Truth Taught- Jesus promises His disciples that He will be raised from the dead
Jesus is placing His disciples on a theological fast track. He is pressing them with one concept after another and they are just barely keeping up.
I remember in Biblical Greek Class the book spoke about a fog in which we would live for a year. What the author meant was there will be times when you feel frustrated because you think you’re not getting it. But if you keep at it you will discover that you are getting it. The fog was where you currently were but if you look back to about two weeks ago, you understand the material then but not so much the material right now. That was fog. I remember going home after class a wondering why I took the class in the first place, after all, it was an elective. None of my friends took it. But God had given us a very good professor and I was there to learn not just take the easy road. Then I’d sit down and discover that I actually was learning the material and by the end of the year I had a pretty good grasp of the Basics of Biblical Greek.
This is where the disciples are. Jesus is teaching them so much so quickly that they are in the fog. However, as time goes on they won’t stay there.
The Apostle Peter is really the case study in this theological fast track. Jesus’ time is getting short. He knows exactly what is going to take place when He gets to Jerusalem. His desire is to prepare His disciples for this pinnacle moment in redemptive history.
Peter, if you remember, is the disciple that answered the question correct. When asked, who do you say that I am, Peter spoke up and answered, You are the Christ, the Son of God. When Jesus heard His answer He told them all that the answer was correct and that this was not common knowledge and that Peter’s answer was so clear and correct that it could not have come from Peter himself, but God the Father had revealed it to him. So, Peter got the question right.
The Apostle Peter struggled with what the answer meant for Jesus once he discovered how it was going to work. Peter knew the answer but struggled with the answer. He could not understand what being the Christ, the Son of God was going to look like. Jesus, what you’re telling me will never happen! So, Jesus had to rebuke Peter and then move him a little further down the theological road. However, at that moment Peter was in the fog. He could not fathom that the Messiah would be killed. He couldn’t wrap his mind around that concept because of all he had been taught as a child and even later regarding the Messiah. He was trying to process the paradox. How can a dead Messiah be the King and have a Kingdom? How can He have a people?
Peter was not thinking about certain OT passages that did teach the suffering and death of the Messiah. Peter and the others had formulated a worldview that was not completely from the Scriptures. Jesus had to re-educate His disciples and move them from where they were theologically to where they needed to be.
Six days latter Jesus invites Peter, James and John to go on a hike. Their journey took them to a mountain and Jesus began to scale this very tall mountain inviting them to come with Him. Once on the top where no one else would see or interrupt Jesus began to show them what would happen in the very near future. He was giving the three disciples a glimpse into the future, a sneak peak at what His death, that they were so against, would accomplish. They were given the great privilege to witness our Lord being transfigured right before their eyes. He was changed into what He will be when He fully sets up His Kingdom. When Jesus told them that some of them would, in fact, see Him in His Kingdom or as He said coming into His Kingdom this is what He was speaking about. They were witnessing what Jesus Kingdom would be like. They were seeing what His death would accomplish.
The text before us today will take the disciples even further into truth and I pray as we go along we too will come to see Jesus and the cross in an even greater light.
Jesus’ brief dialogue today has two clear subjects. Where exactly does Elijah fit into messianic fulfillment and what will be the fate of Jesus, our Lord? So, it is about Elijah and Jesus.
Let’s watch as Jesus moves His followers a little further down the theological road so that they can accept what will take place in a short time.
Matthew 17:9–13 (ESV)
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
1. Sworn to Secrecy
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
I don’t know about you but sometimes keeping a secret is difficult. Jesus told them that they cannot tell anyone about what they just experienced up on the mountain. They can’t even tell the other disciples.
Jesus doesn’t say that you cannot ever tell…well, we have it in the Bible right? There was a time limit on their secret. They had to keep it until after His resurrection. After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection then they could tell others even everyone.
I want us to see that contained within Jesus’ command is a great confidence that His mission would be accomplished. Nothing could compromise Jesus’ mission and nothing would. His mission to come and seek and save the lost was guaranteed based on the fact that it was God who carried out the plan even from the beginning of time. Nothing could cause God’s plan to fail.
Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.
This is complete confidence in God’s plan. Jesus knew that being the Messiah meant that He would be killed. He also knew that His death was not the end. What confidence in His Father’s plan and power! Jesus spoke this way because He was completely confident. He knew it could not be otherwise.
So confident is our Lord that He tells them that after the resurrection, then they can tell about their experience.
He tells them to keep it quiet probably because it could prove to be a distraction to others. They could be focused more on His glorious Kingdom than what task He has right before Him. He must go to the cross first. The cross is what His focus is on now. His death is His immediate focus. So, the paradox continues.
2. One More Question
10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things.
Their question shows that they understood what the vision meant. They understood that it was, in fact, a vision of the future. It was what this will be like in the future. It was Jesus coming into His Kingdom.
They understand and yet here is one thing they don’t quite get. Their confusion has to do with Elijah, the Prophet. We’ve been taught by the Scribes that before the Messiah is presented and before He comes into His Kingdom that Elijah will have a ministry that is sort of an introductory role to get the people ready and to introduce the Messiah.
Malachi 4:5–6 (ESV)
5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
They saw Elijah make an appearance on the Mountain with Moses and yet they had been rightly taught that he will have a preparatory ministry for the Messiah.
They did not believe in reincarnation and they were not expecting actual Elijah, remember the Transfiguration was a vision prophecy. They did believe that there would be someone sent that would fulfill the Malachi prophecy.
Their basic question was this… So, Jesus if that was You entering Your Kingdom where is Elijah?
The Jews had expected Elijah to be the forerunner of the Messiah for over 400 years before Jesus came unto the scene. The last entry of the Holy Scriptures prior to the New Testament is about the coming of Elijah.
So, they waited. Every year during the Passover Meal since then the Jews would set a place at the table and have an empty chair dedicated to Elijah. At the end of the meal usually a child would go to the door and look outside for Elijah. Then at the end the historic Jewish Passover Meal they would sing “Next Year in Jerusalem” anticipating the coming of Elijah as the forerunner of the Messiah.
So, this was the expectation of the disciples. Where is Elijah? Where is his ministry? Did the Scribes get it wrong?
The coming of Elijah and the coming of the Messiah are directly connected. Here is the paradox again. Elijah and the Messiah’s ministry would be greater than they could ever imagine. While everyone expected that when the Messiah came all things in Israel would be set right. The Messiah would reign in glory and so they too would experience glory. Rome would be nothing but a bad dream when the Messiah comes.
3. Suffering, Not Glory Will Bring About the Kingdom
12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Elijah and the Messiah are connected.
Jesus tells the disciples that, in fact, Elijah has already come.
Before we are introduced to Jesus and His ministry Matthew tells us about John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:1–6 (ESV)
3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Jesus tells His disciples that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecies.
It’s no mistake that Matthew describes for us John’s appearance and clothing.
2 Kings 1:8 (ESV)
8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Malachi 3:1 (ESV)
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
The task of the messenger of God is to prepare the way, and the Lord will come to his temple. This verse has a rich tradition in referring to a forerunner who will go before the Messiah.
So, the tradition is that the Messenger, the one whose mission is to prepare the people to meet the Messiah would begin his ministry before the Messiah came.
This is exactly the ministry of John the Baptist.
Now we see beyond any doubt that Jesus is telling His disciples that John the Baptist was the Elijah figure who was promised in Malachi. His ministry made the people ready for Jesus, the Messiah.
Jesus and John would be directly connected.
12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”
How are they connected? Specifically, here they are connected in their suffering. Again, here’s the paradox.
John the Baptist was a political pawn in Herod’s Kingdom. He was put in prison for preaching sin and repentance especially when Herod was concerned. Herod kept him in prison and didn’t kill him immediately because the people liked John. However, the day came when killing John helped Herod save face and so John the Baptist was beheaded in prison.
Jesus, too would be One who would suffer at the hands of evil men. He too was a political pawn of Herod, Pilate, the Jews and the Romans. He too would suffer. His life was connected to John the Baptist’s life. Both would suffer and die. Yet, it was in their deaths that God worked.
John’s death would remove him from the picture so all attention could go to Jesus. Our Lord’s death would be the event that would save His people from their sin. The paradox continues. Sinful men thought they were ridding themselves of Jesus while all along God was working salvation for His people. While the Mount of Transfiguration was an amazing event. The disciples there that day saw what no one has ever seen. They saw Jesus in His glory. Yet, there was another mountain. This mountain, Mount Calvary would see through suffering and death of the Messiah another glory. In Jesus’ death, the Messiah would gain for Himself a people who would serve Him and love Him for all eternity. So, to get to the final glory of the transfiguration Jesus, the Messiah would endure suffering and death at the hands of evil men. It would be three days later that through the power of God Jesus the Messiah would be raised from the dead.
God’s ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts.
As with many things in our faith, the cross presents us with a paradox, for it is at once both a symbol of death and life, of agony and glory, of defeat and victory.
In God’s sovereignty He worked through sinful, evil men to bring about the death of John the Baptist. In His sovereignty, He brought about the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus. What seemed to the disciples to be a very bad idea was in fact, their salvation and ours. God often works in ways that don’t make sense to us.
In these days we must remember that God is sovereign and in control of all people and all events. He raises up nations and sets them low. He passes judgement and relents of calamity. God works through the sin of mankind to bring about His will.
In these evil days we must remember God is in control and the greatest paradox became the greatest blessing. Be encouraged through Christ WE WIN!