1. Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves,The Transfiguration

The reference to “after six days” here puzzles some, because, although this is confirmed in Mark 9:2, in Luke 9:28 it says “about eight days after.” How could it be only six days in Matthew and Mark and eight days in Luke?

First of all we must check that the starting and the ending points are the same. Some contradictions of time like this are simply caused by the fact that their starting or ending points are different, so of course different time periods are involved. Yet if we check this, we will find that in this case they are the same. In all three cases, the starting point is Christ’s first revelation of His coming death, His rebuke of Peter, and then His prediction that “some standing here,”…“shall not taste of death.” The ending point is likewise the same. Christ goes up this mountain with the three disciples Peter, James, and John, and is transfigured before them. So the contradiction here is not caused by different starting or ending points.

What is the cause of this contradiction, then? The answer is the method of time reckoning used. In the cases of Matthew and Mark, what is called “exclusive” time reckoning is used. That is, parts of days are not counted. The starting point of Christ telling the disciples about His coming death was partway through one day, and the ending point of Him taking them up on the mountain was also partway through a day. Matthew and Mark exclude both these days in making their time calculation, and thus are using exclusive reckoning. Luke, on the other hand, includes both partial days, and thus is using inclusive reckoning. This is the cause of the contradiction. It is merely a question of how the number of days elapsed is reckoned. For more on exclusive and inclusive methods of time reckoning, see my message on “Contradictions in Scripture: Time Reckoning Methods.”

Now we notice that He takes Peter, James, and John with Him up the mountain for this great revelation. These three were the disciples He was closest to, and to whom He gave the greatest revelations, as is demonstrated for us here. It is interesting that of these three, John is the only one who wrote a gospel, yet he did not mention this event! Peter, on the other hand, does mention it in II Peter 1:16-18.

2. and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

On the mountain these special disciples see a revelation of His glory. What an amazing sight that must have been!

3. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, appear with Christ. It is interesting that, of these two, Elijah never died but was taken up to heaven (2 Kings 2), while Moses was buried by God (Deuteronomy 34) and later had Michael contend with Satan over his body (Jude 9). In a way, Moses here is representing those who will be raised from the dead in the future, and Elijah is representing those who will be alive and yet be changed in an instant, as I Corinthians 15:51-58 tells us. Now they both appear alive before Peter, James, and John. We might wonder how the disciples knew who these men were? And also, what were they talking with Christ about? Perhaps about the great work He was about to do. Surely that would have been of interest to these great men.

4. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Peter, always too quick to speak without thinking, suggests the setting up of a permanent center of operations, one for each of these three men. He makes a mistake, however, in giving the same place to Moses and Elijah as he did to Jesus Christ. Though these were great men and figure prominently in God’s plans for the future, they cannot hold a candle to the Lord Jesus Christ, and God will demonstrate that this is so.

5. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

When Peter is so bold as to ascribe the same glory to Moses and Elijah as he does to Jesus Christ, a cloud suddenly comes up and covers the scene. A voice from God tells the disciples that this, the Lord Jesus, is His beloved Son, and He is the one Whom they should hear. This is a lesson that we could all learn today. Let us stop giving heed to the traditions and fables of men, and instead listen to the words of truth in the Scriptures that come from Christ Himself.

6. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.

Hearing this voice from God made the disciples greatly afraid, although we suppose they were somewhat in awe even before this voice spoke. Notice that it does not say that this was the voice of God, but merely says “a voice came out of the cloud.” This was not “the voice of God,” as some would assume it to be, but rather what we might call “the miracle of the voice.” God is not a human being with a voice box and vocal cords to speak with. The only part of God thus equipped is Jesus Christ Himself, and He is not the One Who was speaking here. Although this voice clearly came from God, it was not “His voice” as we would think of it, but rather just a miraculous voice that He caused them to hear.

7. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”

Oh, what fears His touch can erase!

8. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Then, when they look up, they see Jesus only. It would be good in all of our lives if we could come to the place where all of the trappings of religion and man’s useless struggle to reach God by his own goodness would simply fade from our view and we would see Jesus only. Nothing, not the church, not pastors or leaders, not spiritual men or martyrs, can even come close to the place held by our Lord and Savior. Let us ever keep this in mind.

9. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

Again the Lord wants word of Who He is to be kept from the common people until after He has risen from the dead. How in the world, then, can modern theology teach that the common people rejected Him? They never were allowed to know or be told Who He was. Even the rest of the twelve were not allowed to know of this great revelation until after His resurrection.

10. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

Elijah was no doubt prominent in these men’s minds at this time! They ask a question referring to the prophecies of Scripture concerning Elijah that indicate that Elijah’s “second coming” must precede the coming of our Lord. Having just been made to understand Who Jesus is, they wonder how He can be present and yet Elijah has not come yet? Of course, they do not understand at this point that He has to leave and come back again.

11. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things.

Elijah must indeed come before Christ comes. Malachi 4:5-6 predicted this, and Christ Himself confirms it. Thus we see that Christ’s second coming cannot not take place at any moment. As long as there are things such as this to still be fulfilled, then we know that He cannot come yet.

12. “But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”
13. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

Having just said that Elijah must still come first, Christ seems to say that he has already come! But this cannot be. In Greek, there is no article “the” before the word Elijah. This is very strange, as you almost always use an article with names in Greek…for example, I would be “the Nathan” in normal Greek conversation. The lack of an article here would seem to indicate that Christ meant that “an Elijah” had come. In other words, a man who did a similar work to the work that Elijah will yet do had already come. Since the rulers had rejected that man, they would most certainly reject the real Elijah as well.

John himself said that he was not Elijah! Moreover, if John was supposed to restore all things, then he utterly failed in what he was supposed to do. “Restore all things” indicates the restoration of Israel to the same kind of glory that it had under Solomon…and even better! This is done to prepare Israel for the coming of the Lord, so that when He comes He does not have to strike the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:4-6.) John never even attempted such a thing. He did prepare the way for the Lord’s first coming, however, and in this regard his ministry was similar to what Elijah’s will be, who will prepare the way for the Lord’s second coming. But John himself said he was not Elijah! (John 1:21) Moreover, John was born as a baby. To borrow words from Nicodemus, how could Elijah be born again when he was old? No, John the Baptist was not Elijah, but rather was “an” Elijah. And rejecting him was the same as rejecting the real Elijah, and would bring the same punishment. But the real Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind (II Kings 2,) and is waiting there to come to earth again and fulfill this prediction that was made of him.

14. And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,
15. “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often in to the water.

What the man actually said was that his son was “moonstruck.” This was the common word of the time for epileptic seizures, as they thought that it was a madness caused by the moon. What was actually going on, however, was far more than a disease like epilepsy, for this boy was actually being attacked by a demon.

16. “So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

This had apparently been going on while Christ and the three disciples were on the mountain. The nine had attempted to heal this boy, and could not.

17. Then 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 here to Me.”

The Lord is upset with a lack of faith demonstrated here. But what lack of faith is He talking about here? He is referring to the attempt to have His disciples heal this man! The Lord had earlier sent His disciples out to do healing miracles and proclaim that the Kingdom of God was about to come. Now, however, they had returned to Him, and no longer had a commission to work these miracles. This man was treating the healing of his son as if it was some method or trick that the disciples could do, rather than realizing that the power for healing comes from the Lord Jesus only. Not only that, but for the disciples themselves to try to heal this man without the Lord’s command demonstrated just as much of a lack of faith on their part as if they had refused to heal him when the Lord had told them they should. This is something to seriously be considered by those who style themselves to be healers in our day. For you to try to be a healer when God has not told you to be a healer demonstrates a serious lack of faith!

18. And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

The Lord casts out the demon who was causing the seizures. Thus we see why his seizures were so often happening when he was near fire or water. The demon was actually trying to kill him! Normal epilepsy does not selectively occur just when one is in a dangerous position. But this epilepsy did, as the father testified. It was not a natural occurrence, but an attack by this demon.

19. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast him out?”

The disciples, wondering what went wrong in their attempts to heal the man, come to the Lord Jesus and ask Him why they couldn’t do what He had just done? Let us examine His answer, for it may have serious implications for all of those who try and fail to heal people in our day.

20. So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

It was a lack of faith that caused His disciples not to be able to cast the demon out. Why was their attempt here lacking in faith whereas their other attempts to heal people and cast out demons in the past were not lacking in faith? The answer is that in this case Christ had not told them to do it! You cannot have even the smallest shred of faith when you are trying to do something that God has not told you to do. I have no doubt but that these disciples believed they could cast this demon out just as much as they had believed they could cast the demons out when Christ had sent them out Himself to do this. Maybe even moreso, for they had cast out demons and had no doubt gained confidence…maybe too much confidence, for in this case they relied on themselves to do the miracle rather than upon the word of the Lord. But Christ explains to them that, when they do have faith, then even the tiniest little bit of it…like the grain of a mustard seed…will produce wonderful results! But there can be no faith where there is no word from God. The so-called “faith-healers” of today have anything but faith!

21. “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

This statement is difficult, as Christ is not said to have either prayed or fasted when He cast this demon out. He may be referring to what the proper method of attempting to cast out a demon would be when one has not received specific instructions from God to do so.

22. Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men,
23. “and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.

The disciples still did not understand what the Lord was saying to them. Although the thought of their Master rising from the dead should have brought them great joy and anticipation, they could not get past the part about His death. Apparently their faith had not reached the point where they could imagine even their Master rising from the dead! It amazes me how many people still do not believe that Jesus Himself rose from the dead, but rather that “His spirit” did, or that He was reincarnated somehow. No, it was the Lord Himself that was raised!

Note the use of the term “the third day” here. Remember that this meant that He would be raised after the traditions of the day said resurrection was impossible for all but God Himself, and does not necessarily mean that He would only be in the grave two full days.

24. And when they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”

We again see the Lord and His disciples residing at Capernaum. It is time to pay the temple tax, and the men in charge come to Peter to speak of a supposed negligence on the Lord’s part. It is interesting that they were not brave enough to talk to Him about this, but rather tried to get to Him through one of His disciples.

25. He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their own sons or from strangers?”

Peter’s answer shows that it was the custom of the Lord to pay His tax. Yet he goes to ask the Lord about the matter. Perhaps this year the Lord and His disciples had been traveling and so had missed the normal tax time. At any rate, it seems that Peter had been standing outside the Lord’s house, and now He goes in to ask Him about this matter. The Lord Jesus already knows what his question is going to be, and so He meets him with a question of His Own. Do the kings of the earth take taxes from their own sons, or do they take them from other families? There can be only one answer to this question, of course, and it is the answer Peter gives.

26. Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.

The temple tax was a tax to be given to God. What Christ was pointing out was that for them to ask Him for a tax to give to God was as foolish as a king asking his own son to pay tax to him. Christ was the Son of God, and God would not ask Him to pay taxes to Himself!

27. “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

Since He is the Son of God, God would not wish to tax Him for the upkeep of His Own temple. Nevertheless, so as not to cause an offense, the Lord works a miracle to produce the money to pay these men the tax. Notice that the way the Lord speaks of the offense, He seems to be more concerned with causing the officers of the temple to commit an offense than He does with offending them. If they had neglected their duty regarding the Lord their superiors would have been offended, and if they had tried to force Christ to pay the Lord Himself would have been offended. Thus He graciously pays them and saves them from such a difficult position.

It is interesting that this is the only monetary transaction we ever read of our Lord making.