I am amazed each morning at the intensity that I am finding as I read through Matthew, not for the first time, maybe even the fiftieth, who knows? Yet this living word, this year, seems to be packed with revelation about man and God, this globe and His Kingdom!
Here we find Jesus, the Good Sheppard, herding a group of men through life that one day in His “absence” would step into Pentecost…not simply the ritual now celebrated for centuries but its reality, as the Kingdom of God comes among us.
This was and is the Spirit of Elijah, this man we read about as far back as I Kings 17; for context, 1015 BC. I’m sure it was the same Spirit that brooded over the earth at Creation, sat with two others in Abram’s tent and so on throughout the Gospel narrative. What is the Spirit of Elijah and why does this particular man, whom God took away in a fiery chariot suddenly, emerge again on the Mt. of Transfiguration?
My sense is that it’s not about men showing up from a long way off, the way Heaven is often cast, but men moving in and out of a thinly veiled reality that is in fact among us?
The repositioning of man kind in the Kingdom versus Christ coming to Earth, may be more what we are celebrating, though it would seem as if He were coming to us, given our perspective of being alone on this globe? We now have Hubble, a telescope that views into the galaxies and heaven is not there…or is really far off? What if Heaven is the reality and it is our kingdom that moved out of the Garden?
This frenzy of activity around Jesus as He daily moves closer to Calvary becomes apparent as He intensifies his ministry, meeting the needs of so many (“Great crowds” Matt. 15:30 NIV) as with the Canaanite woman, her daughter “suffering terribly” tormented with a demon, the spiritual realm a reality in her life everyday. Throngs of the miracle hungry religious of that day (not unlike our own), the Old Testament brokers of the Law, then having allowed the relationship desired in the Garden to become solely about religion, the original tender plant of the Lord had now gone to seed.
Could Jesus reign it back in, could these twelve men be so exercised by the God-man that upon His exit, the Church might be secure? He continues, feeding the five thousand from five loaves and two fishes, walking on water before them in the midst of a frightening storm; undistracted by the recent rejection of His ministry in His own hometown or the beheading of His cousin, John the Baptist, taken so easily by a lewd lady’s whelm. Surely Satan meant this to portend what lay in wait for Him as well?
Then four thousand more are fed, like some “second chance exam” for His clueless band of believers. They failed that one as well, confusing the message of His provision with the warning about the leaven of the Pharisees. Peter’s preparation for Pentecost seemed doomed again as one minute he identifies the Son of the Living God, then gets in the way later, in his attempts to foil the very reason that Christ came!
Suddenly, who shows up but Moses and Elijah! Jesus’ response, “Don’t tell anyone what you have just seen.” The Kingdom was drawing nigh or possibly the Earth was now better positioned for re-entry into the Kingdom?
He explains it a little slower in vs. 17:22…the Son of Man (Peter was right) is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (NIV) Full disclosure!
Meanwhile its tax time for Peter (and for us also by the way, April 15); so Peter…go fishing, something you know to do well and the first one you catch, don’t gut it (slow down, man), just open its mouth and you will find a coin, “take it to them and pay my taxes and yours!” Peter must have flipped out when he landed that one!
No wonder they were so distraught at Calvary, can you imagine hanging with this guy, Jesus? Can you imagine the awe of hanging with Jesus, Moses and Elijah? Can you even believe His Word? The Kingdom of God is among us!
The Spirit of Elijah is among us! He will provide, no He has provided…Go pay your taxes!