The 17th chapter of Matthew’s gospel begins with a moment in Jesus’ ministry that always shines in my mind. Reminiscent of Moses climbing to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God, Jesus takes three of his disciples to the top of a high mountain. Rather than receive a new law atop the mountain, Jesus instead becomes transformed, with his face shining like the sun and his clothes as white as light itself. This transfiguration parallels the appearance of Moses when he returned to the camp of the Israelites after spending time on Sinai with the Lord.
In this strange moment, Jesus and the disciples are also joined by Moses and Elijah. Peter, whose mouth often moves quicker than his brain, offers to make the situation permanent by setting up camp on the mountain. While Peter is still trying to speak, God’s voice reminds the disciples that Jesus is God’s beloved Son, and that He is well pleased with Jesus.
Soon after descending back to reality, Jesus heals a boy from demonic possession—something the disciples had unsuccessfully attempted earlier. When Jesus can easily do what his followers could not, the disciples want to know why. The answer is simply that they did not have faith that their attempts to rebuke the demon will be successful.
Jesus’ journey continues into Galilee, where he reminds the disciples that the goal of his ministry is one about which they are not pleased to be reminded: his death and resurrection.
The chapter ends with a seemingly strange discussion between Jesus and Peter, after Peter is questioned about whether or not Jesus approved of paying the two-drachma temple tax. This tax was first mentioned in Exodus 30, and was originally a tax of half a shekel (or two drachmas), which was the equivalent of seven grams of silver. (In 2023 terms, this is roughly a third of the silver in a silver dollar.)