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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Elijah Comes First

And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him” (Mark 9:11-13, NIV).

Theological issues must be dealt with. When disciples ask questions it is not necessarily due to a lack of faith. The Twelve have a big intellectual problem that is hindering them from full commitment to the mission of Jesus. They had been taught all their lives that Elijah would come before the Day of the Lord. When, then, had he shown up?

Evidently the opponents of Jesus had been throwing this question at the disciples, and they had no answer. When you don’t have an answer, it’s always best to ask someone who does. They come to Jesus.

The question cannot be dismissed. After all, the weight of the prophet Malachi lay behind it — he had said flatly that Elijah would come before the Messiah to prepare the way (Malachi 4:5,6).

Jesus responds to their question by saying that the prophecy is correct. Elijah does come first. However, Jesus knows what Malachi cannot see from four centuries previously. Malachi saw one part; Jesus sees the whole. The prophet’s focus was on “restore all things.” Jesus knew that restoration depended on “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected.”

It’s as though Malachi, looking from a distance, only saw the mountain peak of the Eternal Age, not recognizing that the mountain peak of the Cross and Resurrection was in the foreground — and a long valley of time separated the two peaks.

Malachi saw the Age of Restoration (which Jesus begins when He heals our hearts and forgives our sins), but other prophets saw the suffering that the Messiah would endure (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22). Jesus brings both strands of the prophetic word together.

In answering the disciples’ question, He turned them away from the long future to the immediate present where suffering lay before Him.

Then, Jesus said that Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah to come had been fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 16:13). Jesus took what many regarded as a literal Elijah and instead brought a spiritual fulfillment to it. His whole ministry is that way — the general expectation was for the literal earthly reign of the Messiah, but Jesus repudiates that view in His announcement of death and resurrection, and in His teaching that the Kingdom in this age is internal and not external.

It’s just as easy for us as disciples today to focus on the grand promises of Scripture without regard to the perils that the Scriptures also indicate await us. Would that every day be one of fulfillment, happiness, health, safety and success. But, alas, there are also days of storm, trouble, nightmare, difficulty and deep distress. We cannot focus on one to the exclusion of the other until that Day when there is no more night!

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, I like fulfillment better than frustration, success rather than stress, healing rather than hurt, and good news rather than bad. But I live in this broken world marred by sin, sickness and death. Help me, Lord, with the one hand to hold on to the promise of good things, but with the other hand receive if necessary the nail that causes so much pain.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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2008 On Your Mark

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