As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
After the most incredible experience of God, Jesus, Peter, James, and John have to come down from the mountain. We cannot live on the mountain-top, not even with the tabernacles Peter wished to build; it is necessary to leave the profound experience and come back to earth, to deal with life. On the way down the mountain, however, they had a little time with Jesus to process what had happened. Still they weren’t sure what to ask!
Jesus told them not to tell anyone about this experience, until after he had risen from the dead. They looked at one another in bewilderment – what does he mean, “risen from the dead”? Although just a few paragraphs ago Jesus had warned that he would be persecuted & crucified, but would rise from the dead, they don’t make the connection. They think about the predictions of Messiah – if Jesus is the Messiah, where is Elijah? The predictions had said Elijah would come before the Messiah.
But Jesus said Elijah had come, and they had done to him what they would – and they would do to Jesus what they would. Remember the story of Elijah? He was God’s prophet, against the forces of Baal and against king Ahab and his wicked queen, Jezebel. Jezebel tried to kill Elijah. John the Baptist was also God’s prophet, and the king was Herod Antipas; his wicked queen was Herodias, who ranks right up there with Jezebel in evil! Herodias had Herod kill John the Baptist. The forces of evil would also kill Jesus – but he would overcome them in the resurrection.
Jesus would be crucified, dead, and buried – the third day he would rise from the dead, ascend into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God the Father – Do those words sound familiar? This is what we believe, what we profess in church every Sunday. But this belief is more than just acknowledgement that the words are true; it is a belief that when these things happened, they meant something! Jesus was not just demonstrating power for his own sake when he rose from the tomb – he was showing us all that he loved us enough to die for us, that he is stronger than evil, death is defeated, and we as well will rise to eternal life, with him. That is what the disciples could not possibly understand, just yet.
the picture is Mount Hermon, in the distance