As the Gospel narratives advance, each gives increasing attention to Jesus’ private ministry to His disciples. While Jesus never ignored the crowds and the needs of those around Him, the Evangelists frame the events in such a way as to reveal that as Jesus neared the cross, He was preparing His disciples to carry on the kingdom after His ascension. In Matthew 17-18, Matthew cataloged Jesus’ self-disclosure of glory and suffering, and how the disciples should relate with one another. Jesus urged the disciples to humble themselves just as He was humbling Himself on the way to the cross. Jesus defined the spiritually humble as those who properly esteem the Person and mission of Jesus Christ; those who do not think of the kingdom in fanciful terms or ethereal images; those who speak of Jesus’ suffering and glory in the same sentence; those who understand the privileges and demands of discipleship in a community; and those who view Jesus’ humility on the cross as the model of their humility with one another, their mutual forbearance and forgiveness in light of His.
The Old Testament figures and references cited in Matthew 17-18 underscore the glory of Jesus and His new community in God’s redemptive plan.
(1) At the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8//Mark 9:2-8//Luke 9:28-36), Moses and Elijah appeared and were talking with Jesus. In the account of the Transfiguration, two of Israel’s most noteworthy figures were seen in physical presence dialoguing with Jesus. Peter was awestruck and offered to build tabernacles for both Moses and Elijah, and Jesus. That was when the voice from heaven identified Jesus as God’s Son, the One in whom the Father delighted. The heavenly voice commanded Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus. Though Moses predicted that God would raise up a prophet like him (Deut 18:15; see Acts 3:22-23; 7:37) and many thought that Jesus was Elijah come back to life (Matt 16:14//Mark 8:28//Luke 9:19), Jesus was supreme in comparison to Moses and Elijah.
(2) In Matt 18:16, Jesus commanded His disciples to follow Deut 19:15 so that they would have impartiality when offenses arose among them. At the conclusion of Deuteronomy 19, Moses commanded that Israel maintain justice in court cases by requiring multiple witnesses confirm if a charge was true. Moses’ instruction was intended to circumvent someone who would falsely accuse a member of the community. These witnesses were not only to make sure the offended person was not giving false testimony but also to help win back the offender. “If he [the offender] pays no attention to them [the witnesses accompanying the offended, in accord with Deut 19:15], tell the church,” Jesus said (Matt 18:17). Moses set forth the principle of multiple witnesses as part of the formal judicial procedures for Israel in Canaan. Jesus advanced Moses’ instruction for redemptive purposes in the normal course of church life.