|<< Matthew 17 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
Matthew 17:1-9. See also Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36.
And after six days - That is, six days from the conversation recorded in the last chapter.
Luke Luk 9:28 says, about an eight days after. Matthew mentions the six days that intervened between the day of the conversation and the transfiguration. Luke includes both those days, and thus reckons eight. Besides, Luke does not pretend to fix the precise time. He says, "about an eight days after."
Taketh Peter, and James, and John - These three disciples were with him, also, in the garden of Gethsemane, Mark 14:33. He designed to prepare them in an eminent degree for the work of the gospel ministry by the previous manifestations of his glory, and of his patience in suffering.
Into a high mountain apart - That is, apart from the other disciples. It is commonly supposed that this was Mount Tabor, a high mountain in Galilee. The name of the mountain is not, however, mentioned in the New Testament. Luke adds Luke 9:28 that he went up there to pray. Our Saviour prayed much. When he did it he chose to be alone. For this purpose he often ascended mountains or went into the deserts. There is something in the solitude and deep and awful stillness of a lofty mountain favorable to devotion.
2And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
And was transfigured before them - The word "transfigure" means to change the appearance or form. It does not denote the change of the substance of a thing, but simply of its appearance. It puts on a new aspect. What this change was we are expressly told.
1. His face shone as the sun; that is, with a special brightness. A similar appearance is described respecting Moses when he came down from the mount, Exodus 34:29-30. See also Hebrews 1:3, where Christ is called the brightness of the glory of God: in the original, the splendor or shining, like the brightness of the sun.
2. The second change was that of his garments. They were white as the light. Mark says, "exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth could white them." The word "fuller" means, commonly, one who dresses cloth or fulls it, so as to make it more thick and strong. Here it means one who bleaches cloth or makes it white; one who cleanses garments when by wearing they become soiled. Among the Greeks that was a distinct trade. Luke says, "white and glistering," that is, resplendent, shining, or a very bright white. There is no evidence here that what is commonly said of him is true, that his body was so changed as to show what his glorified body is. His body, so far as the sacred writers inform us, underwent no change. All this splendor and glory was a change in appearance only. The Scriptures should be taken just as they are, without any attempt to affix a meaning to them which the sacred writers did not intend.
Raiment - Clothing. John may refer to this transfiguration in John 1:14, as Peter does in 2 Peter 1:16-17.
3And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
And behold there appeared unto them Moses and Elias - Moses, a distinguished servant of God, by whom the law was given, and whose institutions typified the Messiah. It was particularly proper that he should appear, when his prophecies and types were about to be fulfilled, and the rites which he had instituted were about to be done away. Elias, or Elijah, a distinguished prophet, taken to heaven without seeing death. See 2 Kings 2:11. Elijah had been honored eminently by being thus translated, and still more by being made the model of the forerunner of the Messiah, Malachi 4:5; Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:14. They appeared "in glory" Luke 9:31; i. e., as they are in heaven with the glory which the redeemed have there.
Talking with him - Luke Luk 9:31 informs us that they conversed about "his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." To redeemed spirits that death was an object of intense interest. By faith in that death they had been saved; and now that the Redeemer of mankind was about to die, it is no wonder that this was the burden of his and their thoughts.
Luke adds Luke 9:32 that "Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep." It is not improbable that this was in the night; that Jesus was engaged in prayer; and that he had permitted his weary followers to compose themselves to rest. It was after they were awaked that they saw this vision. Probably the sudden splendor, the bright shining aroused them from sleep.
4Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Let us make here three tabernacles - A tabernacle is a tent. It was made, commonly, by fixing posts into the ground, and stretching on them cloth fastened by cords. See the notes at Isaiah 33:20. In some instances they were made of branches of trees a temporary shelter from the sun and rain, not a permanent dwelling. Peter was rejoiced at the vision and desirous of continuing it. He proposed, therefore, that they should prolong this interview and dwell there. Mark adds, "For he wist not (that is, knew not) what to say, for they were sore afraid." They were frightened, amazed, and rejoiced; and, in the ecstasy of the moment, Peter proposed to remain there.
5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
A bright cloud overshadowed them - The word "overshadow" here means, rather, to "be diffused" or "spread" over them. It does not mean that it made a shade. A cloud was the symbol of the divine presence. Thus, God went before the Israelites in a cloudy pillar - dark by day and bright by night Exodus 14:19-20; he appeared on Mount Sinai in a cloud bright by fire Exodus 24:15-17; and a cloud, the symbol of the divine presence - called the Shechinah - dwelt continually in the most holy place in the temple, 1 Kings 8:10-11; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 10:4. When, therefore, the disciples saw this cloud, they were prepared to hear the word of the Lord.
This is my beloved Son - This was the voice of God. This was the second time that, in a remarkable manner, God had declared this. See Matthew 3:17. This was spoken to confirm the disciples; to make known to them that it was their duty to hear Christ rather than any other, and to honor him more than Moses and Elijah; and to strengthen their faith in him when they should go forth to preach the gospel after he was shamefully put to death. After this, it was impossible for them to doubt that he was truly the Son of God. See 2 Peter 1:17-18.
6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
They fell on their face - They entered into the cloud, or the cloud enveloped them, Luke 9:34. "They were therefore afraid." They were awed at the presence of God, and prostrated themselves in solemn adoration on the ground, and their fears were removed only by the voice of their beloved Master. No man can see God and live; and it is only the glory of God, as it shines in the face of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:6), that mortals can bear.
7And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
8And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
9And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
Tell the vision to no man - This vision was designed particularly to confirm them in the truth that he was the Messiah. While he was with them it was unnecessary that they should relate what they had seen. When he was crucified they would need this evidence that he was the Christ. Then they were to use it. There were three witnesses of it as many as the law required Deuteronomy 17:6; Hebrews 10:28, and the proof that he was the Messiah was clear. Besides, if they had told it then, it would have provoked the Jews and endangered his life. His time was not yet come.
Vision - Sight; appearance. What they had seen on the mount.
Charged them - Gave them a commandment.
The sole design of this transfiguration was to convince them that he was the Christ; that he was greater than the greatest of the prophets; that he was the Son of God.
Mark adds Mark 9:10, "they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." The Pharisees believed that the dead would rise, and there is no doubt that the disciples believed it; but their views were not clear, and, in particular, they did not understand what he meant by his rising from the dead. They do not appear to have understood, though he had told them Mark 12:40 that he would rise after three days.
10And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
See also Mark 9:11-13.
Why then say the scribes ... - The disciples appear to have been satisfied now that he was the Messiah. The transfiguration had taken away all their doubts, but they recollected that it was a common doctrine among the Jews that Elijah would appear before the Messiah came, and they did not then recollect that he had appeared. To this difficulty the word then refers. "We are satisfied that thou art the Christ, but Elijah has not yet come, as was expected; what, then, is the meaning of the common opinions of our learned men, the scribes? Were they right or wrong in their expectation of Elijah?" See the notes at Matthew 11:14.
11And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things - He did not mean by this that Elijah was yet to come, for he tells them immediately Matthew 17:12 that he had come; but he meant to affirm that it was a true doctrine which the scribes taught, that Elijah would appear before the coming of the Messiah. To "restore" means to put into the former situation. See Matthew 12:13. Hence, it means to heal, to correct, to put in proper order. Here it means that Elijah would put things in a proper state; he would be the instrument of reforming the people, or of restoring them, in some measure, to proper notions about the Messiah and preparing them for his coming. Before the coming of John their views were erroneous, their expectations were worldly, and their conduct were exceedingly depraved. He corrected many of their notions about the Messiah (see Matthew 3), and he was the instrument of an extensive reformation, and thus restored them, in some degree, to correct views of their own system and of the Messiah, and to a preparation for his advent.
12But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Elias is come already - That is, John the Baptist has come, in the spirit and power of Elias. See Luke 1:17.
They have done unto him whatsoever they listed - The word "list" is an old English word, signifying to choose, to desire, to be inclined. See Judges 3:8. It means, here, that they had done to John as they pleased; that is, they had put him to death, Matthew 14:10.
Mark adds Mark 9:12 that Jesus told them that it was "written of the Son of man that he must suffer many things, and be set at naught." This was written of him particularly in Isaiah 53:1-12. To be set at naught is to be esteemed as worthless or as nothing; to be cast out and despised. No prophecy was ever more strikingly fulfilled. See Luke 23:11, Luke 23:14-21. This narrative, with some additions, is found in Mark 9:14-29, and Luke 9:37-43.
13Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
14And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
And when they were come to the multitude - This took place on the day following the transfiguration, Luke 9:37. This multitude was probably composed of persons who had attended on his ministry, many of whom were his real disciples. With them, as Mark Mar 9:15 informs us, were "scribes questioning with them." That is, they were probably professedly making inquiries about the Saviour, but really attempting to introduce their own sentiments, and to draw them off from him. They probably artfully asked them many questions about his birth, his family, his appearance, his manner of life, and his instructions, all which were contrary to the general expectation respecting the Messiah, and they intended, therefore, to insinuate that such a person could not be the Christ. The people were persuaded that he was the Messiah. and it would not have done to have attacked their opinions openly, but they attempted to gain the same point by sly insinuations. Error is always subtle, and often puts on the appearance of calm and honest inquiry. Well had he compared them to leavens, Matthew 16:11-12. The multitude, seeing Jesus coming down, left the scribes, and ran to meet him (Mark). They were amazed, probably because they had not expected to see him there. In their joy at meeting him in this unexpected manner, they "saluted" him (Mark); that is, probably they prostrated themselves before him after the manner of salutation in Eastern countries. See the notes at Luke 10:4. Jesus, seeing the scribes and their artful design, reproved them by asking them why they questioned thus with his disciples, Mark 9:16. Conscious of their guilt and their base purpose, they returned no answer.
A certain man kneeling down to him - That is, saluting him, or showing high regard for him. See the notes at Luke 10:4. It did not imply religious homage, but merely high respect and earnest entreaty.
15Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
Lord, have mercy - The word "Lord" here means "Sir," a title of civility, not implying divinity.
My son - This was an only son (Luke). He was possessed with a devil. This calamity was attended with the following symptoms: he was lunatic (see the notes at Matthew 4:24); he was sore vexed; that is, he suffered greatly, or was greatly afflicted; he fell often suddenly, in the manner of persons having epileptic fits; he was dumb - that is, he was mute except when the seizure was coming upon him, for Luke says that when the spirit took him he cried suddenly out; he foamed and gnashed with his teeth, and wasted away, or became poor and emaciated. Luke Luk 9:39 adds of the evil spirit, "it teareth him that he foameth again, and, bruising him, hardly departeth from him;" that is, scarcely departed from him, or he had only short intervals of reason, for so the passage in Luke, "bruising him, hardly departeth from him," should be translated.
16And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
And I brought him to thy disciples ... - That is, not to the apostles, for they had power over unclean spirits Matthew 10:8, but to others of his followers who attempted to work miracles. It is probable that many of his disciples attempted this who were not personal attendants on his ministry, Mark 9:38.
17Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation! - Perverse means that which is twisted or turned from the proper direction; and is often used of the eyes, when one or both are turned from their natural position. Applied to a generation or race of people, it means that they hold opinions turned or perverted from the truth, and that they were wicked in their conduct. Jesus applied this, probably, to the Jews, and not to his real disciples.
How long shall I suffer you? - That is, how long shall I bear with you? How long is it necessary to show such patience and forbearance with your unbelief and perversity? This was not so much an expression of impatience or complaint as a reproof for their being so slow to believe that he was the Messiah, notwithstanding his miracles.
Mark adds Mark 9:20-22 that when he that was possessed was brought, the spirit, by a last desperate struggle, threw him down and tore him, and left him apparently dead. He adds further, that the case had existed during the whole life of his son, from a child. This was a case of uncommon obstinacy. The affliction was fixed and lasting. The disciples, seeing the obstinacy of the case - seeing that he was a deaf-mute, wasted away, torn, and foaming - despaired of being able to cure him. They lacked the faith which was necessary; doubted whether they could cure him, and therefore could not.
The father of the child said Mark 9:22, "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us;" an expression implying a weak faith, a lingering doubt whether he could restore him. Jesus replied to this, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" Mark 9:23; implying that the difficulty in the case was not that he could not heal him, but that he had not the proper kind and degree of faith with which to come to him. That is, this cure shall be effected if you have faith. Not that his faith would give Jesus the power to heal him, but it would render it proper that he should exert that power in his favor. In this way, and in this only, are all things possible to believers.
The man had faith, Mark 9:24. The father came, as a father should do, weeping, and praying that his faith might be increased, so as to make it proper that Jesus should interpose in his behalf, and save his child.
Help my unbelief, Mark 9:24. This was an expression of humility. If my faith is defective, supply what is lacking. Help me to overcome my unbelief. Let not the defect of my faith be in the way of this blessing.
18And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
And Jesus rebuked the devil - The word "rebuke" has the combined force of reproving and commanding. He reproved him for having afflicted the child, and he commanded him to come out of him. Mark Mar 9:25 has recorded the words which he used words implying reproof and command: "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him." And the spirit cried, and with a mighty convulsion came out, leaving the child apparently dead. Jesus lifted him up by the hand (Mark), and gave him to his father (Luke).
19Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
Then came the disciples ... - This inquiry was made in some house to which they retired near the place where the miracle was performed (Mark). Jesus told them, in reply, that it was because of their unbelief that they had not been able to cast him out. They were appalled by the difficulty of the case and the obstinacy of the disease. Their faith would not have made it more easy for God to work this miracle, but such was his will - such the way in which he worked miracles, that he required faith in those who were the instruments.
20And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
As a grain of mustard-seed - See the notes at Matthew 13:31-32. The mustard-seed was the smallest of all seeds. It has been supposed by some, therefore, that he meant to say, If you have the smallest or feeblest faith that is genuine, you can do all things. The mustard-seed produced the largest of all herbs. It has been supposed by others, therefore, to mean, If you have increasing, expanding, enlarged faith, growing and strengthening from small beginnings, you can perform the most difficult undertaking. There is a principle of vitality in the grain of seed stretching forward to great results, which illustrates the nature of faith. Your faith should be like that. This is probably the true meaning.
Ye shall say unto this mountain ... - Probably he pointed to a mountain near, to assure them that if they had such faith they might accomplish the most difficult undertakings - things that at first would appear impossible.
21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Howbeit, this kind ... - This kind means this kind of devils - this species of possession. Where they have had long possession where they produce such painful, fixed, and alarming effects, they can be expelled only in connection with prayer and fasting.
Goeth not out but by prayer and fasting - That is, in order to work miracles of this kind to cast out devils in cases so obstinate and dreadful as this, faith of the highest kind is necessary. That faith is produced and kept vigorous only by much prayer, and by such abstinence from food as fits the mind for the highest exercises of religion, and leaves it free to hold communion with God.
22And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
See also Mark 9:30-33; Luke 9:43-45.
And while they abode in Galilee - Galilee, the northern part of Palestine. See the notes at Matthew 2:22.
The Son of man shall be betrayed ... - To betray means to deliver up in a treacherous manner. This was done by Judas Iscariot, called for that act the traitor, Matthew 26:14-16, Matthew 26:47-50. A traitor, or betrayer, is one who makes use of confidence reposed in him for the purpose of delivering him up who puts that confidence in him to the hands of enemies.
23And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again - See Matthew 12:40. Mark and Luke add that they understood not that saying, and it was hid from them, and they were afraid to ask him. The reasons of this may have been,
1. They were strongly attached to him, and were exceedingly sorry (Matthew) at any intimation that he was soon to leave them. They learned with great slowness and reluctance, therefore, that he was to be treated in this manner.
2. They were not willing to believe it. They knew that he was the Messiah, but they supposed that he was to be a distinguished prince, and was to restore the kingdom to Israel, Acts 1:6. But to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies, and be put to death, appeared to them to be frustrating all these expectations.
3. Though what he said was plain enough, yet they did not understand it; they could not see how he could be the Messiah, and yet be put to death in this manner; nor did they understand it fully until after the resurrection.
24And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
And when they were come to Capernaum - See the notes at Matthew 4:13.
They that received tribute - In the original this is, they who received the didrachma, or double drachma. The drachma was a Grecian coin worth about fifteen cents (7 1/2 d.) of British money. The didrachma, or double drachma, was a silver coin equal to the Attic drachma, and, in the time of Josephus, equal to the Jewish half shekel, that is, about 30 cents (circa 1880's). This tribute, consisting of the didrachma or double drachma, was not paid to the Roman government, but to the Jewish collectors for the use of the temple service. It was permitted in the law of Moses (see Exodus 30:11-16) that in numbering the people half a shekel should be received of each man for the services of religion. This was in addition to the tithes paid by the whole nation, and seems to have been considered as a voluntary offering. It was devoted to the purchase of animals for the daily sacrifice, wood, flour, salt, incense, etc., for the use of the temple.
Doth not your master pay tribute? - This tribute was voluntary, and they therefore asked him whether he was in the habit of paying taxes for the support of the temple. Peter replied that it was his custom to pay all the usual taxes of the nation.
25He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Jesus prevented him - That is, Jesus commenced speaking before Peter, or spoke before Peter had told him what he had said. This implies that, though not present with Peter when he gave the answer, yet Jesus was acquainted with what he had said.
Prevent - To go before, or precede. It did not mean, as it now does with us, to hinder or obstruct. See the same use of the word in Psalm 59:10; Psalm 79:8; Psalm 88:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; Psalm 119:148.
Of whom do the kings of the earth ... - That is, earthly kings.
Their own children - Their sons; the members of their own family.
Or of strangers? - The word "strangers" does not mean foreigners, but those that were not their own sons or members of their family. Peter replied that tribute was collected of those out of their own family. Jesus answered, Then are the children, or sons of the kings, free; that is, taxes are not required of them. The meaning of this may be thus expressed: "Kings do not tax their own sons. This tribute-money is taken up for the temple service; that is, the service of my Father. I, therefore, being the Son of God, for whom this is taken up, cannot be lawfully required to pay this tribute." This argument is based on the supposition that this was a religious, and not a civil tax. If it had been the latter, the illustration would not have been pertinent.
26Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
27Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them - That is, lest they should think that we despise the temple and its service, and thus provoke needless opposition; though we are not under obligation to pay it, yet it is best to pay it to them.
Go to the sea - This was at Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias.
Thou shalt find a piece of money - In the original, thou shalt find a stater, a Roman silver coin of the value of four drachmas, or one shekel, and of course sufficient to pay the tribute for two - himself and Peter.
In whatever way this is regarded, it is proof that Jesus was possessed of divine attributes. If he knew that the first fish that came up would have such a coin in his mouth, it was proof of omniscience. If he created the coin for the occasion and placed it there, then it was proof of divine power. The former is the most probable supposition. It is by no means absurd that a fish should have swallowed a silver coin. Many of them bite eagerly at anything bright, and would not hesitate, therefore, at swallowing a piece of money.
Remarks On Matthew 17
1. It is proper to withdraw from those around us that we may engage in secret prayer; and it is desirable for every one to have a place where he may be alone with God, Matthew 17:1. Christ often went into deserts and on mountains that he might be by himself. This should be done:
(1) to avoid the appearance of ostentation.
(2) pride is easily excited when we know that others hear us pray.
Everyone should have some place - some closet - to which he may retire at any time, with the assurance that none sees him but God. See the notes at Matthew 6:6.
2. In such seasons we shall meet God, Matthew 17:2. It was in such a season that the divine favor was uniquely shown to Christ. Then the transfiguration took place - the brightest manifestation of his glory that ever occurred on earth. So the clearest and most precious manifestations of the love and glory of God will be made to us in prayer.
3. We see the great glory of Christ, Matthew 17:2. No such favor had been granted to any prophet before him. We see the regard in which he was held by Moses and Elias among the greatest of the prophets. We see the honor which God put on him, exalting him far above them both, Matthew 17:5. The glory of heaven encompasses the Lord Jesus, and all its redeemed pay him reverence. In him the divine nature shines illustriously; and of him and to him the divinity speaks in glory as the only begotten Son of God.
4. It is right to have particular affection for some Christians more than others, at the same time that we should love them all. Christ loved all his disciples, but he admitted some to special friendship and favors, Matthew 17:1. Some Christians may be more congenial to us in feeling, age, and education than others; and it is proper, and may be greatly to our advantage, to admit them among our special friends.
5. The death of Jesus is an object of great interest to the redeemed. Moses and Elias talked of it, Luke 9:31. Angels also desire to look into this great subject, 1 Peter 1:12. By that death all the redeemed are saved, and in that death the angels see the most signal display of the justice and love of God.
6. Christians should delight to be where God has manifested his glory. The feeling of Peter was natural, Matthew 17:4. His love of the glorious presence of Christ and the redeemed was right. He erred only in the manner of manifesting that love. We should always love the house of prayer - the sanctuary the place where Christ has manifested himself as especially glorious and precious to our souls, or unique as our Friend and Deliverer.
7. We need not be afraid of the most awful displays of deity if Christ be with us, Matthew 17:7. Were we alone we should fear. None could see God and live, for he is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29. But with Jesus for our friend we may go confidently down to death; we may meet him at his awful bar; we may dwell in the full splendors of his presence to all eternity.
8. Saints at death are taken to happiness and live now in glory, Matthew 17:3. Moses and Elias were not created anew, but went to heaven as they were. They came from heaven and returned thither. The spirits of all people live, therefore, in happiness or woe after the body is dead.
9. It is not unreasonable to suppose that saints may have some knowledge of what is done here on earth. Moses and Elias appear to have been acquainted with the fact that Jesus was about to die at Jerusalem.
10. The Scriptures will be fulfilled. The fulfillment may take place when we little know it, or in events that we should not suppose were intended for a fulfillment, Matthew 17:12.
11. Erroneous teachers will endeavor to draw us away from the truth, Mark 9:14. They will do it by art, and caution, and the appearance of calm inquiry. We should always be on our guard against any teachers appearing to call in question what Christ has plainly taught us.
12. Christ, in his word and by his Spirit, is a safe teacher, Mark 9:15. When people are suggesting plausible doubts about doctrine, or attempting to unsettle our minds by cavils and inquiry, we should leave them, and apply by prayer, and by searching the Bible, to Christ, the great Prophet, who is the way, the truth, and the life.
13. Parents should be earnest for the welfare of their children, Matthew 17:15. It is right for them to pray to God, in times of sickness, that he would heal them. Miracles are not to be expected, but God only can bless the means which parents use for their sick and afflicted children.
14. Parents may do much by faith and prayer for their children. Here the faith of the parent was the means of saving the life of the child, Matthew 17:14-18. So the faith of parents - a faith producing diligent instruction, a holy example, and much prayer, may be the means of saving their souls. God will not, indeed, save them on account of the faith of the parent, but the holy life of a father and mother may be the means of training up their children for heaven.
15. It is proper to pray to Jesus to increase our faith, Mark 9:24. We may be sensible of our unbelief may feel that we deserve condemnation, and that we deserve no favor that is usually bestowed on faith; but we may come to him and implore of him an increase of faith, and thus obtain the object of our desires.
16. Our unbelief hinders our doing much that we might do, Matthew 17:20. We shrink from great difficulties, we fail in great duties, because we do not put confidence in God, who is able to help us. The proper way to live a life of religion and peace is to do just what God requires of us, depending on his grace to aid us.
17. We see the proper way of increasing our faith, Matthew 17:21. It is by much prayer, self-denial, and fasting. Faith is a plant that never grows in an uncultivated soil, and is never luxuriant unless it is often exposed to the beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
18. It is right to weep and mourn over the death of Jesus, Matthew 17:23. It was a cruel death, and we should mourn that our best Friend passed through such sufferings. Yet we should rather mourn that our sins were the cause of such bitter sorrows; and that, but for our sins, and the sins of the rest of mankind, he might have been always happy.
"'Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.
"'Twas you that pulled the vengeance down
Upon his guiltless head.
Break, break, my heart! O burst, mine eyes!
And let my sorrows bleed."
19. At the same time, we should rejoice that God made his death the source of the richest blessings that ever descended on mankind. He rose and brought life and immortality to light, Matthew 17:23.
20. We should comply with all the requirements of the laws of the land, if not contrary to the law of God. It is important that governments should be supported, Matthew 17:25. See also Romans 13:1-7.
21. We should also be willing to contribute our just proportion to the support of the institutions of religion. The tribute which Jesus paid here by a miracle was for the support of religion in the temple, Matthew 17:24-27. He understood of how much value are the institutions of religion to the welfare of man. He worked a miracle, therefore, to make a voluntary offering to support it. Religion promotes the purity, peace, intelligence, and order of the community, and every man is therefore under obligation to do his part toward its support. If any man doubts this, he has only to go to the places where there is no religion among scoffers, and thieves, and adulterers, and prostitutes, and pick-pockets, and drunkards. No money is ever lost that goes in any way to suppress these vices and to make people better.