Monday, July 17, 2017
Jesus Is Elijah and Elisha
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about Him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised (honored) by everyone. 16 When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News (Gospel) to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed (broken, downtrodden) will be set free, 19 and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at Him intently.21 Then He began to speak to them. “The Scripture you have just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
22 Everyone spoke well of Him (Jesus) and was amazed by the gracious words that came from His lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?” 23 Then He said, “You will undoubtedly quote Me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in Your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in His own hometown. 25 Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious (outraged). 29 Jumping up, they mobbed Him (Jesus) and forced Him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push Him over the cliff, 30 but He passed right through the crowd and went on His way. Luke 4:14-30 (NLT)
The prophets Elijah and Elisha are among the greatest prophets of the Holy Scriptures. Elijah and Elisha’s ministries form the great middle section of the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings (see 1 Kings 16:23 – 2 Kings 13:21).
Elijah and Elisha were Old Testament prophets that ministered to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The living God raised up the prophets Elijah and Elisha to combat the unfaithfulness and idolatry of Israel during the 9th century BC. The living God had called His people Israel to exclusive allegiance and worship to Him (see Exodus 20:1-3, 23; Exodus 34:14) and to tell the world about Him as the only true God (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Sadly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel started mixing devotion to the living God with made-up gods and other foreign religions. Starting with evil reigns of King Jeroboam and his successor kings such as Omri and Ahab, Israel’s faithfulness to the living God was threaten with the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, creation of high places, and the worship of foreign gods such as Baal and Asherah (see 1 Kings 1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 16:25-26, 31-33).
The New Testament notes many parallels between the life of Jesus and that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Not the least of these is the account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven by the glory cloud as the prophet Elijah was received into God’s glory cloud (see 2 Kings 2:11-12; Acts 1:9-11). The New Testament often proclaimed Jesus as the new Elijah and the new Elisha. The Gospel writers, especially the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seem to draw on the Elijah and Elisha narratives when telling the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus duplicated many of the same miracles of Elijah and Elisha such as raising the dead, feeding the poor, and healing the sick (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7; 2 Kings 4:8-37; 2 Kings 4:38-41; 2 Kings 4:42-44; 2 Kings 5:1-14; Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 4:18-21; Luke 5:17-26; Luke 9:10-17; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56).
Interestingly, throughout Jesus’ public ministry the crowds believed that Jesus was a mighty prophet like Elijah and Elisha. Ruling authorities, kings, and even common people believed Jesus was like an ancient prophet, such as Elijah (e.g., see Luke 7:16, 39; Luke 9:7-9, 19). In fact, some people considered Jesus to be Elijah (see Matthew 16:14; Mark 6:15). Jesus performed many of the same miraculous works of Elijah and Elisha that the Jews recognized Jesus as the great Prophet the Jews had been waiting to arrive (e.g., see Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 16:14; Mark 6:15; Luke 4:24; Luke 7:16, 39; Luke 9:7-9, 19; Acts 2;22). In Luke 4:23-30, Jesus explicitly sees Himself as the new Elijah and Elisha at the start of His public ministry.
In the New Testament, Jesus is described by many titles, including Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, Savior, and Lord (e.g., see Matthew 1;1, 16-17, 21-22; Mark 1:1; Luke 2:10-11; John 20:31). Jesus is also the Great Prophet predicted by Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:14-22). As a Prophet, Jesus preached God’s word and performed miracles like those of the great Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha (e.g., see Luke 7:16-17). The disciples on the Emmaus road identified Jesus as “a Prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty Teacher” (see Luke 24:19). Like other prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus suffered for His faithfulness to God and His testimony (e.g., see 1 Kings 19:3-18; Jeremiah 11:18-19; Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 20:1-2, 7-18; Jeremiah 26:7-11, 20-23; Jeremiah 38:1-6).
After Jesus’ testing and temptation by Evil in the Judean wilderness, Jesus returned to Galilee, full of the Holy Spirit’s power (see Luke 4:14, 18). With the coming of Jesus, Jesus brought God’s abundant Spirit upon His life (see Luke 4:1; John 1:14; John 3:34; Acts 10:38; Romans 1:4-5). In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God most often appeared as the power that endowed and enabled God’s prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha. Many passages associate the gift of prophecy with the possession of the Holy Spirit (e.g., see Numbers 11:25-26; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Kings 2:15; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 7:12; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:17-18). The Holy Spirit often “clothed” God’s prophets (e.g., see Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18-19; 2 Chronicles 24:20). Today, God has graciously poured out His Holy Spirit to all faithful believers of His Son Jesus (e.g., see Acts 2:38-39; Acts 11:15-18; Romans 8:9-11; Romans 10:14-17; Galatians 3:2, 5, 14; Ephesians 1:13-14). In the church today, God’s Spirit is not given to just a few, but to all through faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah (e.g., see Luke 24:49; John 14:16-17; Acts 1:1-5; Timothy 1:7; 1 Peter 1:4-5; 1 John 4:13-15).
God through His Holy Spirit empowered His Son Jesus to preach the Gospel (Good News), to announce freedom to the captive, to heal the sick and demon possessed, and to proclaim God’s grace to all people as predicted by the Old Testament (e.g., see Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42;1; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17-21; John 5:39. After His resurrection, Jesus declared the words of Moses, the Prophets, and even the Psalms of Israel point to Him because Jesus is the living Word of God (e.g., see John 1:1-5; Luke 24:44-49). During, Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament by feeding the poor, freeing the prisoners and the oppressed, raising the dead, the giving sight to the blind, and healing the sick (see also Matthew 11:4-5; Luke 7:20-23). Soon, Jesus’ popularity spread throughout the region, and everyone praised and applauded Jesus’ authoritative and Spirit-filled teaching, preaching, and healing (Luke 4:15-16, 22, 32, 44; see also Mark 1:21-22). Similar to Elijah and Elisha who focused their ministries in Northern Israel (see 2 Kings 2:1-8), Jesus traveled all throughout Galilee, the northern portion of Israel, teaching in the Jewish synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom of God, and healing every kind of sickness and disease (e.g., see Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:18-21). The news spread widely about Jesus as the miracle worker from Nazareth. Reports of Jesus’ powers and miracles spread far beyond the borders of Galilee so that sick and demon-possessed people were soon coming for healing as far away as Syria (e.g., see Matthew 4:24-25; Matthew 8:16-17; Matthew 15:30-31; Mark 3:7-10; Luke 4:37; Acts 10:38). Jesus all healed them all (e.g., see Matthew 4:25; Luke 4:40).
When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown family, friends, and neighbors were anxious to see one of Jesus’ supernatural powers. The people of Nazareth had heard of Jesus’ miraculous works and authoritative teaching throughout the region and the hometown people of Nazareth also admired Him and wanted to see Jesus’ miracles and hear His wisdom teaching (Luke 4:22-23; see also Matthew 13:54; Mark 6:2). Nevertheless, some people in His hometown of Nazareth challenged Jesus and said, “Is not this Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22, ESV; see also Matthew 13:55-57; Mark 6:3). Importantly in Luke 4:23-27, Jesus compared His rejection in Nazareth to the rejection of God’s Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha. In fact, Jesus explicitly compared His ministry to Elijah and Elisha and told the listening crowd,
25 “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land. 26 And Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:25-27 (ESV)
Jesus proclaimed to His hometown of Nazareth that God sent the prophet Elijah to use his miraculous works to help the widow of Zarephath—a foreigner from the land of Sidon (see Luke 4:25). Jesus noted that there were many Jewish widows needing help in those days of famine in Israel, for there had been no rain for three and a half years, and hunger stalked the land (Luke 4:26; see also 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1; James 5:17-18; Revelation 11:6). However, God bypassed all the Jewish widows and helped a Gentile widow living in Sidon through His prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 17:8-16). Then, Elijah’s successor Elisha healed Naaman, a foreigner from Syria, rather than the many Jewish lepers living in Israel (see Luke 4:17, cf. 2 Kings 5:1-24). Jesus implied that His hometown Jews were as unbelieving and unfaithful towards the living God as the people of the rebellious Jews of Northern Kingdom of Israel during the days of Elijah and Elisha, a time great wickedness and idolatry in Israel. The cynical unbelief at Nazareth contrasted sharply with the simple trust and obedience toward the living God of the Zarephath's widow and Naaman. A climate of belief and trust in the living God leads to a display of God’s supernatural powers.
Jesus’ remarks about the Zarephath widow and Naaman the Syrian infuriated His hometown people of Nazareth (see Luke 4:28). Our Lord’s message of grace to all people by faith was a blow to the proud Jewish exclusivism. The Jews believed they were the only elect and chosen people of God. However, Jesus revealed that God’s everlasting love, grace, goodness, salvation, and care are available to all people by faith in Him, whether Jew, Gentile, man, woman, rich, or poor. The people of Nazareth became anger with Jesus, and an angry crowd led Jesus to the edge of the hill to push Him over the cliff (see Luke 4:29). However, God protected His Son Jesus, and Jesus walked away through the anger and riotous crowd’s grasp without harm (see Luke 4:30).
Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Dr. George Schwab, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2017).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).