For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 27, 2006
This chapter begins with the story of the Transfiguration. I have often wondered why Jesus did this. Was it just to confirm His deity with His three core disciples? Or did He want to talk with Moses and Elijah? How did the disciples know they were looking at Moses and Elijah? Did Jesus mention them by name when He spoke to them? Anyway, the fact is that it happened. Jesus’ appearance changed to something similar to what He had looked like for all of eternity, or at least a lot closer than He looked to people around Him. He talked with Elijah and Moses. I think another account says they were talking about His coming death, but Matthew does not tell.
After they came down from the mountain, they were confronted with a serious problem: a young man possessed by a demon. When his father could not find Jesus, he came to His disciples at the bottom of the hill. They tried to cast out the demon, but could not. After Jesus cast the demon out, the disciples asked why they were unable to. Jesus said,
"Because of your little faith. For truly I say unto 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 shall be impossible to you." (17:20, ESV)
I have a hard time understanding this passage. Jesus says very plainly that nothing shall be impossible, yet we encounter failure in our lives all the time. Paul even writes about friends who were near death and he was unable to do anything for them. It is clear that Jesus is using hyperbole. It is not because of a lack of faith that I'm not the radio voice of the Cardinals or an Oscar-winning movie director. Not that I have a great deal of faith, because I don't, but to take the passage literally, like some charismatic teachers do, is to do injustice to the Bible and to sincere people.
The last section of this chapter tells the story of the temple tax. As a rabbi, Jesus should have been exempt from the tax, but apparently the tax collector was pretty insistent, and Peter said he would pay the tax. Of course Jesus solved the problem by providing the money in a fish's mouth. This story teaches us that Jesus is concerned about the small things in our life and He has the resources to provide our needs.