And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” And His disciples asked Him, saying, “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.
On the way down the mountain, after the Transfiguration where Peter, James and John saw the glory of God and fell from fear on their faces, it appears that they began coming back to their senses as they came back down the mountain. They had just seen Jesus, Moses and Elijah in their eternal, glorified states. And now they ask an interesting interrogative inquiry of Jesus.
In our last episode we saw a spectacular string, woven together throughout the Bible. I didn’t do justice to that thread and the missive was much longer than I like–I try to keep them under 2000 words. Nevertheless, the thread is seen without my missives. One only has to use the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics to unlock the caged Scripture. Remember foremost that context is king. It is superlative and must be used when considering all the other “vitamins,” a, aspiration; g, genre; e, examples (particularly in examples one must consider their context); d, divide. When these principles are followed, the Bible erupts into an ocean of information that gives us everything we need to know God and his Christ.
In my last missive, We Have Seen His Glory, we saw the sublime string of Glory, tents and earthy thinking, not only in the continuing context of Matthew but throughout much of the Bible as a whole. After all, the Bible is the story of Jesus and his working with, and for, man. Peter is most certainly a man. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the story continues. Imagine, the Bible is a book, written like a book. It’s not an owner’s manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla, it is a masterpiece of literature that spans thousands of years and multiple genres, yet written in a way that the Peters of this world can understand it. Does it take time and effort? Of course it does, as does anything worthwhile. Also, remember who wrote the book, ultimately. Although the authors’ aspirations to their audience is apex, the true Author has the authority to let those who truly seek to know Him, know Him. The Bible is the primary way to know God. Yes, their is a secondary way but it doesn’t hold a candle to God’s words. Nevertheless, Paul writes that God has been revealed by what has been made but he also writes that we don’t give it a second thought.
Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers will take a verse here, and a piece of a verse there, then string them together based upon the precepts of men. Here is what man can string together; Matthew 27:5 + Luke 10:37b + John 10:27b; “Judas went and hanged himself, go and do likewise; what you do do quickly.” However the Bible itself is divinely inspired and written as literature not in chapter or verse. Yes we search the Scriptures for examples but we must also consider their context, hence; Expository Exegesis of Examples, which means we must consider all the content in its context. Watch what unfolds in today’s text when we think about the CAGED method where Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. I cannot stress this enough, the Bible is literature strung together by God, why would we let man rip that apart and string tiny bits and pieces of it together in a way apart from what God intended?
“And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.'” Briefly because I am long-winded, Jesus continually tells his disciples to keep their mouths shut; about him being the Christ, about many miracles etc. But we want to know why, don’t we? The answer is unlocked by the CAGED method. Actually it’s quite easy when we have read the context of Matthew up to this point. Jesus is not revealing himself fully to Israel, the Pharisees particularly; or, the leaders. He is teaching, preaching and performing miracles in the presence of the masses, but he is progressively revealing himself more to the disciples. He promised the Pharisees only the sign of Jonah. Even the parables were only explained to the disciples. While we don’t know the precise and exact reason Jesus told them to tell no one of the vision, it is a quite common thing for Jesus to show the few, things that he wouldn’t show to the masses, especially the scribes and Pharisees.
Now that the stuper is wearing off, and Peter, James and John are coming to their senses, they ask, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” I must reiterate that this interrogative inquiry is an interesting one. Why would they ask this? What was it about seeing Elijah in his permanent, glorified body that made them ask, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Perhaps the answer Jesus gives will enlighten us.
“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.” Yes, we remember what we have read in Matthew. Notice closely, the words of Jesus. Elijah already came; they did to him whatever they wished; they did not recognize him. Do we recognize him?
Expository Exegesis of Examples; Our Old Testament tutor; Vitamin E: Malichi 4:5-6; “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” 2 Kings 2:8: “What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?” And they answered him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
We have read in Matthew, in chapter 3; “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’ Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.”
For time’s sake we cannot look at all of the similarities between John the Baptist and Elijah but please do so on your own (End of 1 Kings, begining of 2 Kings) because it becomes obvious that John is the New Testament Elijah. The sublime string continues to be woven together throughout the Bible.
Based upon the response of Jesus the disciples understand that he is speaking of John the Baptist. Notice; “Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.” There you have it, case closed. You were expecting more?
You asked for it. I truly believe that Matthew’s ultimate aspiration to his first century, Jewish audience is that of Jesus as the true Israel. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David; fled to Egypt, like Israel; came out of Egypt (“out of Egypt I called my son”) like Israel; was baptized by John, like Israel, led by Moses, was baptized into the Sea of Reeds; Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness, like Israel was tested forty years in the wilderness (where they lived in booths); Jesus gave the Law on the mountain, like Israel received the law from the mountain. The difference between Jesus and Israel is that Jesus remained faithful and did all that Israel could not do.
This continues, let me hit the highlights as they pertain to today’s text. Baptism; Moses and the Israelites in the Sea of Reeds. Jesus by John. Elijah, dressed like John the Baptist. Moses, died, Jesus died however, Elijah ascended to Heaven. Jesus ascended to Heaven. Elijah parted the waters. Moses parted the waters. Jesus walked on water. Elijah was the first Prophet to raise someone from the dead. Jesus raised people from the dead and he himself was raised. Moses gave the law. Jesus gave the Law. Elijah withheld rain from Israel. Jesus withheld his full self from Israel. Moses tabernacled. Jesus tabernacled. Elijah tabernacled. Elijah passed his power to Elisha. Jesus passed his power to the apostles. Moses ushered his people to the promised land. Jesus ushers his people to the promised land. Moses and Elijah were both sojourners, as were John and Jesus. Elijah healed gentiles; Jesus healed gentiles. These are just a few highlights of the forethought and foreshadowing of God. We have only scratched the surface. Time and words would fail me if I attempted an exhaustive approach to the sublime string that is woven together throughout the Bible.
You have to read this book in it’s context, the way God intended it to be read. I assure you it is quite a bit better than any man stringing together a verse or two so that you will buy his books and line his pockets for the false promises he provides.
But why did the disciples ask Jesus, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Despite Peter’s willingness to build three temporary tents for the three permanent people, it is apparent that the three disciples were begining to understand–that is a lot of threes. Think about all the questions that we have concerning the Transfiguration. Why were Peter, James and John only invited. Why were Moses and Elijah their? Why were the three told to tell no one? Was it just a vision? The list continues. Nevertheless, most pastors and preachers theologians and teachers never address the following: why was there an event in which Jesus appeared in glory with Moses and Elijah? That’s actually not entirely true, many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers attempt to tell us why but they usually assume facts not in evidence. They say such things as; Elijah represents the rapture of the church. I don’t think so. Remember, John the Baptist represents Elijah, Jesus all but said it, and Matthew’s aspiration to his audience is to confirm it through his writing; “Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.”
Remember the number 3? 3 glorified men, 3 disciples and Peter’s silly suggestion of 3 tabernacles. But there is another hidden number 3 in the context. For time’s sake I will sum up and you can dig deeper for yourselves. Moses was a witness who represents the Law, Elijah was a witness who represents the prophets and the voice from heaven was a witness who represents the Father. 3 supernatural witnesses to Christ’s glory.
The 3 natural witnesses of Peter, James and John, while not fully comprehending this occurrence, were begining to understand. Jesus is the true Israel and the long-awaited Messiah. The one of whom Moses said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” John, who represents Elijah, baptized Jesus and a voice came fro heaven, which represents the Father, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then at the Transfiguration God strings it all together and a voice from heaven says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
Peter, James and John were chosen to be witnesses to the Transfiguration and they learned the lesson well. Why else would they ask, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” I love riddles that aren’t intended to be riddles. I assure you that this is not a riddle. The disciples learned the lesson–their question signifies it. They now are positive that Jesus is the Christ. The scribes say that Elijah must come before the Christ comes. Therefore, by asking the question about Elijah, they are demonstrating that they realize that Jesus is Christ coming. Make sense? It was a huge revelation for that time. John, AKA, Elijah had come, as promised. And he paved the way for Jesus. This event doesn’t signify a rapture or any other event other than Jesus tabernacling on earth, his death and resurrection. Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and prophets respectively, bore witnesses, then and now, that Jesus is the true Israel, the Messiah.