04 February 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 17

About a week after the events in last week’s study, Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountain. While Jesus is praying there, He is transfigured. Jesus’ face shines like the sun, and His clothes becomes bright white. This was a glimpse of Christ’s radiance and glory.

Then Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. They discuss Jesus’ upcoming exodus when He will deliver His people from the slavery of sin. Why Moses and Elijah? Moses represents the law in the Old Testament, and Elijah represents the prophets in the Old Testament. Together, Moses and Elijah confirm that Jesus was the fulfillment of everything spoken in the law and through the prophets.

Peter is so enamored with the situation that he asks if he can build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He wants to stay in Jesus’ presence. Then a bright cloud appears. It is the glory of God. God speaks from the cloud. He recognizes Jesus as His Son and instructs the disciples to listen to Him.

God also commands us to listen to His Son – through Scripture, through prayer, through His Words spoken by other people, etc. We must be still before the Lord so we can hear His voice because listening to God requires me to be silent.

The disciples move from this mountaintop experience to a spiritual challenge. When they descend the mountain, a father kneels before Jesus and asks Him to heal his demon-possessed son. The man says the other nine disciples were not able to heal the boy, even though they had the power and authority to do so. Jesus says it is because they had such little faith. Jesus heals the boy Himself.

Next Jesus again predicts His death. This time the disciples are filled with grief – an overwhelming and deep sadness. They should have focused on the promised resurrection instead of only on Jesus’ death.

After this, tax collectors approach Peter and ask him if Jesus pays the temple tax. Peter rushed to a conclusion and said Jesus does pay the tax. Temple tax was atonement money and paid for the people’s ransom. It was used to maintain the temple. Paying the tax showed that the Israelites belonged to God and needed to be redeemed by a sacrifice. Old, young, rich, poor paid same amount.
Jesus did not need to pay the temple tax. His Father owned the temple, and Jesus Himself was the ultimate payment. But after Peter’s conversation with the tax collectors, Jesus set aside His own rights and paid the tax so He didn’t offend others.

Jesus didn’t simply give money to Peter to pay the tax. Instead He tells Peter to go fishing. The first fish he catches will have enough money to pay his tax as well as Jesus’ tax. This miracle displays the sovereignty of God: a coin is dropped in the water, the fish scoops up the coin without swallowing it, Peter catches the fish with a line instead of a net and Peter pays the correct amount for the temple tax.

Jesus provides exactly what we need, when we need it.

Things to Think About
  • When God quieted Peter, he got a glimpse of God’s power, presence and plan. How often am I silent in my prayer time? Am I doing all of the talking and none of the listening?
  • Do I ask God to transform me into Christ’s likeness?
  • Small faith can do impossible things because of God’s great power.
  • It’s not about the quantity of our faith; it’s about the quality of our faith. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.