The Coming of Elijah
June 1, 2021
And His disciples asked Him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" And He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13).
The prophet Malachi lived 450 years before Jesus was born. He spoke of a time when Elijah the prophet would come to prepare the Hebrew people for the coming Messiah (Malachi 3:1-3; 4:5-6). It is evident the disciples were aware of the doctrine of the coming of Elijah because the disciples questioned Jesus about it. They were, however, confused on the prophetic import of Elijah’s appearing. In essence they asked, “You are the Christ, but Elijah has not yet come, as was expected; what, then, is the meaning of the teaching of the Scribes? Were they right or wrong in their expectation of Elijah?”
Jesus helped them understand the prophetic nature of Malachi’s prophecy. John the Baptist had appeared in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah. His work was indeed a ‘restoration’ of Israel in preparation of the coming Messiah.
The word ‘restore’ means to return to a former state or order. Before John appeared in the wilderness, Israel’s view of the Messiah was false, their expectations were flawed, and their conduct was worldly and of the flesh. When John appeared, he corrected many of their beliefs about the Messiah, restored them, to some degree, to a correct view of their own religion, and prepared them for Jesus’ appearing.
But the elders of Israel rejected John just as they rejected Jesus. They did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands (v.12). They executed John just as they were going to execute Jesus. While the common people responded favorably to John and to Jesus and their teachings, the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees were jealous, spiritually blind to the truth of God, and wanted to keep Judaism under their complete control.
In Mark 9:12 Jesus said, Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt. This was written of Jesus in Isaiah 53:1-12. To be treated with contempt is to be considered worthless or as nothing; to be rejected and despised. No prophecy was ever more strikingly fulfilled.
“Lord Jesus, You said these things would take place among the people of Israel in order to fulfill the words of the prophets and the will of God in His plan of salvation for the Jews and Gentiles. It is heartbreaking that our conduct toward You was as it was, but I rejoice that Your suffering won our salvation and gave to us the gift of eternal life. May Your name be glorified forever for such love and mercy and obedience to God’s will. Amen.”