Lesson 20: Matthew 17

“Lesson 20: Matthew 17,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 20,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 20

Matthew 17


Jesus Christ, Moses, and Elijah conferred priesthood keys upon Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. After descending from the mount, Jesus cast a devil out of a boy. In Capernaum, Jesus miraculously provided tribute money for Himself and Peter.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 17:1–13

Moses and Elias appear to Peter, James, and John

Hold up a driver’s license, or invite a student with a driver’s license to show it to the class.

  • What does possessing a driver’s license authorize a person to do?

Display or show a picture of car keys.

  • Why is it important to have access to car keys in addition to having a driver’s license?

  • How might having a driver’s license and keys to drive a car be compared to the authority and keys of the priesthood necessary to direct God’s work? (Just as those who hold driver’s licenses are authorized to drive, many men hold the authority of the priesthood. But just as car keys enable a driver to operate only a particular vehicle, priesthood keys authorize an individual to operate or direct the work of God within a particular sphere. The President of the Church holds and uses priesthood keys to preside over and direct all of the Lord’s work upon the earth.)

Remind students that in Matthew 16:19 we read that the Lord promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom, or the authority to direct God’s work on the earth. At that time, Peter and each of the other Apostles had already been given priesthood authority, but they had not yet been given the keys of the kingdom.

Invite students as they study the scriptures today to look for how Peter received the keys of the kingdom and how these same keys were later conferred upon Joseph Smith and others in our day.

Invite a student to read Matthew 17:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify where the Savior took Peter, James, and John to prepare them to receive priesthood keys. You may want to point out that the Savior may have selected Peter, James, and John to go with Him because they would serve as the First Presidency of the Church following the Savior’s Resurrection and Ascension into heaven (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:152).

  • Where did Jesus take Peter, James, and John?

  • What happened to the Savior on the mount?

  • What does it mean to be transfigured?

Help students understand that transfiguration refers to “the condition of persons who are temporarily changed in appearance and nature—that is, lifted to a higher spiritual level—so that they can endure the presence and glory of heavenly beings” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Transfiguration,” Peter, James, and John were also transfigured at this time (see D&C 67:11–12).

Write the following heading on the board: Individuals who were present on the Mount of Transfiguration. Under this heading write Jesus Christ, Peter, James, and John.

Invite a student to read Matthew 17:3 aloud, and ask the class to look for who appeared to Jesus and the Apostles on the mount.

Add Moses and Elijah to the list on the board.

To help students understand why Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

Brother Joseph

“The Savior, Moses, and Elias [Elijah], gave the keys [of the priesthood] to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 105).

  • According to Joseph Smith, why did Elijah and Moses appear on the mount? (To give priesthood keys to Peter, James, and John. You may also want explain that Moses and Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, to restore priesthood keys: Moses restored the keys of the gathering of Israel [see D&C 110:11], and Elijah restored the keys associated with the sealing power [see D&C 110:13–16]. These appearances in Kirtland provide a pattern for understanding what took place on the Mount of Transfiguration.)

Explain that the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible clarifies that John the Baptist—whom Herod had killed—also appeared on the mount (see Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:3 [in Mark 9:4, footnote a]; see also Bible Dictionary, “Elias”). Add John the Baptist to the list on the board.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 17:4–9. Ask the class to follow along, looking for who else was present on the Mount of Transfiguration.

  • Who else was present on the Mount of Transfiguration? (Add God the Father to the list on the board.)

Briefly remind students that a gospel dispensation is a period of time in which Heavenly Father dispenses priesthood authority, ordinances, and knowledge of His plan of salvation to people on the earth through His authorized servants. Invite a student to come to the board and place a star next to each of the individuals listed on the board who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in our dispensation. (The student should place a star next to each individual listed on the board.)

[First Vision]

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appear to Joseph Smith

Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, The

John the Baptist restores the Aaronic Priesthood

Restoration of the Melchezedek Priesthood

Peter, James, and John restore the Melchizedek Priesthood

Elijah appearing in the Kirtland Temple

Elijah restores sealing keys in the Kirtland Temple

Ask the class to explain when each of these visits occurred and their purpose. (As students explain, you may want to display the following pictures: The First Vision; John the Baptist Conferring the Aaronic Priesthood; Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration; and Elijah Appearing in the Kirtland Temple [Gospel Art Book (2009), nos. 90, 93, 94, 95; see also].)

  • What truth can we learn from these events regarding the conferral of priesthood keys in each dispensation? (Students may use different words, but help them identify the following truth: In each dispensation, God confers priesthood keys upon His chosen servants so they can direct His work upon the earth.)

  • Why is it important to know that the same pattern of conferring priesthood keys that occurred during the time of Jesus Christ was repeated in our day with the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • Do the current prophets and apostles hold the same keys Joseph Smith received? (Yes.) How did they receive those keys? (The keys were passed down from Joseph Smith through Brigham Young and subsequent prophets.)

Consider inviting students to share their feelings about priesthood authority and the blessing of having keys conferred in our dispensation just as they were during Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry.

Matthew 17:14–23

Jesus casts a devil out of a boy

Summarize Matthew 17:14–23 by explaining that a father brought his son to the Savior to be healed. After Jesus healed the child, He taught His disciples that some blessings can be obtained only by prayer and fasting. He also prophesied of His death and Resurrection. (Note: These events will be discussed in greater depth in the teaching idea for Mark 9:14–29.)

Matthew 17:24–27

Jesus miraculously provides tribute money for Himself and Peter

As students study Matthew 17:24–27, invite them to look for a truth that can help us understand how our examples influence others.

To help students understand the context of this passage, explain that under the law of Moses all Israelite males over the age of 20 were required to pay an annual temple tax, called tribute (see Exodus 30:13–16). This money was used to support costs associated with operating the temple. Some of the priests and rabbis among the people were excluded by the ruling council from having to pay this tax.

Invite a student to read Matthew 17:24–26 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the questions the tax collectors and Jesus asked Peter.

  • What did the tax collectors ask Peter? What was Peter’s response?

  • What did Jesus ask Peter? What was Peter’s response?

Explain that the word strangers in this passage refers to everyone in a kingdom who is not one of the king’s children. The “strangers” must pay taxes, while the king’s children are exempt. Jesus was teaching Peter that because He was the Son of God and the temple was His Father’s house (see Matthew 17:25–26; John 2:16), He didn’t need to pay this tax and could have chosen not to do so. However, the tax collectors expected Jesus to pay the tax because they didn’t understand who He was.

Invite students to read Matthew 17:27 silently, looking for what Jesus instructed Peter to do next.

  • What did the Savior instruct Peter to do?

  • Why did Jesus say He would pay the tax?

Write the word offend on the board, and explain that in this context the phrase “lest we should offend them” is likely referring to the fact that the Savior did not want to do anything that could cause others to stumble spiritually. (If He had not paid the tax, some Jews might have looked unfavorably upon Him and His followers and become less receptive toward the gospel message.)

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s example? (Although students may say it differently, they should identify the following principle: We can follow the Savior’s example by avoiding actions that may cause others to stumble spiritually. Write this principle on the board.)

  • What are some other situations in which this principle could guide us to make correct choices?

  • How have you been blessed as you have tried to follow the Savior’s example and avoid actions that could cause others to stumble spiritually?

Conclude the lesson by inviting students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals something they will do to better live the principle they identified above.

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Scripture Mastery Review

When students can locate scripture mastery passages easily, they will be able to more confidently study the gospel, apply gospel principles in their lives, and teach from the scriptures.

Scripture mastery review activities are placed throughout this manual to introduce a variety of methods for helping students review scripture mastery verses regularly. Additional review activities can be found in the appendix of this manual.

Quizzes can help students remember what they have learned and measure their learning. Invite students to read the three scripture mastery passages that have already been introduced in this manual. You could also include a few new passages. (You may want to suggest that students mark these passages in their scriptures.) After students have read, quiz them by giving a key word from the passage or by reading a phrase from the seminary bookmark. Then ask students to locate the correct passage in their scriptures.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 17:1–5. The Transfiguration and the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days

“The persons present on the Mount of Transfiguration [God the Father, Jesus Christ, Peter, James, John, John the Baptist, Moses, and Elijah] played a prominent role in the latter-day Restoration of the gospel. This helps us to see that the same priesthood authority and keys held in previous dispensations were restored in this final dispensation” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 56).

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized this truth:

“I invite each of you to consider how you would respond to the following question posed to the members of the Church many years ago by President David O. McKay: ‘If at this moment each one of you were asked to state in one sentence or phrase the most distinguishing feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?’ (“The Mission of the Church and Its Members,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1956, 781).

“The response President McKay gave to his own question was the ‘divine authority’ of the priesthood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands apart from other churches that claim their authority is derived from historical succession, the scriptures, or theological training. We make the distinctive declaration that priesthood authority has been conferred by the laying on of hands directly from heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith” (“The Powers of Heaven,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 48).

Matthew 17:1–5. Priesthood keys

God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. The keys of the priesthood are the rights of presidency, or the power God gives to man to govern and direct God’s kingdom on the earth (see Matthew 16:15–19). Those who hold priesthood keys can authorize priesthood holders to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation. All who serve in the Church are called under the direction of one who holds priesthood keys. Thus, they receive authority and are entitled to the power needed to serve and fulfill the responsibilities of their callings. (See Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 49–52.)

Matthew 17:1–13. The Mount of Transfiguration

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles summarized what we know took place on the Mount of Transfiguration:

“(1) Jesus singled out Peter, James, and John from the rest of the Twelve; took them upon an unnamed mountain; there he was transfigured before them, and they beheld his glory. … [Peter] said they ‘were eyewitnesses of his majesty.’ (2 Pet. 1:16.)

“(2) Peter, James, and John, were themselves ‘transfigured before him’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 105], … thus enabling them to entertain angels, see visions and comprehend the things of God. …

“(3) Moses and Elijah—two ancient prophets who were translated and taken to heaven without tasting death, so they could return with tangible bodies on this very occasion, an occasion preceding the day of resurrection—appeared on the mountain; and they and Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter, James, and John [see Teachings: Joseph Smith, 105].

“(4) John the Baptist, previously beheaded by Herod, apparently was also present. …

“(5) Peter, James, and John saw in vision the transfiguration of the earth, that is, they saw it renewed and returned to its paradisiacal state—an event that is to take place at the Second Coming when the millennial era is ushered in. [D&C 63:20–21.]

“(6) It appears that Peter, James, and John received their own endowments while on the mountain. [See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 2:165.] … It also appears that it was while on the mount that they received the more sure word of prophecy, it then being revealed to them that they were sealed up unto eternal life. (2 Pet. 1:16–19; D&C 131:5.)

“(7) Apparently Jesus himself was strengthened and encouraged by Moses and Elijah so as to be prepared for the infinite sufferings and agony ahead of him in connection with working out the infinite and eternal atonement. [See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. (1916), 373.] …

“(8) Certainly the three chosen apostles were taught in plainness ‘of his death, and also his resurrection’ [Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 9:31 (in Luke 9:31, footnote a)]. …

“(9) It should also have been apparent to them that the old dispensations of the past had faded away, that the law (of which Moses was the symbol) and the prophets (of whom Elijah was the typifying representative) were subject to Him whom they were now commanded to hear.

“(10) Apparently God the Father, overshadowed and hidden by a cloud, was present on the mountain” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:399–401).

Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:3 (in Mark 9:4, footnote a), indicates that John the Baptist, who had been martyred but not yet resurrected, also appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles suggested a reason why John the Baptist was present:

“It is not to be understood that John the Baptist was the Elias who appeared with Moses to confer keys and authority upon those who then held the Melchizedek Priesthood, which higher priesthood already embraced and included all of the authority and power John had held and exercised during his ministry. Rather, for some reason that remains unknown—because of the partial record of the proceedings—John played some other part in the glorious manifestations then vouchsafed to mortals. Perhaps he was there, as the last legal administrator under the Old Covenant, to symbolize that the law was fulfilled and all old things were done away, thus contrasting his position with that of Peter, James, and John who were then becoming the ‘first’ legal administrators of the New Kingdom” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:404).