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THE TRANSFIGURATION - JESUS RETURNS TO CAPER
NAUM - PASSES THROUGH PEREA TOWARD JERUSA
While the minds of the disciples were in a state of amazement at the new prospect opened before them, an event took place calculated to enlighten and instruct them, as well as to prepare them for their coming trials. Six days after the scene recorded at the close of the last chapter, Jesus took his three confidential apostles, Peter, James, and John, and retired with them to mountain for purposes of devotion; — another example of his custom to devote a season to special prayer at every important crisis of his life. While he prayed, his appearance became changed, his countenance shone with a lustre like that of the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. At the same time Moses and Elijah, the two great names of the ancient dispensation, appeared to him, and conversed with him respecting his approaching death at Jerusalem. Perhaps they were sent to reveal to him fully all its purposes and necessity. Perhaps, as when he afterward prayed earnestly in the garden, an angel was sent
Matt. xvii. 1.
Mark ix. 2.
Luke ix. 28.
to strengthen him, so now, as he prayed on the mountain, these holy prophets were sent to cheer niin and help him to meet his fearful trials. This however we do not know, and there is no room to enter into a discussion of all the questions to which this remarkable event has given rise. One thing is clear. It was.designed to give a divine testimony to the character and authority of Jesus; for, as the prophets departed and the bright cloud moved away, a voice was heard saying,
" This is my beloved son; hear him.” Peter afterwards, in one of his Epistles, refers to this voice “ from the excellent glory” as one of the evidences of his Master's truth. As they went down from the mountain, Jesus forbade the three witnesses to speak of it until he had risen from the dead. Mark tells us, that they observed the injunction, but were greatly perplexed to understand what was meant by the rising from the dead. None of the apostles seem to have arrived at any right apprehension on this subject during their Lord's life; and we shall find, as we go on, that his various attempts to explain it were lost upon them. There is reason to suppose, that they thought it not a recovery from actual death, for it was a current opinion among the Jews, that the Messiah should never die; but a rising to the power and office of his kingdom. But if they could not understand what was meant by the resurrection, neither could they comprehend why they should conceal what they had seen.
There was a tradition, derived from the prophet Malachi, that Elijah should appear before the coming of the Messiah. Why should they not proclaim, that they had seen him on the mountain? They asked an explanation; and Jesus informed them, that Elijah had already appeared, and been put to death. The office described by Malachi, had been performed by John the Baptist.
On reaching the plain, they found the other disciples surrounded by a crowd, and among them a man with a lunatic son, whom the disciples had in vain striven to heal. Jesus reproved them for their want of faith, and healed the unfortunate boy. When questioned by the Apostles why they had not been able to do it, he answered,
" Because of your unbelief ;” and assured them that if their faith were but strong, no miracle would be impossible to them. And their faith was to be rendered thus strong, he added, by prayer and fasting ;-by faithful use of the means of devotion and spiritual strength.
It has been thought that the beautiful and picturesque mountain of Tabor was that on which the transfiguration took place. But the summit
Matt. xvii. 14.
Mark ix. 14.
Luke ix. 37.
of Tabor was far too public a spot for a transaction of this nature; and besides, the course of the history shows that it could not have occurred in Galilee, and that it probably took place in the neighborhood of Cesarea Philippi.
Shortly after this event, they directed their way to Galilee, and returned to Capernaum, from which they had been for some time absent. Their return was private, for Jesus was desirous of concealing his movements as far as possible; “he would not that any one should know it." Perhaps he would not have returned home at all, except that it might be necessary for some purposes previous to his final departure for Jerusalem. As they journeyed, the subject of his approaching end appears to have occupied their minds; indeed how could it be otherwise? “Let these sayings
? sink deep into your ears," said he; “the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But he will rise again the third day.” But they understood not this saying, says the Evangelist, and were afraid to ask him. Hence it remained without explanation, and they put upon it that construction which was most consonant to their prejudices and wishes;-a construction which afterwards entirely misled them.
On arriving at Capernaum, the officers whose duty it was to collect a certain tax, inquired of Peter whether his Master did not pay it? Peter,
aware that Jesus had resided long enough in Capernaum to have it considered his lawful home, replied that he did. It is not perfectly clear what this tax was. It was perhaps the poll-tax levied by the Romans; but more probably it was the tax of half a shekel required to be paid by all Jews of twenty years old and upward, for the use of the Temple. When Peter went into the house to speak of the subject to Jesus, his Lord immediately explained to him that, as the princes of the earth do not assess their own children, he, as the Son of God, would be rightfully excused from the payment of a tax to the Temple, which was his Father's house. He probably said this, because he desired, at this critical period, to impress on his followers, by every possible means, the assurance of his authority and dignity. For now the season was coming in which their steadfastness would be tried. Yet, that he might give no unnecessary offence, he paid the tax; and, what is very remarkable, by performing a miracle;-the only instance in which he wrought a miracle for his own convenience.
Immediately after this an incident occurred, which shows the extreme difficulty in which he was placed in relation to the disciples. If he spoke of his sufferings and death, they were in
Matt. xvii. 24.