Exultation and Rejection

Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”

Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.

Matthew 17:10-13 New Living Translation

As we begin Matthew 17, Peter, James, and John are allowed to experience the strongest evidence to that moment of Jesus being the Messiah their nation had long been waiting for. Jesus takes them to the top of a mountain where they have a supernatural encounter with the presence of God. As they stand on the mountain, Jesus’ face begins to shine like the sun. This points back to the time in Israel’s history when Moses came back from encountering God on Mt. Sinai and his face would glow from being in the presence of Yahweh. The three disciples then see Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. They are all overwhelmed by this vision and Peter wants to build three memorials on the mountain to remember this event. At this point, they hear a voice from heaven affirming Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and their need to listen to Him carefully. On the way down, the disciples asked Jesus again about the return of Elijah as the predecessor to the Messiah. Jesus reminds them that Elijah has already come and they finally realize that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this expectation from the prophecies of old.

As Jesus, again, let His closest followers in on more details of His role in God’s great plan, He included the part they had difficulty absorbing. He reminded them of how John had been rejected by the powers that be and was eventually executed by Herod Agrippa. Jesus saw this as an expected outcome. Among the leadership of a corrupted system that continued to reject the love and justice of God, voices that point to the ways the culture is falling short of the good Kingdom of God will always be a threat and something that needs to be silenced. Jesus knew that the same people who silenced John would eventually want to silence Him. This was hard for the disciples to accept because it went against their understanding of the way things should be. Their culture had taught them to wait for a victorious deliverer. The idea that the Messiah would suffer was foreign to them. Peter, himself, had previously protested the idea that Jesus would suffer death and was strongly warned that this thinking was human thinking and not Divine thinking. Now, they seemed to accept that what He said was true even if it made them uncomfortable.

Often the ways of Jesus will go against our human ideas of how things get done and are changed. We like a conquering king that will kick butt, take over, and make things right. The path of Jesus is a path that finds victory in the midst of what others would call defeat. As followers of Jesus, this can be a hard thing for us to embrace. History has shown us, though, that those who have discovered this reality have found a way of peace in some of the most difficult circumstances. They have the eternal perspective to see that God will set things straight in the end and is always working to bring about the good Kingdom He hopes for us to join Him in.

Jesus, You chose a way of suffering in order to bring about God’s good purposes on Earth. That is something we are not always comfortable with. Give us the faith to see all things from and eternal perspective and to trust You in every circumstance.

Published by llongard

I grew up in northeast Wisconsin. After high school, I moved to Minneapolis, MN to attend North Central University and graduated 1992 with a degree in Biblical Studies and Humanities. I spent most of the next fifteen years in the Twin Cities area until my family and I moved to Indiana in 2007. For most of the first seventeen years after college, I was involved in university ministry either as a volunteer, bi-vocational, or full-time campus minister. Through those years, I also worked in the main street marketplace as a retail manager/trainer and as a service representative in the insurance industry. I've also worked in various education roles. Most recently, I have been working on various projects addressing homelessness in Indianapolis and as team lead for Diakonos Community, a Communitas International missional initiative. Through this ministry, we seek to build missional communities in Indianapolis that serve and bring the life of Christ to those on the margins of society. Our strategy is to collaborate with community agencies that serve those in need and share Christ through meaningful relationships. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, three amazing daughters, and two cats (can't forget the cats, LOL). As a family, we enjoy camping, hiking, gardening, and going to the YMCA together. I also enjoy fishing, riding bicycle, and being involved in whatever my daughters are doing. Though I have not lived in the Green Bay area for over 20 years, I am still a major Packer fan.

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