Elijah and doubt:
Why you will never get it right
The conflicts of Jesus
40 Blogs of Lent: Day 13
13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to their playmates,
17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
The Spirit of Elijah
The spirit of Elijah is important. Before Elijah was taken into heaven Elisha asked for a double portion of his spirit. (Double portion refers to an eldest son’s inheritance, Elisha was asking to inherit Elijah’s spirit.) Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return. In the last blog I spoke about John the Baptist’s doubt. In this blog I am first going to talk about Elijah, the reason for John’s doubt.
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.”
By the time of John and Jesus this prophecy was now taken as a belief that Elijah would be the harbinger of the Messiah. John’s ministry had a lot of similarities with Elijah’s: It took place in the desert, they were politically disruptive,—Elijah had to run from King Ahab, John was arrested by Herod—there are a lot of parallels between Elijah and John.
John fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi. His preaching was divisive. People’s hearts were turned to their spiritual parents, and their spiritual parents loved them back. If their spiritual parent was worldly things, fame, wealth, privilege or reputation then they become more attached to the world and opposed to John. But if their spiritual Father was God they responded by flocking into the desert to hear John and were baptised by him. John’s preaching was about repentance. When the Messiah comes, said John, the repentant will be blessed and the unrepentant will be judged.
When God fails to meet our expectations
The Messiah had come Jesus was on earth preaching teaching and healing in Galilee. God had become human, God had become small. The smallness of God was John’s problem, he was looking forward to a mighty God who would put the world right at a stroke. But the repentant were not being blessed; the unrepentant were not being judged. Joh’s expectation of what God would do, of what the Messiah would do, were not being met. Malachi said that the people turning to God through John’s ministry would mean that God would turn from destruction. John was still expecting that destruction, and soon.
We can be the same when we have expectations that are not from God, or if we get our timing of God’s work wrong. While I have often been frustrated in our church that change has been slow coming others in the same congregation were equally frustrated that change was happening too quickly. We had opposite expectations of God. One side at least was going to be frustrated, in the end we both were. But looking back over the years I can see the vision God gave me of Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield back in 1979 coming true. I was too hasty.
You will never get it right
Just as we have different expectations of God, people will have different expectations of us so that if we please one person we will disappoint another. They criticised John and his disciples for being serious and sober. So they should be, they were waiting for God’s kingdom to come on earth. They criticised Jesus and his disciples because they drank wine and feasted. Of course, they did, The Messiah, the Christ was on earth in Jesus, that’s is worth celebrating.
John had opposition, Jesus the same, we can expect opposition too. But Jesus has come and has left his Holy Spirit with us. Let’s party!