Posts Tagged ‘Elijah’

Matthew 17:10 – LOOKING FOR A FOOTHOLD ON THE MOUNTAIN 

Foothold. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Foothold. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

They are bewildered. They are reeling, trying to find some perspective, something to help them come to grips with all this; something in their experience of the world that relates to this event that will help them; a clue, any clue. 

They only have one small trace; one small hint of understanding that might start to unravel this mystery mountain tour. They have heard some talk of how a man, a great leader, would one day come to bring justice to the world. They are now convinced that Jesus is that man. Is this the beginning of the end? 

Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what they have just witnessed but a flailing question searches for a tiny crevice that would provide them with a foothold. What question could possibly give them enough purchase on this mountain? 

Surprisingly they don’t ask about the sudden appearance of Moses who had been dead for over 1000 years. They don’t ask about the voice that came from the cloud leaving them prostrate on the ground, frozen with fear. They don’t ask Him about His face, though it shone like the sun? It seems they only want to know about one thing. 

They ask “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” (Matthew 17:10 NLT). I mean, that’s the first question that came into my head too. NOT. 

All they can think about after such a dramatic appearance on the mountain is the nagging possibility that this might be the beginning of the great and dreadful day that will bring judgment and justice to the earth. If I had just been introduced to the prophet Elijah on a mountain 900 years after his sudden disappearance from the earth and if I knew about the prophecy about him, then perhaps I would ask that question too. 

The prophecy the teachers of religious law have been speaking about was written in the book of Malachi, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLT). The question could be rephrased. “Since Elijah has just appeared on the mountain with You, Jesus, is this the beginning of the end of the world as we know it?” 

Jesus replies “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready for the Messiah” (Matthew 17:11 NLT). Now here’s the opportunity for the disciples to really get a handle on the end times, but they don’t ask anything more. The conversation could have gone something like this… 

“Hang on. Did You say Elijah is COMING, as in HASN’T ARRIVED YET? He was just on the mountain and You are saying that he is STILL YET TO COME? 

So let me get this straight. Moses and Elijah were talking to You about Your death. That doesn’t sound like plans to bring justice to the world. 

Is Elijah going to COME AGAIN and intervene with fire from heaven to stop You from being executed by the religious leaders?” 

“Has Elijah gone ahead to Jerusalem to fulfil the Malachi prophecy, to preach and get people ready to receive You as the Messiah? Lord, I need Your help here. Could you elaborate just a little more? I’m confused.” 

Jesus says “…Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer” (Matthew 17:12 NLT). 

“Slow down a bit. You just said Elijah is YET TO COME and now you are saying Elijah has ALREADY COME? Not on the mountain but sometime BEFORE the mountain, incognito?” 

Then it clicks. He’s talked about this before (Matthew 11:14). And there was a prophecy about John. “I get it! You aretalking about John the Baptist’ (Matthew 17:13 NLT). It was once said that John ‘will be A MAN WITH THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly’ (Luke 1:17 NLT). He fits the prophecy about Elijah. Right? John the Baptist was really Elijah the Baptiser?” 

“So Elijah was just on the mountain to talk about the death of Jesus, not to usher in the end of the world (Luke 9:31). The prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled by John the Baptist who ALREADY CAME with the spirit and power of Elijah, but was rejected.” 

“But Elijah is still YET TO COME and when he does he will get everything ready by preparing the way for Jesus and a generation of rebellious people will repent and be saved. Stop me any time here, Lord, if I’ve got this wrong.” 

Elijah gets Fathers to have a heart for their kids by teaching them to accept godly wisdom. This is a generational blessing that comes to those who repent of their rebellion against God and trust in Jesus. That’s the foothold for the question. That’s the secure place that will lead us down this mountain experience. 

“2 Kings 2:11 tells us that Elijah was taken up into heaven and didn’t die. Did he go on living in heaven as an immortal man until he returned to the mountain? Where did he and Moses go then? Back to heaven? Will they return again? Will Elijah be one of the “two witnesses” described in Revelation 11. TOO MUCH INFORMATION! I NEED THAT SECURE FOOTHOLD AGAIN!” 

What I do know is that at the bottom of the mountain a father’s heart is turned toward his son and he brings him to Jesus (Matthew 17:14-18). A generational imprint will be left upon this family as Jesus heals him. The spirit and power of Elijah is already at work as we bring our families into relationship with the Lord, preparing the way for Jesus’ return. 

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 17:4-5 – THE RIGHT TO SPEAK AND THE CHOICE TO LISTEN 

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

He is always getting into trouble. He opens his mouth and it ends up being offensive and someone goes away upset or embarrassed. It’s not that he doesn’t think or listen. It’s just that he interprets things through the eyes of impetuosity, chauvinism or even racism. As a follower of Jesus he is maturing but he still has a way to go.

Because he thinks that he has something worthwhile to contribute he blurts out ideas and suggestions and that’s what usually gets him into trouble. I shouldn’t talk. Most of the time I am thinking the same thing, but don’t say anything.

I learn a lot from Peter’s impulsiveness although he embarrasses me and himself in the process. He speaks openly when he should listen. He is insensitive and tactless and later regrets saying anything at all. He is spontaneous but borders on recklessness. It’s not as if he doesn’t know others are listening. Classic foot-in-mouth. Unprompted theatre.

Benjamin Franklin said “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Peter maybe impetuous but his suggestion in this case is not stupid, just wrong. He may misunderstand the significance of what is happening but he is actively seeking to piece it all together. He will always remember that although he had the right to speak, he also had the choice to listen.

Having little experience of Jewish culture Peter’s suggestion seems odd to me, but apparently far away in Jerusalem there are many at present who are commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles. They build and live in make-shift shelters for a week to remember the Exodus when Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt; camping out in the wilderness before entering the promised land.

Shelters in the Exodus of Moses were necessary because although Israel was free from oppression, they were not free from their sin. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered into the promised land because of their disobedience; their mistrust of God’s appointed leaders and their lack of trust in God’s provision. Their make-shift shelters spoke of their sin. 

Peter blurts out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4 NLT). But associating Jesus and these returned saints with Israel’s sin isn’t a good idea. On the contrary, Jesus death will lead people directly into the freedom of forgiveness and the promises of God. Milk, honey and grapes would have been better memorial symbols. 

“But even as Peter spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT).

Sometimes my words are the sound of a broken window and unfamiliar footsteps creeping through God’s truth like unwelcome guests. When such words presumptuously seek to break and enter into God’s territory, then He invites me to listen and obey Jesus. I have the right to speak but more importantly the choice to listen to His voice. I can receive the light of forgiveness rather than dwell in the shadows of the make-shift shelters of my sin. I can give voice to my shame and regrets, or choose to listen to the voice of His mercy. Lord, I’m listening. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:2-3 – WHAT IS THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS ABOUT?

Supermoon. Photo image by Ross Cochrane.

Supermoon. Photo image by Ross Cochrane.

Matthew 17:2-3 – WHAT IS THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS ABOUT? 

I struggle to get a number of photographs. Clouds are in the way but the light of the moon is spectacular at this time. A supermoon looks so much bigger and brighter because the moon’s elliptical path brings it closest to Earth. Of course the moon has no light of its own but reflects the light of the sun. It gets me thinking about that mountain miracle where Jesus is transformed into a searchlight of the soul and shines like the sun. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and the disciples and they are all bathed in a magnificent array of the visible spectrum, as earth echoes the colours of heaven’s grace. 

The scene is reminiscent of “when Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. He wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord” (Exodus 34:29 NLT). It’s a little disconcerting when the acting prophet, priest and king is glowing like a lightbulb; the people were so afraid he had to cover his face with a veil. 

Now, over 1000 years later Moses once again stands in the presence of the Lord on a mountain. Why is it that Moses suddenly appears? Deuteronomy 34:5-6 (NLT) says Moses is dead and gone! “…Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place.” 

What is going on here? Is he here in spirit form? An animated hologram? A collective dream of the disciples? Does he have a resurrection body designed just for this occasion and if so where does he go after this conversation with Jesus? How did they know it was Moses? Nametag? Was he introduced. Were the disciples cowering in the cleft of some rock like the historical paintings of this scene or did they get to shake hands and say hello to Moses and Elijah? I have so many questions that the book of Matthew leaves unanswered, or is it that God didn’t think that these questions were the main focus? 

I’ve got a feeling the disciples were meant to be in on this conversation with Jesus, Moses and Elijah, not simply witnesses of this miraculous event. They were there as part of the miracle as so often we are meant to be participants in the miracles God works in our lives. 

In whatever form Moses appears, I can’t help thinking there is unfinished business with which Christ is dealing. Jesus is trying to tie up loose ends before He dies. Over a 1000 years ago, before Moses died God spoke to him “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” (Deuteronomy 34:4 NLT) Was Jesus bringing him in now? Is this meant to be a happy ending for Moses? A postponed blessing, a thousand years hence? 

Elijah also appears. Matthew says “Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus (Matthew 17:3 NLT). Luke 9:30-31 (NLT) adds “…They are glorious to see. And they are speaking about His exodus from this world, which is about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.”  

In 2 Kings 2:11 (NLT) Elijah makes a dramatic exodus from the earth. “…Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” It is said that he never experienced death. If so, by the time of the transfiguration Elijah is over 900 years old. Is this meant to be a happy ending for Elijah too? A postponed blessing? Does he finally get to die after this or is he going to turn up again sometime? 

Jesus was gathering up the past with Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, before embracing the future with the Cross. Did the law giving and the prophecies about Israel finally all make sense to Moses and Elijah? Did they finally have closure to the story? Moses, who wrote of creation and led God’s people from Egypt in the Exodus, now hears about the salvation Christ would bring to the world through His exodus. Moses who held the law of God meets the Word of God Himself. Elijah the prophet stands in the presence of Him who fulfils all prophecy. 

Peter had already acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 16:16). The disciples of the New Covenant now see Jesus who ushers in the new covenant in glorious light and He discusses His plans for the future with them all. 1 Peter 1:10-11 (NLT) says “This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when He told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and His great glory afterward.”  

Jesus face shines. This face that shines will soon become bloodied and beaten and eventually plunged into darkness. This sacred head of light will bear a crown of thorns. He will be spit upon and His white garments that ripple with light will soon be stripped off and divided among soldiers who gamble for them. The Word of God that is spoken on this mountain will soon end with the words He cries out on the Cross on Calvary’s mountain, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NLT). 

The Mount of Transfiguration is the place where the past, present and future are sealed with the presence of God; a beacon on a hill announcing salvation to the world; a lighthouse of testimony and an invitation to us and all generations to place our faith in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Supermoon. Image by Ross Cochrane using Depthy for 3D

Supermoon. Image by Ross Cochrane using Depthy for 3D

Matthew 17:1 – HOW TO ASCEND THE GREATEST MOUNTAIN OF ALL

How to Climb the Greatest Mountain of All. Image created from Morguefile free photos, Paint.net and ForgeFilter.org

How to Climb the Greatest Mountain of All. Image created from Morguefile free photos, Paint.net and ForgeFilter.org

I was so intrigued by the fact that he had named himself. His father neglected to name him and so in his early teenage years he chose his own name; the name of a mountain. Mt Taraksh means Great One, and in keeping with his name, Taraksh wanted to achieve great things. As well as becoming a great father to his children, Taraksh overcame the stigma of moving away from the caste system of his culture, and became one of an elite group of theoretical scientists during the period of the second world war.

The legacy Taraksh leaves is the legacy of the mountain. Mountains are often symbols of our lives. Mountains inspire us and demand respect, test our strength and expose our weaknesses. We are humbled in the shadow of the immensity of a mountain, and it’s stability and strength inspires us to rise beyond the mundane and to achieve our goals and dreams. As we raise our eyes to the peak of a mountain we are reminded that life’s journey requires perseverance and faith. From it’s heady vantage points we are called to reflection and encouraged to look beyond ourselves.

Mountains call us to sacred acts of contemplation and spiritual challenge; a place where we receive perspective for life; a place to be open to spiritual truth. It is not surprising then that “…Jesus takes Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and leads them up a high mountain to be alone” (Matthew 17:1 NLT). He is here to pray in the quiet hours of the night, and as so often is the case, it is on a mountain where His interaction with God causes a magnificent collision of heaven with earth.

Such a collision had once stirred up a demonic squall on a lake. Frightened disciples saw Him walk on water that night and exercise authority over the natural and spiritual elements to bring calm (Matthew 14:22-33). It was on the side of a mountain such as this where Moses received the call of God when God spoke to him from the middle of a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4). It was on that same mountain that he received the Law written by the finger of God in stone (Exodus 24:12). It was on a mountain that Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven to consume the offering on their altar (1 Kings 18:19-40). It was on a mountain where Elijah, fleeing from Jezebel, heard the gentle whisper of God that called him to get back in harm’s way and stand up and be counted (1 Kings 19:12).

Prayer and a mountain are a powerful combination. It is after praying on a mountain that Jesus chose His disciples (Luke 6:12). And now on this mountain where Jesus prays with His disciples; a mountain that looked out over Galilee and out towards Calvary’s distant mountain, a transaction takes place that will bring the past, present and future into perspective; a transaction that would need to be examined with wonder and fear by Jesus’ closest disciples (Mark 5:37, Matthew 26:37). 2 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT) says “The facts of every case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”. There would be no doubt as to what would transpire here.

What happened on this mountain? You’ll have to wait and see. But for now Jesus is inviting you to come with Him to the mountain to pray and receive forgiveness for the past, sustaining grace for the present and a destiny to fulfil in the future. In fact Jesus is our Rock, our Refuge, our Foundation, our Strength and Stability, the One from whom we gain perspective for our lives, the One who overcomes the obstacles of sin and death, the greatest of all mountains. 

As we kneel before the Cross on Calvary’s mountain, where Jesus died for our sins, we are confronted with the vastness of eternity, and tremble with reverent fear in the presence of God. It is in the great expanse of this mountain refuge; this solid Rock on which we stand, that we hear the gentle whispers of God.

Pastor Ross

Gif using Parallax images

Gif using Parallax images

Part 5 – Matthew 11:13-14 – IN A PREVIOUS LIFE I WAS A DOLPHIN?

Reincarnation

I asked some friends what they thought about REINCARNATION last night and got some funny responses – should have known. One of them said “once, in a previous life, I was a dolphin… lol jk.” Another one said “It’s weird to think you may have been an ant once upon a time. …”

I know that Scientologists like the actor TOM CRUISE believe in some strange things. But apparently that includes REINCARNATION? Past reincarnation, or “past lives, entering the flesh again”, is a key part of the principles and practices of the CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY. I knew that HINDUISM teaches about reincarnation but apparently many MUSLIMS also believe Jesus and some prophets may incarnate again!

I’m telling you this because I was dumbfounded to read that in a 2005 Gallup poll 20 PERCENT of U.S. adults BELIEVED IN REINCARNATION! (Wikipedia) The article goes on to say that “Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit organization, have found that A QUARTER of U.S. Christians, including 10 PERCENT OF ALL BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS, embrace the idea”.

Kind of gives an entirely skewed view on 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) which says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is A NEW CREATURE; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Forgive me throwing up my hands in horror and tearing out my hair! (well perhaps not the hair. I don’t have any to tear out!) No wonder some people in mental institutions believe that they have come back as Jesus Christ. God became a man. Why not go round again? This is not what Paul meant when he said “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NASB).

Why am I talking about RE-INCARNATION? What started me on that track was a passage of the Bible in Matthew 11 where Jesus is speaking about John the Baptiser. Let me explain…

As a child I once asked my mother “Is Santa real?” She would say “If you believe he is real then he is.” What kind of answer is that? Jesus has a different approach. It involves me accepting what He has to say before I can appropriate His message to my life.

Matthew 11:14 says “And if you are willing to accept what I say, HE IS ELIJAH, the one the prophets said would come.” If you know the story of Elijah, he didn’t die but was taken up into heaven. 2 Kings 2:11 (NLT) says “… Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” 

Jesus always takes me by surprise, but what is this really all about? How can John the Baptist be Elijah the prophet? Malachi 4:5 (NLT) gives a prophecy about Elijah. It says “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.” 

What makes things even more complicated is that back in John 1:21-23 (NLT) the Pharisees have already asked John the Baptiser “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “NO,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “NO.” “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”(He’s quoting from Isaiah 40:3).

One minute John says he ISN’T ELIJAH and then Jesus says HE IS? Jesus says one thing and John has already CONTRADICTED Him. Is he Elijah and doesn’t know it? And if he is Elijah, how? Why? And Whoah! That’s pretty far fetched! Is this some kind of RE-INCARNATION MIRACLE? (Inter terrestrial Alien music in the background – “do do do do, Do Do DO DO!”).

Was John ELIJAH IN HIS PREVIOUS LIFE? If he was then we have our religions mixed up here. Doesn’t Jesus realise we believe in CHRISTIANITY NOT HINDUISM? Why does Jesus say He IS Elijah? Was it a METAPHOR? Why did He say “If you are willing to accept what I say”. Is it only true if we accept it?

How can I get this in perspective? John the Baptist was ONE OF A KIND and the LAST OF A KIND. He was the last of the old HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION ENGINEERS. He joined the old highway to the new one – the OLD TESTAMENT TO THE NEW TESTAMENT.

It was the END OF AN ERA. Up until this time prophets only FORETOLD the coming of Jesus. Now John was INTRODUCING HIM PERSONALLY! Matthew 11:13 (NLT) says “For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time.” 

I love it when I am faced with a difficulty like this. Because I believe in what Jesus says and I trust Him. And in order to understand I also know that SCRIPTURE OFTEN INTERPRETS SCRIPTURE. In Luke an angel gives a prophecy about John and this clears it up for me (Here I am listening to an angel!) In Luke 1:17 (NLT) the angel says of John “He will be a man with the SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH.”

So John is A TYPE OF ELIJAH. Elijah, like John, was a prophet who spent time out in the desert places too. He condemned kings for their sin. He challenged the religious people of his time. He also had questions about God and wasn’t afraid to ask them. He was no reed in the wind at Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18:24-38). The message of old hasn’t changed. It is still the same. REPENT! GET RIGHT WITH GOD! It seems to me that Jesus is saying John is a PICTURE of Elijah who is yet to come. He is NOT BEING LITERAL! He is not talking about Reincarnation! In Matthew 11:14 Jesus says “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”

God bless you Church as you really hear the message of John 3:7 (NLT) where Jesus says to Nicodemus “You must be born again.” Romans 6:11 (NASB) says it in this way “… consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Pastor Ross