David Jeremiah - Passing the Torch
It was a shot that essentially sealed the NBA finals for the 2017 edition of the Golden State Warriors. And even at that time, it seemed to mean more than it actually was. When Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer with under a minute left in Game 3, giving Golden State a lead and soon enough a 3-0 stranglehold on the series, it was only fitting that he shot it over the outstretched arms of LeBron James. James had been the NBA's dominant figure, making annual trips to the finals, while Durant, for all of his gifts, had been toiling away relatively quietly in Oklahoma City.
After a much-publicized defection to the Warriors in free agency, Durant submitted an incredible performance on basketball's biggest stage and he won the Most Valuable Player of that series. As it turned out, Durant relishes the shot that he made more than you would imagine. In fact, he thinks his game winner in Game 3 symbolized a "passing of the torch" moment from LeBron James to himself. "That was the best moment I ever had," he wrote in the article that I read. "I made the game-winning shot in the finals against my idol, somebody that I really, really, really followed since I was a 9th-grade basketball player. I felt like he was passing the torch to me". Now I have not consulted with LeBron James about his attitude or whether or not he thinks he was passing the torch. I rather think, however, that he probably believes he's still got the torch and it didn't go to Durant, but in Durant's mind that was a meaningful moment of transition.
Today, as we come to the end of the Elijah series, we're gonna witness two amazing things: the amazing coronation of Elijah's life and the incredible way in which he passed the torch to the man who would follow him in the prophetic role. I know that you're aware of the fact that when we study the lives of people in the Bible if we're not careful we put 'em on a shelf and make them unreachable to ourselves. We think of them as kind of super-saints who lived with a different power or different strength than we have, so we often don't take the lessons from their lives as seriously as we should. We think, "Well, yeah, well, that's great for Elijah but I'm not Elijah". Or "That was great for David or Paul or Esther, and yet I don't happen to be those people, so this doesn't work for me". But the purpose of the Bible is not to take the characters of the Bible and put 'em out of reach.
As we learned the very first week we were together, talking about Elijah, James tells us that Elijah was a man of like passions as we are. In other words, Elijah was like us. Elijah had the same kind of nature that we have, and God used him in a marvelous way. If I were to ask you what was the greatest thing about Elijah, you'd probably all come up with your favorite story and all of the characteristics that you learned from him. I mean, he was obviously a very faith-built man. I mean, he stood on Mount Carmel and stared down 850 prophets of the evil idol Ba'al. He was a man of faith and courage. He was also a man of compassion. Remember the day in the house of the widow of Zarephath when she found out her little boy was sick and he was dying, and he died? And Elijah took that little boy up in his arms and went to his room and stretched himself out on that boy and brought him back to life?
So courage and faith and compassion, he was all of those things, and many more. If I had to choose one thing about Elijah that has impressed me this time more than anything else, it's the fact that he was a fiery person. He had a passion for what he believed. In our world today we would say he had a fire in his belly. He believed in something, he didn't stop short of following it all the way through and doing it. I believe that's why he was called the prophet of fire as much as the fact that he called down fire on Mount Carmel and also went to heaven in a fiery chariot. All those things were true, but the real thing about Elijah was he was a prophet who had fire inside. He believed in what he believed. And now he's at the end of his public ministry and we've gotten little hints of how God is gonna prepare for the future.
For earlier in our story, we read about Elijah going and throwing his mantle on Elisha and saying, "Elisha, you're gonna follow me. You're gonna be my successor". So now Elijah and Elisha are kind of together. They're hanging out together. For the last ten years of his life, Elijah's just sort of mentored Elisha and took him everywhere he went. So now, Elijah's getting ready to take Elisha on what I like to call a goodbye tour. You know, all these great famous musicians, when they're ready to retire or athletes, they have a goodbye tour and they have their last appearance in all these places. So Elijah's gonna take Elisha on this goodbye tour and it's gonna take him four places. And these four places are significant because these four places he takes them were the most significant places in the history of Israel.
The first place he takes him is a little place called Gilgal. We read about this in chapter 2 of 2 Kings in verse 1. Here's what it says: "And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal". Now, I need you to know that the names of towns and places and actually people in the Bible can be very confusing. Sometimes, they can be very unpronounceable, and oftentimes, we just kind of glaze over it and we come to these places and we look past them and we go on. And I don't wanna bore you with a bunch of geographical information but I do wanna give you just a nugget of truth on each of these places so you will see why Elijah took Elisha there just before he went to heaven. Gilgal is a very famous place in Israel's history. It's the first place the Israelites stopped after they crossed over the river, getting away from Egypt.
Gilgal is a word which means "the reproach has been rolled away". And Gilgal was the place where God rolled away the reproach of the Egyptians for the people of Israel. And when they came into Gilgal, they set up their home base there and for a while they would reconnoiter there at night, and then during the day they'd go out and they'd fight their battles and then they'd come back to Gilgal. And it was in Gilgal, as you remember, where they set up a memorial for what God had done for them, and they put 12 stones on that memorial and every time they walked by it, they remembered how God had wonderfully preserved them from the Egyptians as they were leaving. So Gilgal was also a place where, as we're going to notice in these other places, Elijah had established a Bible college. They called it the School of the Prophets, and there was one in Gilgal. You can look that up. It's not in this text, it's in another text, but there was a School of the Prophets in Gilgal.
Now, after stopping there, Elijah's ready to go to the next place where he's gonna take his protégé and we read about it in 2 Kings chapter 2: "And Elijah said to Elisha, 'Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me to Bethel.' But Elisha said, 'As the Lord lives, and your soul lives, I will not leave you!' So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel," there's that Bible college, "came out to Elisha, and said to him, 'Do you know that the Lord's gonna take your master from you today?' And he said, 'Yes, I know it, but keep silent!'"
Now, we know Bethel for a lot of reasons. If you remember your Old Testament, do you remember the story about Jacob's ladder? How the ladder went up to heaven and the angels went up it? Well, that's where that happened. It happened at Bethel. And during the days of the Judges, the ark of the covenant was located in the city. Bethel, however, had become a very wicked place by the time Elijah visited at this occasion, but it was very important because the prophets resided there.
So listen to me, Elijah's taking Elisha on a prophet tour. He goes to the prophets' school in Gilgal. Now they move from there and they go to Bethel. And then the Bible tells us that after the second stop, they went to Jericho. Verse 4: "And Elijah said to him, 'Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.' And he said, 'As the Lord lives, and your soul lives, I will not leave you!' So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, 'Do you know that the Lord's gonna take your master from over you today?' And he answered, 'Yes, I know but keep silent!'"
Jericho is one of the most famous cities in the Old Testament. You know that city. It's the place where they marched around the city each day for seven days and then on the last day, they marched around seven times, then the city was conquered because the walls fell inward and Jericho became a conquest. Most amazing battle described in the Bible. And finally, after visiting these three cities, their last stop on their tour is the Jordan River. We read about it in verse 6: "And Elijah said to him, 'Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan River.' But he said, 'As the Lord lives, as your soul lives, I will not leave you!' So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood before them, facing them, at a distance, and the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, and he rolled it up, and he struck the water with it; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground".
Now, Elisha's getting a real tutorial here. He's learning a lot about what it means to be a prophet. And if you go back and rework this, you discover that from Gilgal to Bethel, the two prophets walked 7 miles; from Bethel to Jericho, another 12 miles; from Jericho to the Jordan River, 6 miles. So after walking 25 miles, Elijah and Elisha arrive at the Jordan and there's 50 prophets there to witness Elijah as he strikes the Jordan River, the river parts, and the 2 men walk over on dry ground. So that's the tour. Elisha's just kind of walked around like a little puppy dog behind Elijah and watched all this. Interestingly enough, the cities and the places where Elijah took them were the four key places of Israel's re-establishment as a nation after they came out of Egypt.
So Elijah's saying to Elisha, "I want you never to forget what God did for us when he brought us out of bondage and took us on this journey in the land of Canaan. And just as Joshua followed Moses, so you are gonna follow Elijah and be the prophet of Israel, going forward, tracing the stops of Elijah". Now note a second, "Testing the Servant of Elijah". I'm sure you're wondering why that same little phrase is in all these verses. Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind and he goes on to the next destination. And Elisha proves to be a very disobedient servant. He says, "I'm not gonna do it. I'm not gonna leave you. I'm going with you. As the Lord my God lives, wherever you go, I'm going".
We're not given the reason for this strange interchange between these two men but it most probably is that Elijah was continuing to test Elisha, to see if he had the gift and grit of determination to carry the torch as the prophet to the next generation. Elijah knew that even though God's workers die, God's work goes on, and Elijah's greatest legacy wasn't the eight miracles that he performed. His greatest legacy was the people he spent time developing, the prophets who would lead the next generation. And this was truly a work that God did in Elijah because, if you remember, when we first met him back at the beginning, we noticed that he was a loner. He didn't have any friends. We don't have one conversation Elijah had with anybody in the early days of his ministry. The first time we see him interacting with anybody is with the widow of Zarephath.
I can't imagine what they might have talked about, but he was there and he had to talk about something. Then Elisha comes along and Elijah picks this up and he begins to mentor Elisha, and he comes out of his solitary confinement and becomes to be a developer of people so that he leaves behind a treasury of people into whose lives he has been speaking. And then we come to the transferring of the spirit of Elijah: "And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha," now watch this: "'Elisha, I want you to ask me what I can do for you before I am taken away from you.'" He said, "Ask from me what you want from me," before Elijah is gone, and Elijah, speaking on behalf of Almighty God, offers Elisha a blank check: "What do you want"?
Reminds me of the other story in the Old Testament. Remember when Solomon had a similar occasion and the Lord said to Solomon, "Ask me what you will," and Solomon says, "Lord, I want a hearing heart. I want wisdom". He didn't ask for riches, he didn't ask for wealth. And the Scripture said he didn't even ask for long life. He asked for wisdom. He knew that wisdom is so vital because wisdom is doing the right thing when you don't have a precedent to do it. Oh, could we use some wisdom in our world today, hallelujah. So Elisha said, "Lord, if you are gonna work through Elijah to give me what I want," and he said, "Elijah, you really want me to answer? Here's my answer". He said, "I want a double portion of your blessing". And he was in good stead doing that because in the Old Testament the law of inheritance said that the firstborn son got double of everybody else in the inheritance.
And you say, "Well, how does that fit into this story"? Elisha considered Elijah his father. In a few moments we're gonna see this. When Elijah goes to heaven, Elisha says, "My father, my father". So Elisha thought he was in good stead. When he was told he could ask for whatever he wanted, he said, "I want a double portion of your ministry, of your blessing". And you know what God did for him? Listen to this. Elijah did 8 miracles; Elisha did 16. Elijah served in the public domain for 10 years; Elisha served for 20 years. He asked God for what he wanted and he got it. And you know, sometimes you say, "Well, yeah, there's those Bible characters again. That never happens to me". Listen, the Bible says if we commit our way unto the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart.
You say, "Well, how do you unpack that"? Simply this way: Walk so closely with the Lord that you know his will. Never ask him for anything that you don't know his will is. And when you do that you'll always get what you want, amen? Commit your way to the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. The key is make sure the desires of your heart are the desires of his heart. Don't be asking him for foolish things. So, Elisha's now gonna be blessed by Almighty God, and Elisha's gonna have a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Now we come to the translation of the soul of Elijah in verses 11 and 12: "And it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven".
Elijah and Elisha just kind of moseying along, talking to one another, and all of a sudden, out of the skies comes this chariot of fire. Elijah's caught up in it and he leaves, and suddenly, Elijah's gone and Elisha's standing there all by himself. Elisha's never been willing to let Elijah out of his sight because if you go back to the request he made, Elijah told Elisha, "If you see me when I go up, all these things that you want are gonna happen". And I've always thought, "I don't think Elisha ever took his eyes off Elijah from that moment on". He followed him around, just staring at him and never let him out of his sight. And when he went up, all of a sudden Elijah's gone, and Elisha's all there by himself. If you've ever taken the place of anyone, and they help you in the transition and then they're gone, boy, that's a pretty lonely feeling. And the Bible says when Elisha saw his mentor go up to heaven, he cried out, in verse 12, "'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!' And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into pieces".
In Elisha's day the strength of a nation was determined by the number of chariots and horsemen that it had. And when Elisha called Elijah his father, and said to him, "The chariot of Israel and its horsemen," he was saying that Elijah's prophetic powers and spiritual death had been the nation of Israel's true strength and now it was gone. It's a departure that was spectacular. It's what happened in the Old Testament which spawned "Chariots of Fire" and we look at all of this and we realize this is something that happened. It happened in the Old Testament, and it extended till this day. So now Elijah's gone and Elisha's there by himself and trying to figure things out. And we read in verse 13 that "he took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and he went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' And when he found those words coming out of his mouth, he struck the water, and it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over".
I always love this because Elisha wanted to find out really quickly, "Does this work or not? I mean, he's told me I'm gonna be able to do what he does, and the first thing I'm gonna do is check this out". That may not have been a step of faith but it was probably the right thing to do. So he gets his mantle, he rolls it up just like Elijah did, and he strikes the water and the water parts and he walks by on the other side. And the great prophet is gone, and the Lord is still there, and his mantle has passed on to Elisha. And while the prophet Elijah is gone, his successor is doing well.
Now, I just pause here for a moment and tell you there's a strange little thing that happens in this story, and I just need to be honest with you. Strange 'cause I don't understand it completely. I don't know why it's here. I don't even why it would be included. But I gotta tell you about it, to be faithful to the text, so here's what happens. Elijah goes to heaven. Elisha's proven that he's still God's man. These prophets come to Elisha and say, "We don't know for sure whether Elijah went straight to heaven or if the fiery chariot dropped him off on one of the mountains out here so we're gonna go do a search, see if we can find him". Elisha said, "Don't do that. That's a waste of time". And then the Bible says because he didn't wanna be shamed by his prophets, he finally gave in and said, "Okay, go".
Three days later, they come back and said, "We can't find Elijah". And Elisha said, "Duh". There is no redemptive truth in what I just told you, but I had to tell you that because it's in the Bible. So, that's the story. Elijah goes to heaven in a fiery chariot and his earthly ministry, for a moment at least, is finished. There's three major lessons in this story that are takeaways for all of us here today. First of all, here is an important picture for us to look at. In the Bible there is a term called the Rapture. If you've been around the church very long, you've probably heard people talking about the Rapture of the church. What is that?
Well, let me just tell you what it means. The word "rapture" means to be caught up. Say that with me: "caught up". Every place you find it in the Bible, somebody's being caught up. And believe it or not, in the Scripture, there are many places, six to be exact, where you see a rapture in the Bible. And four of these raptures have already happened, and two are yet in the future. I don't have time to teach all of this, just to give them to you, and you'll see what I mean. Remember now, the word "rapture" means "caught up". "By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, 'and he was not found, because God had taken him'; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he walked with God". The word "taken" and the word "caught up" are basically the same word.
One day, Enoch was walking along. The Bible says he was a very godly man and God decided to let him come to heaven without passing through death. And the Bible says it in the Old Testament says: "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him". One day he was here and the next day he was gone. He didn't go through the grave, he didn't go through death. He was raptured to heaven. Enoch was the first man in the Bible who was raptured. Then we have Elijah in the story which we have just read. "It happened, as they continued and walked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with the horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up," there it is. He was caught up "by a whirlwind into heaven".
At the end of our Lord's ministry on this earth, we read that "while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as Jesus went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, said, 'Men in Galilee, why do you stand gazing into the heavens? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you, will come as like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.'" Jesus was raptured. He was taken to heaven. And then, did you know the apostle Paul had a rapture? It was metaphoric, somewhat symbolic, but just nevertheless the same. It was a rapture. In 2 Corinthians 12 we read, Paul is writing this himself: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows, such a one was," what's the words, class? "Caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows, that he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter".
The two raptures yet to come: the first is a really famous one that we all know about. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says: "We who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus shall we always be with the Lord". Anytime you think of the word "rapture," just remember: rapture means caught up. And the Bible says, men and women, that one day Jesus is gonna come back and, if we're still alive, if we haven't died and gone into our graves, all of us who are Christians, all of us who knew Christ, all of us who have the Holy Spirit within us, we're gonna be caught up out of here and taken to heaven, and we're not going through the Tribulation. We're not gonna be left on this earth for the judgment of God. We're gonna be caught up to be in heaven. And that's what we call the Rapture. We're gonna be raptured up, we're gonna be caught up.
And that term is a really important term. And Elijah's experience teaches us what that means. Elijah was caught up in a chariot and he went to heaven without dying. Hey, I don't know about you, there's only two ways I'm gonna get to heaven: I'm gonna die, get buried, and then be resurrected and go to heaven, or I'm gonna go straight there and I vote for the latter. I'm ready for the latter. I'd be okay. I mean, I'm not afraid of dying, but I don't wanna be there when it happens, right? So there's one more rapture, and this one is really intriguing and I gotta tell all you Bible students, I never heard anybody say this before but it's amazing. In the New Testament, there's a story about the Tribulation and what happens in the Tribulation is that two witnesses are brought back from death and they walk on this earth during the Tribulation period. And most every scholar I know believes those two witnesses are Moses and Elijah.
Let me read to you what happens to them in Revelation 11: "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them". Did you know the two witnesses are raptured? Now here's what I discovered this week, I never thought of before. Elijah got raptured twice. Can you believe that? He was raptured in the chariot and in the Tribulation he gets raptured again. So when you get to heaven, if you wanna know anything about the rapture, go hunt up Elijah, man, he is the expert on being raptured 'cause he did it twice, wow. So here in this story is this picture that God gives us of a future day when we're all who are Christians gonna be caught up to be with the Lord. I like hearing you say that word. Say it one more time. We're gonna be caught up. Caught up, amen.
Now, here's an important principle. Once again, I have to let you help me with this. I wanna go back to that day when Elijah threw his mantle around Elisha and told him that God had chosen him to be the next prophet of Israel. Here is the biblical record of that moment from 1 Kings chapter 19: "Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, before him, and Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. And Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, 'Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and I'll follow you.'" And then we read: "So Elisha went home and he took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant".
Now I have to tell you this: I was studying this last section of Elijah's life. I was also, at the same time, reading a book by a friend of mine named Erwin McManus, and the book is called, "The Last Arrow". That's a great read. And the book has a lot to say about Elisha in it. That was quite a surprising thing. That never happens to me when I'm studying for a message and I start to read a book and all of a sudden here's all this good stuff that I really need for this message. And in this book, Erwin writes these words about the moment that we have just read. When Elijah told Elisha, "Go home and take care of things," and Elisha goes home and you heard what he did. He took his oxen and he boiled them, using the implements of his yoke for the fire, and he fed all of his neighbors, fed his family, and they had a celebration of Elisha's new calling.
Here's what Erwin McManus wrote in his book: "For Elisha, this is a defining moment when he leaves his past to go and find his future. For Elisha was not taking a turn from the wrong to the right, or from evil to good. He was making a transition from the life he had to the life he was offered. Elisha's extreme action was his declaration and determination that there was no turning back. There were no plows or oxen waiting for him at home. No previous life waiting for him to pick up where he left off. He had only one direction and that was forward. And one of the inescapable themes of the Scripture is this: that you cannot grab hold of the future if you keep holding on to the past. Although you are grounded in the past, you must not be grounded by the past. And while tomorrow is coming, regardless of what you do, the future comes because of what you do".
Later in his book, Erwin gets really personal as he tries to apply this from his own life. This grabbed hold of my heart. He said, "I'm not gonna watch life happen. I refuse to be the audience. Life is not meant for observation. Life is cruel in this. If you're willing to be left behind, the future will leave you in the past, and opportunity will depart. If you're going to live the life that God created you to live, if you're going to be able to look back on your life and know you have lived it without cause for regret, you have to refuse to stay behind. No one can make this shift for you. No one can create this change on your behalf. You have to stop waiting for someone to call you off the bench and put you in the game. You need to get up, refuse to remain on the sidelines any longer. You need to stop letting life slip through your fingers and grab hold of it and refuse to let go".
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched people that I know God had put his hand upon and they can't get to the future because they keep holding on to the past. They've had this past problem, this past victory, this past situation, it's their marriage or their kids or their business or their physical health, and they keep talking about the past and talking about the past, and God is holding out for them this glorious plan for their future, and they can't grab hold of their future 'cause their hands are so full of the past. And I believe that God is, through this experience, helping me to say to all of us, "If we're gonna be what God wants us to be and do what God wants us to be, we have to be thankful for the past".
We have to learn from the past. But there's a reason why, in a car, the rearview mirror is this small and the forward lens or glass in the car is this big. Because you should look into the past about as much as you do when you're driving a car. Because God is a God of the future. He wants to forgive your past, he wants you to forget your past, and he wants you to get on with your life and serve him. That's what the Elijah thing was all about. Elisha went home. He burned up everything that was indicative of his past. He burned up the harness, he burned up the yoke, he burned up the oxen. He served it to his friends. He was saying, "This is it. I'm done being a farmer. I've been called to be a prophet". I can tell you this, friends, if you've been called to be a prophet and you used to be a farmer, you're gonna hit some days as a prophet when you wish you were a farmer. Can I get a witness?
My father told me when I accepted the call to the ministry, he said, "David, be sure". And I said, "What do you mean, Dad"? He said, "Just be sure". He said, "I'm not trying to talk you out of it, but you need to take some more time and be really sure". And finally, I said, "Why do I have to be so sure"? He said, "Simply for this reason: There'll come a day when it will be so tough and you're having to do what you're do, if you aren't absolutely certain that God has called you, you'll walk away from it". And that's been lived out in my life more than once. Elisha gives us a great lesson. Elisha says: "If you wanna get to the future, you've got to let go of the past".
Did you know that's such an important principle that one time Jesus used it when he was teaching on discipleship? Here's what Jesus said in Luke 9:62: "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God". So here's a picture about what God's gonna do for us in the future, and here's a principle to help us live our lives now, and finally here's an important person I want you to listen to. Elijah went to heaven, but it wasn't the end of his earthly ministry. Did you know that? Elijah comes back to the earth two more times before the end of time. The book of Malachi says it this way: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great dreadful day of the Lord".
The Bible says that one day Elijah's gonna appear on the scene during the Tribulation period. I've already told you, I think he's one of the two witnesses. So during the Tribulation, Elijah will come back. We'll be in heaven, but Elijah will be on this earth with his fellow witness, Moses, and they'll be doing their thing during the Tribulation. But between the time he was here that we've been reading about, and the time that he comes back in the Tribulation period, he comes back again once more. Matthew 17:1: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, and they were talking with Jesus".
Moses, the great lawgiver, had been responsible for the formation of the nation of Israel. Elijah, the great prophet, had been responsible for the reformation of the nation of Israel. And both of them now have been summoned to the Mountain of Transfiguration to stand with Peter, James, and John, and watch Jesus be transfigured before them. They got a personal invitation to the most holy moment in biblical history outside of the Crucifixion. These two great representatives of Judaism, the law and the prophets, I believe, stood there on that mountain and they officially surrendered the seals of their office and of their work.
They said, "Lord God, the law has done its job to prepare for the coming of a redeemer, so we turn in our books. We turn in our badges. We turn in our seals, and now we know you're gonna take it where it always was supposed to go". And they talked with Jesus. And I've often thought, as I read the account in Matthew, "Why didn't Matthew tell us what they talked about"? Doesn't that drive you crazy? What did they talk about? Bible tells us that Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah. Well, I'm playing with you a little bit because while Matthew didn't tell us what they talked about, Luke did. And here's what Luke says in the 9th chapter of his Gospel: "They spoke with Jesus of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem".
Did you hear that? Moses and Elijah get called together on the Mount of Transfiguration and Jesus is there and they talk with Jesus about the coming Crucifixion. They know all about it because all of the blood of the animals that they have labored over all these years, had been pointing to the moment when Jesus would come and go to the cross and pay the ultimate sacrifice and penalty so that all of these animal sacrifices could go away. So, naturally, wouldn't they talk about that? They come to heaven and here's Jesus, and here they are coming out of their Judaistic past and they have this conversation with Jesus about his coming decease, in other words, his death and what that's gonna mean to all of them, wow. Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John stand together at this holy moment of history.
And I wish I could tell you this is the glorious end of the story. But I can't tell you that for one simple reason: Peter is there. And wherever Peter is, there's never an end to the story. So here we are, standing, I've tried to discern with you, Peter, James, and John are watching. Moses and Elijah are having a conversation with Jesus about his coming death. And Peter walks up and says, "Hey, I got an idea. Let's build us a shelter. Let's build one for Jesus and one for Elijah and one for Moses". Not. That's not what God wanted. And the Bible says it was so offensive to Almighty God that Peter said such a thing that a bright cloud overshadowed everyone and a voice from heaven spoke from the clouds saying, "This is my beloved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him".
And the disciples were so overwhelmed when they heard that voice they fell to the ground on their faces in fear. Now watch what happened. And Jesus touched them and told them to get up. "And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only". Elijah was an incredible prophet of the Lord. And when we see great people who are filled with great ability and the Spirit of God rests upon them, we want to marvel at the way God uses them and some of us want to be like them, but let's not get our focus wrong.
Let's not forget that we worship not Elijah. We worship the God of Elijah and the Son of the God of Elijah, and we need to stand on our mountain and let all the noise go away and when the clouds have dissipated, we need to see Jesus only. Because this book from the beginning to the end is just about him. Think about what we've been talking about over these weeks. Elijah, the book of 1 Kings in the Old Testament, but Elijah ends up on the Mount of Transfiguration for one reason. Elijah's always been about Jesus, and the books of the Old Testament are all about Jesus. If you study them enough, if you watch them enough, if you read them enough, you'll find Jesus almost everywhere.
There really aren't many messages in the Bible; there are one message, and the message is the message of Jesus Christ. The one and only Savior of the world. The one who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. And no man comes to the Father except through Me". Before you can get to heaven, you have to see Jesus only. Can't see Jesus in your good works, not Jesus in your church membership. Not Jesus in all the wonderful things that you think. It's Jesus only and your faith in him. That's the only way you'll get to heaven. And if you haven't put your trust in Jesus, let me tell you the best thing you can do in response to Elijah is to embrace the one he embraced. Embrace the Jesus of the Bible.