SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- In the previous chapter, Jesus said, ”some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The "Son of Man" was a name Jesus used to refer to himself.
- In today’s reading we see Jesus bring Peter, James, and John with him up a mountain. On the mountain Jesus is "transfigured" before them, appearing brighter to the others. Then he somehow meets with Moses and Elijah, two important figures from Israel’s past. The significance is that God’s promises in the Law and Prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah, are fulfilled in Jesus.
- After descending the mountain, Jesus is met by a man whose son suffers from seizures. Jesus’ followers attempt to heal the boy with no success. Jesus then casts out the demon, healing the boy. Jesus explains that even a small bit of faith, the size of a tiny mustard seed, can "move mountains."
- The book of Mark also records this story of the disciples' failure to heal the boy, and Jesus coming to the rescue to heal him. Here in Matthew, this story features Jesus explaining that the disciples' efforts were unsuccessful because they lacked faith. In Mark's account, Jesus explains that they couldn't heal the boy because they didn't pray. Jesus must have said both things, and Matthew and Mark each focused on a different part of the answer Jesus gave.
- The chapter concludes with Jesus providing an explanation to Peter as to why he should pay the Temple tax. Jesus explains that he technically isn’t required to pay the tax but he also doesn’t want to cause problems for the sake of causing problems.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- Jesus is supreme. He is the fulfillment of everything God put in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of all things to come. He is above all. And we need to make him supreme in our lives.
- It's easy to think of faith as a very vague thing we feel, or maybe some ideas we believe, but faith acts. It takes action. In the case of trying to heal the boy, faith should have led to prayer. The disciples should have had faith that God (not they) could heal the boy, and then prayed so that they would be doing it God's power, not their own. But apparently, and incredulously, they tried to perform a healing without praying. It should seem absurd to us that the disciples tried to do something difficult and important without praying, but how often is that the case with us.
- Think about what you do without praying. Your job? Volunteering at church? Having an important conversation with your spouse or child? Trying to show your co-workers the love of God, talk to them about Jesus, or invite them to church? We need to live with a real sense of our limitations, and of God's infinite power, and in faith pray for his help with whatever we're doing.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- What will you be doing today? At home? At work? Other? Take time to pray through your day, asking God to help you with each task and interaction. And make it a habit. Start every day with faith, by praying through your day.