-11; Joh 7:37; 9:3; 11:4).

Mat 17:12

BUT HAVE DONE WITH HIM EVERYTHING THEY WISHED: Ref the scribes of v 10, who plotted with Herodias to kill John the Baptist.

Mat 17:14

Vv 14-21: Power of faith and intercession of others: Mat 8:13; 9:32; 15:28; 17:14-18; Luk 8:50; Joh 4:49; Jos 6:17; Gen 7:1; 18:32; 19:12; Act 27:24.

Mat 17:15

"Demoniacs" suffered from: blindness, dumbness (Mat 12:22; Luk 11:14), insanity, schizophrenia (Mar 3:21; 5:1-5; Joh 10:20), epilepsy (Mar 9:17-27), and arthritis (Luk 13:11-17).

Mat 17:16

Cp 2Ki 4:29-37: a child is healed by the prophets, but his disciples (ie Gehazi) are impotent.

Mat 17:17

O UNBELIEVING AND PERVERSE GENERATION: Christ speaks to the whole nation, represented by this one man.

Mat 17:20

Cp with Luk 1:37: Nothing is impossible with God.

"Faith is trust in God, and this implies knowledge of God's will. A faith to achieve what is not in the will of God is both fruitless and futile. But living faith, in harmony with God's will, is, Jesus teaches, charged with power of accomplishment. Jesus gave the same illustration of faith's power when the disciples had expressed surprise that the fig tree had withered away (Mat 21:21). On another occasion (Luk 17:7) he used the rooting up of a sycamore tree instead of moving a mountain, as a figure of difficulty. He had been speaking of forgiveness to an unlimited number of occasions on repentance; and as the disciples regarded this as difficult to perform, they begged of him, 'Lord, increase our faith.' This was answered by the reference to faith as a grain of mustard seed. A living seed has power -- that power is the expression of its life and is comparable to the power of faith in man. The spirit that forgives is the expression of the living faith of the disciples of Christ" (PM 124,125).

FAITH AS SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED: A woman who was known for her deep trust and calmness of soul was asked by a person who wanted to learn her secret, "Are you the woman with the great faith?" "No," she replied, "I am the woman with the little faith in the great God!"

YOU CAN SAY TO THIS MOUNTAIN, 'MOVE...': Here, I think, the "all things" needs to be limited to "all things which are in accordance with the will of the Father", or "all things which are for your ultimate benefit". We are like little children; if we somehow were given 'carte blanche' to have anything and everything WE want, then there would be no end to the damage we could do to ourselves and others. We need to be protected from ourselves. A loving Father would never give us the keys to the "candy store", and then leave us alone to gorge ourselves.

But... "all things" which work together for our ultimate salvation? Yes, of course, He will give us that. Consider Rom 8: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us ALL THINGS? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This passage puts the same point both positively and negatively: firstly, God will give us "all things" that will help us, to the utmost of His power, to attain to lasting faith, true forgiveness of sins, and a place in His kingdom. And thus we are assured that "nothing" (not even death itself, or terrible persecutions or trials) will keep us from the love of God in Christ, and a place in that Kingdom.

Having said that, I might add -- yes, in fact, even the greatest "mountain" will be moved, if we ask it. First of all, the asking ought to be in keeping with the will of God. And secondly, Jesus didn't state limitations as to TIME! One day, when Christ returns, the whole world will be "torn down" and "rebuilt" in a new and glorious "creation", and every "mountain" (all the kingdoms, creations, wealth, and power of sinful man) will be brought low! It WILL happen. And we will be there to see it if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and if we pray for that day to come.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the "mountains" moved (Rev 6:14)! Maybe I'll move a few myself... if Christ asks me to do so!

Is it possible that the greatest "mountain" is (and was) the "great stone" which sealed shut the tomb of Jesus (Mat 28:2-4; Mar 16:4; Luk 24:2; Joh 20:1)? And this mountain has already been moved!

Or, alternatively, "this mountain" = the Mount of Transfiguration, and "there" = Jerusalem; thus, 'the Glory of the Father, in me, will yet be seen in the Temple" -- ie, the Kingdom of God will come (WEnj 130)

V 21: PRAYER AND FASTING: Fasting gets a kind of negative "press", I think, because (1) we don't care too much about doing it, generally, and (2) it was one of the evidences of great zeal and righteousness, with which the Pharisees preened themselves -- and we don't want to appear self-righteous, do we?

The Jews fasted and "afflicted their souls" when they were engaged in special prayers, for themselves and the nation, on the Day of Atonement. It would appear, therefore, that fasting was intended to help the mind focus, and thus enhance the effect of prayer. So it sounds like Jesus is saying, "This was an especially difficult case, and you needed to concentrate especially hard on your prayers for this healing."

Mat 17:24

THE TEMPLE TAX: Cp Exo 30:11-16. What else came out of the fish? Jonah: the sign of the third day (v 23). The token of the Atonement.

Mat 17:27

OPEN ITS MOUTH AND YOU WILL FIND A FOUR-DRACHMA COIN: Redemption comes out of the mouth of the great fish! Jonah (Mat 16:4; 17:23).

MY TAX AND YOURS: Christ is also in need of redemption.

MY TAX: Nevertheless, a great difference in perception between Jesus and the others.

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