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§ 186. Elias a Forerunner of Messiah. (Matt., xvii., 10-13.)

The relations of Elias to Christ at that time greatly occupied the minds of the disciples, as is obvious from the portions of one of their conversations with him that are preserved to us.508508   We think we are justified in considering Matt., xvii., 10-13, as one of these; the οὖν with which the question commences shows that it has a connexion elsewhere.

As we have seen [Matt., xvi., 21], he was at this period unfolding to his disciples his approaching appearance at Jerusalem as Messiah, and his impending fate. They presented to him in connexion with this, as a difficulty in their minds, the prediction taught by the scribes, and the very one which they arrayed against the Messiahship of Jesus—that Elias must first appear, to introduce the Messiah among the Theocratic people. He answered that the scribes were right in saying that Elias must first come and make smooth the way for the coming of Messiah; but that they were wrong in the carnal and literal sense which they put upon the saying, as if Elias were to appear in person. Elias, he told them, was spiritually represented by John the Baptist; he “is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.509509   These words prove that Christ attributed John’s fate to the machinations of the Pharisees. Likewise, also, shall the Son of M/an suffer of them.” The same selfish spirit, the same adherence to the letter, which hindered them from seeing Elias in John, and induced them to get rid of so troublesome a witness, would prevent them from recognizing Messiah in the Son of Man, and lead them to treat him as they had done the Baptist.

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