Last week, we looked at an Old Testament prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. This week, we’ll continue along those lines. Just as the prophet Malachi predicted, a messenger in the spirit of Elijah came to announce the coming of the Messiah. We know from the gospels that John the Baptist was that messenger, pointing people to Jesus. I want us to notice this exchange in the Gospel of Mark:
“[The disciples] asked him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’
Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him’” (Mark 9:11-13).
Here, as in Matthew 11:14, Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the promised Elijah (see Malachi 3:1 and 4:5). But Jesus puts an unexpected spin on the timing of God’s plan. He says in verse 12 above that John came to “restore all things.” If that is true, how come I don’t feel very restored? Jesus answers with a clue to His own purpose: “the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected.”
Sometimes, even when we are doing all the right things, God’s plan still has other pieces that need to fall in to place. Even John the Baptist had a hard time with this. While he was in prison, he sent disciples to ask Jesus, “I did what God asked me to, so why am I in prison?” (that’s my own paraphrase). Jesus tried to encourage John, and I want this verse to encourage us. There are times when we do what God asks faithfully, and our head still gets chopped off.
So how do we respond in times of uncertainty?
How do we help others navigate periods of doubt?