For the text of Matthew 17, click here.
Jesus goes up the mountain with three disciples who all see Elijah and Moses talking to Him. This in itself is pretty remarkable. Elijah is the most famous of the prophets and Moses led the Israelites out of slavery. This is the company of some pretty amazing figures and they are suitably stunned. It’s almost cute that Peter immediately starts rambling on about having enough tents for all of them. Does it seem like an ancient fangirl moment to anyone else?
Jesus tells them to relax and Moses and Elijah disappear and they are told to keep this vision a secret. There are a lot of secrets going on and I’m not always sure that I get it, but in this case I do. This is just the kind of thing that could stir up the wrong kind of trouble too early but could totally validate down the line. And so the secret is kept. Within the conversation, the disciples realize that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah and reinforce that Jesus is the Son of Man who is meant to come after.
While all this was happening up on the mountain, there’s a man down below trying to get a healing for his son from the remaining disciples who just can’t get it together. Jesus easily performs the healing and tells them again they have little faith. This is time when He refers to only requiring the faith that could fit in a mustard seed, or maybe just the same size, in order to perform such miracles. It begs the question whether this is for the disciples and a promise to be able to perform miracles or for all people of faith for all time? The problem is that if these people, who know Jesus and have seen Him perform miracles, still can’t always get faith the size of a mustard seed, is that bar set just a little high? Is that point? Or does knowing Him actually impede faith?
It’s a bothersome question because of the modern insistence that all it takes is faith for miracles to happen. It’s not that we aren’t in the age of miracles, but are we really in an age of such little faith? Even among preachers and priests? Or is this only supposed to apply to the disciples who are supposed to do God’s work after Jesus is crucified and really need to get it together? He does take the time to remind what’s to come yet again, though no story about anyone trying to protect Him from it this time.
The chapter ends with a story about taxes that I just loved. The money for the tax comes from a fish, which just has so much imagery wrapped up in it. They are fishers of men, right? Does this mean that their taxes will be paid by the men they fish later? In the more practical sense, though, the story does insist that God is the one who is providing for them here while they are not circumventing the system by not paying taxes.