More Important than the End-Times | Mark 9:9–13
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
From its dystopian novels to its films chronicling robot revolutions, our society has an obsession with end-of-the-world stories. It seems to be in our nature to imagine apocalyptic scenarios. In the case of the disciples, they were awaiting the exaltation of Israel over the other nations, as the Old Testament promised. Still, there was something more important that they needed to see.
Events are not going as they should. Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration must have been difficult. Rome was still in charge. They still faced ridicule from their own people, those arguing that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah since Elijah hadn’t come (cf. v. 11). And Jesus, instead of taking the glory they just witnessed and setting it all right, is again talking about dying (v. 9).
Events are going to find their expected end. They asked Jesus, and He confirms: “Elijah does come first to restore all things” (v. 12; Mt 17:11; cf. Mal 3:1; 4:5). Elijah came through the ministry of John the Baptist (Lk 1:17); but John specifically said that he was not Elijah (Jn 1:21). Since both John and Jesus were rejected, another will come in the spirit and power of Elijah, as the verb tenses indicate and as Revelation 11:5–6 implies.
Events are going to center on Christ. So, Jesus asks them the central question about Himself. Peter rebuked Jesus just a week ago for talking about suffering (Mk 8:31–32), and he interjected his thoughts about building tabernacles for Moses and Elijah after they finished talking to Jesus about His end (Lk 9:31).
The suffering of Christ is the central teaching of Christianity. Paul explained that “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). It’s why the resurrection is so important; “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rm 10:9). While the end-times makes interesting discussion, unless you understand that Jesus needed to die for your sins and rise again, it’s all moot.