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17. The Transfiguration

1And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: 2and he was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light. 3And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him. 4And Peter answered, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. 5While he was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, save Jesus only.

9And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead. 10And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? 11And he answered and said, Elijah indeed cometh, and shall restore all things: 12but I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they would. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them. 13Then understood the disciples that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

14And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a man, kneeling to him, saying, 15Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is epileptic, and suffereth grievously; for oft-times he falleth into the fire, and off-times into the water. 16And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17And Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I bear with you? bring him hither to me. 18And Jesus rebuked him; and the demon went out of him: and the boy was cured from that hour.

19Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast it out? 20And he saith unto them, Because of your little faith: 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. 21But this kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting.

22And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men; 23and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up. And they were exceeding sorry.

24And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the half-shekel came to Peter, and said, Doth not your teacher pay the half-shekel? 25He saith, Yea. And when he came into the house, Jesus spake first to him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers? 26And when he said, From strangers, Jesus said unto him, Therefore the sons are free. 27But, lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

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Matthew 17:9. And as they were going down from the mountain. We have said that the time for making known the vision was not yet fully come; and, indeed, the disciples would not have believed it, if Christ had not given a more striking proof of his glory in his resurrection. But after that his divine power had been openly displayed, that temporary exhibition of his glory began to be admitted, so as to make it fully evident that, even during the time that he emptied himself, (Philippians 2:7,) he continued to retain his divinity entire, though it was concealed under the veil of the flesh. There are good reasons, therefore, why he enjoins his disciples to keep silence, till he be risen from the dead.

10. And his disciples asked him, saying. No sooner is the resurrection mentioned than the disciples imagine that the reign of Christ is commenced; 482482     “Ils imaginent que c’est l’entree du regne de Christ, et leur semble qu’ils y sont desia;” — “they imagine that it is the commencement of the kingdom of Christ, and think that they are already in it.” for they explain this word to mean that the world would acknowledge him to be the Messiah. That they imagined the resurrection to be something totally different from what Christ meant, is evident from what is stated by Mark, that they disputed with each other what was the meaning of that expression which he had used, To rise from the dead Perhaps, too, they were already under the influence of that dream which is now held as an undoubted oracle among the Rabbins, that there would be a first and a second coming of the Messiah; that in the first he would be mean and despised, but that this would be shortly afterwards followed by his royal dignity. And, indeed, there is some plausibility in that error, for it springs from a true principle. The Scripture, too, speaks of a first and a second coming of the Messiah; for it promises that he will be a Redeemer, to expiate by his sacrifice the sins of the world 483483     “Faisant par son sacrifice satisfaction pour les pechez du monde;” — “making satisfaction by his sacrifice for the sins of the world.” And such is the import of the following prophecies:

Rejoice, daughter of Zion, behold, thy King cometh, poor, sitting on an ass,
(Zechariah 9:9.)

We beheld him, and he had no form or beauty, and he resembled a leper, so that we had no esteem for him,
(Isaiah 53:3,4.)

Again, Scripture represents him as victorious over death, and as subjecting all things to his dominion. But we see how the Rabbins corrupt the pure word of God by their inventions; and as every thing was greatly corrupted in the time of our Lord, it is probable that the people had also embraced this foolish notion.

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? The gross mistakes which they committed as to the person of Elijah have been pointed out on two or three occasions. 484484     Among other passages in which our Author has treated of the erroneous notions entertained by the Jews respecting Elijah, the reader may consult his Commentary on John 1:21, 25. — Ed. Perhaps, too, they cunningly and wickedly endeavored to lessen the authority of Christ by bringing forward Elijah; for as it had been promised that Elijah would come as the forerunner of Messiah, to prepare the way before him, (Malachi 3:1; 4:5,) it was easy to excite a prejudice against Christ, by saying that he came unaccompanied by Elijah By a trick closely resembling this, the devil enchants the Papists of the present day not to expect the day of judgment till Elijah and Enoch have appeared. 485485     “Iusques a ce qu’on voye Elie et Henoch retourner en ce monde;” — “till Elijah and Enoch are seen returning to this world.” It may not usually be conjectured that this expedient was purposely resorted to by the scribes, in order to represent Christ as unworthy of confidence, because he wanted the legitimate badge of the Messiah.

11. Elijah indeed will come first. We have stated elsewhere the origin of that error which prevailed among the Jews. As John the Baptist was to resemble Elijah by restoring the fallen condition of the Church, the prophet Malachi (4:5,6) had even given to him the name of Elijah; and this had been rashly interpreted by the scribes, as if Elijah the Tishbite (1 Kings 17:1) were to return a second time to the world. Christ now declares that every thing which Malachi uttered was true, but that his prediction had been misunderstood and distorted from its true meaning. “The promise,” says he, “that Eliah would come was true, and has been already fulfilled; but the scribes have already rejected Elijah, whose name they idly and falsely plead in opposing me.”

And will restore all things. This does not mean that John the Baptist restored them perfectly, but that he conveyed and handed them over to Christ, who would complete the work which he had begun. Now as the scribes had shamefully rejected John, Christ reminds his disciples that the impostures of such men ought not to give them uneasiness, and that it ought not to be reckoned strange, if, after having rejected the servant, they should, with equal disdain, reject his Master. And that no one might be distressed by a proceeding so strange, our Lord mentions that the Scripture contained predictions of both events, that the Redeemer of the world, and Elijah his forerunner, would be rejected by false and wicked teachers.




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