The Disciples Are Able To Obey Through Understanding (Matthew 17)
This morning a group of us got together and talked about Matthew 17. In this chapter Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where they witness the transfiguration of Christ. This is how Matthew describes it, "And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him." (Matthew 17:2-3)
Peter then says to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." Then we read, "He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." (17:5) What an experience that these three men had. You can read about this experience in Peter's own words in 1 Peter 1 as well.
Then Jesus tells them that they are not to tell anyone of this until the Son of Man is raised from the dead (v.9). I am sure that this is a very hard commandment for them to keep. Could your remain silent after having witnessed such things? Could you keep quiet after having heard Moses, Elijah, Jesus and the Father speaking while being caught up in so much glory?
If the disciples had a hard time keeping this a secret, it is not for the reasons that you might suspect. The temptation to speak because of all that they had seen and heard was eclipsed because of something else. On the one hand, they had Jesus telling them not to speak, but their theology and understanding of what just happened would have told them to shout it from the mountain top.
Why do I say this? Because after Jesus commands them not to speak of it they ask Jesus a theological question, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" (v.10) As a result of this question, Jesus will spend the next few verses correcting their understanding on this subject.
Let me make a couple brief observations. First, it captures my attention that the disciples may have struggled to obey Christ's command on theological terms; rather than, simply because this amazing thing had happened that they witnessed. Obedience always flows from good orthodoxy. If I have understanding, I will always respond appropriately even if my emotions are caught up in the situation.
The young man who sinned with the adulterous woman did so because he lacked sense and was simple (7:7). It was not merely because she was beautiful and enticed him. We ought to be a people who is driven to know and understand the scriptures. In doing so, we will be blessed and avoid much evil.
Secondly, notice what the disciples say, "Then why do the scribes say..." (v.10). Our faith is always best grounded upon personal study of the scriptures and upon our personal relationship with Christ. Alot of people know a lot of things because of the teachings of others, but we are to be people of the "Word". There are a lot of good teachers that can help us to learn, grow and understand; but this does not excuse us from praying and searching the scriptures on our own. Do I sound like the disciples here, or would I say, "I understand the scriptures to say___________. Jesus, is that right?"