(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
18 A DISCOURSE ABOUT ELIJAH
“The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Coming back down from the mountain-top Jesus warned His disciples not to divulge anything that they had seen or heard; no doubt, neither the Jews or anyone else would have believed them: Jesus told them that after His death and resurrection they were free to do so.
The appearance of Elijah on the mountain caused the disciples to question the instructions of the scribes where they taught that Elijah “must come first” before the establishment of the kingdom: if Jesus was the Messiah as was proven by the transfiguration that they had just witnessed, why did Elijah not appear as was predicted? “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” .
In answer to their question, Jesus indicated that “Elijah has already come…”and the scribes were correct in their teaching, but they did not recognize that he had come and they had done to him “everything they wished”, and that they would do the same to “the Son of Man” as he would also suffer the pain of death at their hands: whereupon, the disciples “understood he was talking to them about John the Baptist”.
The question that arises from this is whether John the Baptist completely fulfilled the prophecy concerning Elijah, or whether a future appearance of Elijah is necessary, since Elijah is mentioned as one of the two witnesses described in Revelation 11. It can be acknowledged that John the Baptist at least fulfilled the prophecy in part, but a future appearance of Elijah is debatable; in consideration that the prophecy states that Elijah would be sent “before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes”, does this mean immediately before, or some period in time before? One thing was certain, just as John the Baptist was not recognized and was killed, so Jesus would be rejected and killed by those same teachers of the Law.
19 FAILURE OF THE DISCIPLES TO HEAL A DEMONIAC BOY
Returning to the base of the mountain, Jesus finds the other nine disciples in the middle of a crowd of people and “the teachers of the law arguing with them” , ridiculing them, since as Jesus’ disciples they were unable to heal the boy with the evil spirit no doubt causing tremendous embarrassment to the disciples. After inquiring as to the argument, Jesus addresses a general statement to the generation – “O unbelieving generation…..” but more directly to the disciples, requesting that the boy be brought to Him and asks the father as to the length of time of the illness. The father, kneeling before Jesus asks for mercy and asks “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” and in response Jesus says “Everything is possible for him who believes” ; and the father responded “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” and seeing the crowd gathering around, Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave the boy and never to enter him again.
Witnessing the miraculous healing of the boy the disciples asked Jesus “Why couldn’t we drive it out” and Mark records Jesus’ response as “This kind can come out only by prayer” , and Matthew records that Jesus continued to say that it was because they had “so little faith” ending with the statement that “if you have faith…..Nothing will be impossible for you” . In His reply to their question Jesus made it clear that their difficulty was not the demon or the child but their own unbelief – what Jesus could accomplish with one word the disciples could only accomplish through prayer; and the lesson to the disciples, and to us, is that it is not the greatness or the nature of the problem that is the difficulty, it is our lack of faith in what God can do for us!
20 THE GALILEAN MINISTRY DRAWS TO A CLOSE – A SECOND PREDICTION OF JESUS’ DEATH
On this occasion “Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples” , His public ministry in Galilee was now complete and He wanted to continue the private teaching of His disciples, especially on the upcoming events at Jerusalem, the most important being His death and resurrection. Again, it is recorded by all three writers that the disciples “did not understand” what Jesus meant, Luke adding “It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it”, like the prophets of old they could not grasp the fact that Messiah first had to be put to death before His earthly kingdom could be established. To the disciples, and all Jews, Messiah would appear and set up His kingdom, driving out their current enemy and deliver them from captivity; they could not comprehend the thought that Messiah would be put to death: but this was God’s plan – the subject of sin first had to be dealt with and Messiah’s death was the only way to pay the penalty for the sin of all mankind, this was the only way that the kingdom could be established.
21 JESUS PAYS THE TEMPLE TAX AT CAPERNAUM
This incident is recorded only by Matthew; possibly, because Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience.
The Temple Tax referred to was imposed by Moses , first of all for the construction of the Tabernacle, and later collected for the maintenance of the Tabernacle and the Temple, and was payable by all who were counted and recorded in the census, and was “to atone for your lives” thus representing a ransom, or atonement money, for their souls. The Tax collectors questioned Peter, and thus Jesus, isn’t your master going to pay the tax? Jesus’ response to Peter “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes– from their own sons or from others?” – Jesus in referring to His own relationship to His Father is indicating that he does not pay a ransom for His soul; He was “THE SON” and as such no tax was required from Him; but nevertheless He would pay to avoid being an offence, and God Himself would provide miraculously what was not demanded of Jesus. So Jesus directs Peter to go to the lake and the in the mouth of the first fish he catches he will find the necessary tax as a coin, he is to give it to the tax collectors as “my tax and yours” . The Temple Tax or “Ransom”was demanded from all and speaks to the fact that “redemption”from sin is needed by all people and is available to all on the same terms – “The rich are not to give more…..and the poor are not to give less…” .