“As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ‘Do not tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.’ The disciples asked him, ‘Why then do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?’ He answered, ‘Elijah does indeed come first and will restore all things. And I tell you that Elijah has already come. Yet they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted. In the same way, the Son of Man will suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:9-13 NET).
Earlier in Matthew 17, Peter, James, and John were privileged to witness what we call Jesus’ transfiguration and also to see Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus. They heard the voice of God which told them to listen to Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what had happened until the Son of Man was raised from the dead. Jesus was, of course, speaking about himself and using a clear Messianic title, “Son of Man”. It was just a little while earlier that Peter had made the great confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God.
The disciples seemed to understand some of what Jesus was talking about. Although being raised from the dead would have been something unusual, they do not seem to have been thrown by that statement, but they were puzzled about the time frame. The experts in the Mosaic Law taught that before this would happen Elijah had to come. It would seem that those who knew the Jewish scriptures were referring to the statement made by Malachi:
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, to whom at Horeb I gave rules and regulations for all Israel to obey. Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord arrives. He will encourage fathers and their children to return to me, so that I will not come and strike the earth with judgment” (Malachi 4:4-6).
Jesus explained that they were right – Elijah would come first. But what they didn’t realize was that Elijah had already come but he had not been recognized – and he had suffered at their hands, as the Son of Man would do. It was then that the disciples figured out that Jesus was talking about John the Baptist. Notice the clear teaching by Jesus that he would also suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders. Later in the chapter, Jesus was even more explicit.
“When they gathered together in Galilee, Jesus told them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’ And they became greatly distressed” (Matthew 17:22-23).
Jesus told the disciples plainly what was going to happen: he would be betrayed, killed, but he would be raised on the third day. This greatly upset his followers.
Although Jesus told them many times what would happen to him, when it did happen they were still unprepared for it. At the betrayal, they fled. While Jesus was on the cross only one disciple and some women were there. When he was raised three days later, no one was there – in fact the disciples were behind locked doors.
Jesus has told us that he will come back. This is found many times in the writings of the apostles. Are we ready for that day?
Illustration: Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org
Readings for next week:
21 January – Matthew 14
22 January – Matthew 15
23 January – Matthew 16
24 January – Matthew 17
25 January – Matthew 18