The transfiguration is closely linked to Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ in the previous chapter. Now that the Lord had revealed His identity fully to the disciples, He gave them a glimpse of His heavenly glory. But this glory can only be achieved through suffering, and for this reason, the transfiguration story is enveloped by two predictions about the sufferings, death, and resurrection that were waiting for Jesus. After coming down from the mountain, Jesus would go on to Jerusalem to fulfill the work that He came to do.
Did You Know...?
Temple tax (17:24): The didrachmon or 2 drachma piece was used among Jews for the half-shekel required for the annual Temple tax… This regulation derived from the atonement-money prescribed in Ex. 30:11-16, which, according to Maimonides, later developed into a regular annual poll-tax. [ref] All Jewish males over 20 years old paid an annual half-shekel tax (about two days’ wages) to support the temple…In Jesus’ day, the tax was collected a month before Passover…. [ref]
- The Transfiguration (17:1-8)
- John the Baptist as Elijah (17:9-13)
- Healing the Epileptic Child (17:14-21)
- Second Prediction of Death and Resurrection (17:22-23)
- Temple Tax from A Fish (17:24-27)
Who did Jesus bring with Him to go up the mountain? Why these three people?Hide Answer
Peter, James, and John. These three were the Lord’s closest disciples, whom Jesus also brought along to the house of Jairus (Lk 8:51) and into Gethsemane (Mk 14:33). It is most likely that the Lord chose these three to be his closest company and to give them special training because they will be crucial witnesses and workers in the apostolic church after the Lord’s resurrection.
What could be the significance behind the appearance of Moses and Elijah?Hide Answer
Their appearance tells us who Jesus was. Both were great prophets and mighty workers in the Old Testament. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets, both of which Jesus fulfilled (Mt 5:17; 11:12-13). The transfiguration teaches us that Jesus, being greater than Moses and Elijah, was the one all the prophets had been waiting for.
Why was Peter’s comment in verse 4 inappropriate? Recall 16:22,23.Hide Answer
He did not understand that it was the Lord Jesus that they must look to and “hear” (5,8). The appearance of Moses and Elijah was only to confirm that Jesus was the Christ and the beloved Son of God. Peter’s desire to remain on the mountain was also out of place because the Lord did not intend to stay on the mountain. He had to continue His mission and suffer in order to achieve glory. Likewise, the disciples must also suffer for the kingdom before they could receive the glory in the future.
What can we learn about Jesus from the words spoken by the voice from heaven?Hide Answer
He is the beloved Son of God, who came to do the will of the Father. The Lord’s ministry and ultimate sacrifice were truly pleasing to God (Jn 8:29; Heb 10:5-10). The words also recall Moses’ prophecy about the Messiah (Deut 18:15). The Lord Jesus was sent from God; His words are the words of God. We will not escape if we ignore His solemn message (Heb 2:3-4). But if we hear His voice and obey Him, we will have life.
What was the purpose of the transfiguration? See also 16:21-28Hide Answer
1) To give the disciples a preview of the Son of Man in glory so that they know for certain that the followers of Christ will receive reward on that day (16:27). The experience had left a deep impression on the three apostles. Peter could still recall this experience in his old age when he witnessed to the believers about the coming of the Lord (2Pet 1:16-18).
2) To confirm that Jesus was the Christ whom the prophets of the past had spoken about.
What are the teachings behind “they saw no one but Jesus only”?Hide Answer
As great and powerful as Moses and Elijah were, they were servants of Christ. Peter was reminded by the voice to look to the beloved Son, not the passing appearance of Moses and Elijah. Likewise, we must fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus alone. All workers of God, however gifted they may be, are only to help us build up our faith in Jesus.
Furthermore, the disciples’ glimpse into glory had to end and they must move on. Likewise, we cannot expect to always remain in temporary phenomena, such as seeing miracles, powerful preaching, or excitement during convocations. We must seek to be close to the Lord and follow Him to the end even when the future glory seems to be nowhere in sight.
What were the disciples referring to about the coming of Elijah?Hide Answer
See Mal 4:5,6.
How was John the Baptist the Elijah? How did he “restore all things”?Hide Answer
He came in the spirit and power of Elijah, preaching repentance and turning people’s hearts to the Lord (Lk 1:15-16).
Why did Jesus make the comment in 17?Hide Answer
He was disappointed and saddened by the unbelief of the people, including the disciples (cf. Mk 9:23).
What does verse 20 teach us about faith?Hide Answer
With faith in the Lord, nothing is impossible.
Why are prayer and fasting necessary for the driving out of this kind of demon?Hide Answer
Prayer and fasting demonstrate a person’s faith in the Lord. It is an act of humility through which we entrust our requests to God (cf. Acts 14:23; Php 4:6).
What does the disciples’ exceeding sorrow tell us about them?Hide Answer
Although sorrow would be a natural response, the disciples’ reaction also shows that they still could not fully understand the necessity and significance of the suffering and death that the Lord must go through. They also did not know that the Lord would resurrect to bring salvation and life (Mk 9:10).
Why were Jesus and the disciples exempt from tax?Hide Answer
Just as the sons of earthly Kings are exempt from civil tax, the Lord, who is the Son of God, was exempt from the tax that God required from His people. The Lord’s words implied that He is the King of kings, to whom belong all things.
As for the disciples’ exemption from the temple tax, what the Lord said had another level of significance. The disciples were free from the obligations to the historical temple, because they were with one who was greater than the temple (12:5-8). But here the Lord is not teaching that we don’t need to give offerings to God, for He Himself commanded giving to God what is God’s (22:21). His comments were for the sake of emphasizing the fact that He was the Son and the Messiah.
What lessons can we learn from the Lord in paying the temple tax?Hide Answer
Although the Lord Jesus was free from the obligation of the temple tax as required by the law, He still humbly submitted to the obligation since there was no need to raise any conflict over such issue. Likewise, we ought to control our freedom so as not to cause unnecessary offense in others, i.e. becoming a stumbling block (cf. 1Cor 8:9). Where concession does not violate God’s commands, we should humble ourselves for others’ sake.