Saturday (December 16): “Elijah must first come”
Scripture: Matthew 17:9a,10-13
9a And as they were coming down the mountain 10 the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" 11 He replied, "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; 12 but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Reading: Sirach 48:1-4,9-11 (deutero-canonical)
1 Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch. 2 He brought a famine upon them, and by his zeal he made them few in number. 3 By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens, and also three times brought down fire. 4 How glorious you were, O Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! And who has the right to boast which you have? 9 You who were taken up by a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with horses of fire; 10 you who are ready at the appointed time, it is written, to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob. 11 Blessed are those who saw you, and those who have been adorned in love; for we also shall surely live.
Meditation: God gives signs to show what he is about to do. John the Baptist is one such sign who pointed to Jesus and prepared the way for his coming. John fulfilled the essential task of all the prophets: to be fingers pointing to Jesus Christ. John is the last and greatest prophet of the old kingdom, the old covenant. The Jews expected that when the Messiah would come, Elijah would appear to announce his presence. John fills the role of Elijah and prepares the way for the coming of Jesus Christ by preaching a baptism of repentance and renewal.
As watchful servants, we, too must prepare for the Lord's coming again by turning away from sin and from everything that would keep us from pursuing his will. Are you eager to do God's will and are you prepared to meet the Lord Jesus when he returns in glory?
"Lord Jesus, stir my zeal for your righteousness and for your kingdom. Free me from complacency and from compromising with the ways of sin and worldliness that I may be wholeheartedly devoted to you and to your kingdom."
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-19
2 Stir up your might, and come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! 15 the stock which your right hand planted. 16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance! 17 But let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! 18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name! 19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: John fulfills Elijah's prophetic ministry, by John Chrysostom, 547-407 A.D.
"They did not know this from the Scriptures, but the scribes used to tell them, and this saying was reported among the ignorant crowd, as also about Christ. Therefore the Samaritan woman also said, 'The Messiah is coming; when he comes, he will show us all things' (John 4:25). And they themselves asked John, 'Are you Elijah or the prophet?' (John 1:21). For this opinion was strong, as I said, both the one about Christ and the one about Elijah, but they did not interpret it as it should have been. For the Scriptures speak of two comings of Christ, both this one that has taken place and the future one. Paul spoke of these when he said, 'For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world' (Titus 2:11-12). "Behold the first advent, and listen to how he declares the coming advent: 'Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ' (Titus 2:13). The prophets also mention both advents; of the one that is second they say that Elijah will be the forerunner; John was forerunner of the first, John whom Christ also called by the name Elijah, not because he was Elijah but because he was fulfilling Elijah's ministry. For just as Elijah will be the forerunner of the second advent, so John was of the first. But the scribes, confusing these things and perverting the people, mentioned that coming alone, the second one, to the people, and said, 'If this is the Christ, Elijah ought to have come first.' That is why the disciples also say, 'Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?'" (excerpt from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 57.1)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.