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Matthew 17

May 8th, 2011 by Vic

Matthew 17

“Seeing the Kingdom”

May 8, 2011

 

Within the last few months Jesus has fed the multitudes, Peter has walked on the water, Peter has confessed Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus has predicted His own death.  How could Jesus be the Jewish Messiah and die?  That does not make sense.  Have you ever felt like a slow learner?

 

Do you remember the children’s riddle about the frog?  The little frog was in a well 30 foot deep.  Every day he would jump up the side of the well 3 feet and slide back 2.  How many days did it take for the little frog to get out of the well?  The answer was 28 because he would not slide back on the 28th jump.  That seems to be common in life.  We take 3 steps forward and slide back 2.  The disciples had been with Jesus over 2 years, but some of their old ways of thinking took a while to correct.  They thought they understood, then they had questions.

 

At the end of chapter 16, the disciples probably needed some encouragement.  They were wondering if Jesus really was the Messiah.  Why would He have to die?  He did not fit their expectations of what God should be like.  Is Jesus really the Son of God?  When is His kingdom coming into existence?  Could Jesus really be the Messiah?

 

In the sequence of this chapter 17 today, God comes in the form of a cloud and a voice to identify Jesus as His Son.  The 3 disciples get a glimpse of Jesus and the glory of his present kingdom.  But the other disciples had a bad day.  Then Peter lies about paying his taxes.  He is told to go fishing without using his net.  The disciples are learning more than they realize.

17:1-8

Jesus made a deliberate effort to take 3 disciples up a very high mountain to get away from the crowds.  Mt. Hermon is 9200’ above sea level and about 11,000’ above the Jordan River.  It is located 12 miles NE of Caesarea Philippi.  Mount Miron (3,926’) is the highest mountain within Israel between Caesarea Philippi and Capernaum.  It was not a ski resort.

 

In Exodus 24 Moses takes 3 close co-workers (Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu) with him to the mountain where he sees the glory of God and hears the voice of God after 6 days.  Moses received the Word of God on the mount.

 

The word ‘transfigure’ in verse 2 is the word metamorphoo which suggests a change of inmost nature that is outwardly visible.  When your outward appearance and life style displays your inner nature accurately, you have been transformed like a butterfly.  The word conformed suggests the opposite as when your outward appearance does not reveal what is really in your heart.  Jesus was conformed to the image of man but at this event He was transformed.

 

These 3 disciples were seeing the brightness of His glory.  As 16:28 says they were seeing the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.  The English word ‘come’ is used to translate over 30 Greek words.  This is the most frequent (ερχομαι) verb denoting to come or to go with emphasis on the act of arrival or leaving.  It means to make an appearance, to become known, to find a place of influence.

 

His face shone like the sun.  It was a different kind of shining.  It came from the inside.  It changed the color of His clothes.

 

How did the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah?  Luke tells us they were talking with Jesus, discussing His death (exodus).

 

Hebrews 1:1 says in times past God spoke through the Law and the prophets and in these last days has spoken through His Son.  Moses and Elijah represent the OT law and the prophets.  Both were men of God in times of transition and they have come to confirm the greatness of Jesus the Christ.  They appear again as 2 witnesses before Jesus 2nd coming in Revelation 11.  Jesus is God’s final revelation.  He is God’s final Word.

 

Peter did not understand.  He saw 3 great men, but he saw them as equals.  However, Jesus is more than another great prophet.  Peter felt he had to do something.  Peter may have thought he was honoring Jesus by making Him an equal with Moses and Elijah, but God was quick to correct him.  It is all about Jesus.  Don’t worship the shadows of the OT rituals.  They all point to Jesus.  In these last days God has sent His Son.  Peter’s ramblings were interrupted by God.  Sometimes it is better to be still and think on these things rather than ‘do something’.

 

Despite the shocking statement in which Jesus predicted His imminent death just a few days earlier, God claims Jesus as Son.  Here is the only time in Jesus’ ministry where a veil is taken away and Jesus’ glory is clearly seen.  The kingdom has come and is at hand.  Jesus is the Messiah despite His coming death.

 

The presence of God appeared as a cloud.  The voice is saying, “shut up and listen.”  This is not about the OT law or the power of the prophets.  God does not even give Moses and Elijah a courteous greeting.  He does not say, “Listen to what these great men are telling you.”  Your focus is to be on Jesus.  It was a good time to fear and worship.

 

I heard a story about a company advertizing for a telegraph operator.   This one fellow went in to apply for the job and 3 or 4 other people were in the lobby filling out applications.  There was a box of applications with written instructions to fill out the form and leave it in the marked box.  This fellow took a form, sat down, and started to fill out his form.  Then he got up, took his blank form and walked directly into the door marked ‘office’.  The others sitting there were shocked at this fellow’s boldness.  A little while later, he came out with the boss who was shaking his hand and welcoming him to the new job.  After he left, the boss explained that all the while they were filling out the forms, he was keying out on his telegraph, “Anyone who wants the job, bring your form and come right into my office.”

 

God is speaking to us.  Do we understand?  Have we practiced listening to His word?

 

After their time of worship they saw no one but Jesus.  What if Moses and Elijah had come down the mountain with Jesus and the disciples?  When Moses came down the mountain he found the golden calf and commanded the priests to kill 3000 idol worshipers.  When Elijah came down the mountain he killed 450 priests of Baal.  There would have been some angry preaching and some fiery judgment if Moses and Elijah had come down the mountain with Peter, James, and John.  But only Jesus came down with the disciples and we receive love and compassion.  He is patient with the unbelieving disciples and heals a possessed child.  He tells them to tell no one about this mountain experience until after the resurrection.

 

17:9-13

The disciples were not stupid.  They knew the Scripture.  They had not been taught that the Messiah was to suffer and die.  They asked a wise question.  Didn’t the Scriptures say that Elijah would precede the Messiah and restore all things and bring about a state of justice and true worship?  If that were so, how could it be that the Messiah would be killed in a restored and perfect world of justice?

 

Jesus replied, “You’re right.  The Scripture does say Elijah comes and will restore all things.”  “And I tell you Elijah has come.  But the restoration of all things that Elijah brought was not physical or political; it was a call to repentance.  John the Baptist fulfilled his mission, but he was killed doing it.  In the same way I’m going to suffer and die.  The Jewish leaders did not recognize John and they have not recognized Me.”

 

The disciples now accepted that John was the promised Elijah.  But it will take them time to process it all.  They couldn’t connect their expectations of an Elijah with John’s beheading.

 

A crucified Messiah is still an intolerable contradiction for them too.  After the resurrection it becomes very clear and the high point of their belief in God’s promises to Israel and all the nations of the world.

 

17:14-21

The word used for the disease of the boy is literally ‘moonstruck’, demon possessed.  These people believed that if you slept outside during a full moon you were vulnerable to demon possession.

 

The disciples assumed they could heal the boy.  They had faith to believe that they could do it, but they were not able.  Jesus had given them power to heal and exorcise demons.  They had faith they could do it so why couldn’t they?  That question comes in verse 19.

 

First Jesus rebukes the crowd.  They failed to recognize the truth from the evidence they were given.  The unbelief of the crowd seems to have affected the disciples.  Jesus says, “Bring the boy to Me.”  That’s still the answer to our problems today.  Seek the Lord and pray.

 

The disciples ask Jesus privately regarding their inability.  They were embarrassed by their failure.  Their confidence was shaken.  Jesus said it was their poverty of faith.  The size of your faith is not the issue.  Faith by its very nature is like a mustard seed that has great power.  With the smallest conceivable amount of faith, the possibilities are limitless.  But poor faith is ineffective.  Their faith was shoddy.  Their faith was in their ability.  They had healed people like this before.  They could do it again.

 

They had been exorcising demons for quite a while.  Now they are surprised by their failure.  They had begun to treat the authority given to them like a gift of magic.  They needed to recognize the importance of their relationship to Christ.  Healing requires faith, but faith cannot demand healing.  With faith all things are possible, but only within the sovereign will of God.

 

17:22-27

Again Jesus predicts His death right after a demonstration of His authority.  The disciples are trying to process the announcement of His death, but they have no comprehension of His resurrection.  They could have been looking forward to a celebration.  They could have planned to hide for 3 days while Jesus was in the grave then meet Him for a great celebration.  They did not understand.

 

The Jews levied a tax on every male Jew between the ages of 20 & 50 to support the temple and its services.  Both Jesus and Peter were from this area.  The tax was equivalent to 2 days wages.

 

Peter answers, “Yes, we pay our taxes,” but he hadn’t paid them.  Maybe these tax collectors were hoping Jesus would refuse to pay the tax so they could accuse Him.  After the disciples get home Jesus talks to Peter.  He calls him Simon, his old name.  What are you thinking?  What do these events mean?  What is God doing?  After a brief teaching, Jesus sends Peter out to go fishing with a hook and not his usual net.  Real men fish with nets.  City slickers use hooks.  Fishing with a hook is really inefficient.  You can only catch one at a time.

 

Verse 24 refers to the temple tax and verse 25 is a parable about a government tax.  The point is that, just as royal sons are exempt from the taxes imposed by their fathers so too Jesus is exempt from the temple tax imposed by his Father.  Jesus is acknowledging that the temple tax is an obligation from God.  The children are free.  The disciples of Jesus are not obligated to pay taxes to God.

 

They have a right not to pay taxes, but in order to avoid unnecessary offense Jesus wants Peter to pay the tax.  Although God does not require it, don’t cause unnecessary offense.  This is real freedom.  Christianity and good citizenship go hand in hand.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.

 

Jesus was declared the Son of God.  He who has power to control nature came as a humble servant that does not want to cause offence.  Jesus was not seeking wealth and power.  If Jesus could predict when you will find a coin in a fish’s mouth, He could predict the stock market and you could be really rich and respected.

 

All this is written that you may know that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.

 

Even in the church we must remember its all about Jesus.  While some preachers focus on the law and judgment, others focus on miracles and great spiritual experiences.  But only Jesus came down the mountain with the disciples to demonstrate that relationships are more important than power, popularity, and programs.  There will be a time to be bold and a time to avoid offense.

 

After the disciples spent some time on their knees, they saw Jesus only.

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