Ver. 11-13. Mark saith, Mar_9:12, He answered and told them, Elias verily comes first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him. Our Saviour agreeth to the promise, but showeth their mistake as to the true sense of it. They understood the promise of Elijah the Tishbite: the promise referred only to one of his spirit, and such a one was come, that was John the Baptist, as the angel told Zacharias, Luk_1:17, He shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias. Very much of the power and spirit of Elijah was evident in John. Elijah was full of zeal for God, 1Ki_19:10: so was John the Baptist. Did Elijah freely reprove, not only Baal’s priests, but even Ahab and Jezebel? John as freely reproved Herod and Herodias, and the Pharisees and Sadducees. Was Elijah an austere man? Such was John the Baptist. Did Elijah flee unto the wilderness to save his life? John Baptist, for some time, lived and preached there. Elijah living in a corrupt time, was a great means or instrument to restore decayed religion: so was John the Baptist, in the time wherein he lived. This notwithstanding, not the Jews only, but some Christians, and that not only papists, but some protestants, think, that besides the Elias which is long since come, there is another Elias, who shall come before the end of the world. They found their opinion upon this text in a great measure,
1. Because our Saviour here saith, ercetai prwton, he doth come first; and Mark saith, elywn prwton, apokayista, coming first, restoreth all things. Now John the Baptist was both come and gone; nor had he restored all things. Besides, they say, that John denied himself to be Elias, Joh_1:21; and it is plain, that not the scribes and Pharisees, but the disciples, only understood the prophecy of Elijah the Tishbite; and Malachi saith, that Elijah should come before the terrible day of the Lord, which day, they say, is the day of judgment, in the constant language of Scripture. But to all this is answered,
a) That the Baptist, Joh_1:21, only denied himself to be that Elias about which they inquired, according to their tradition.
b) That it is true, that the disciples were led away with the Jewish tradition, and looked for Elijah the Tishbite, but Christ both here and elsewhere correcteth their error.
c) That not only the day of general judgment is called the terrible day of the Lord, but the gospel time, Mat_3:10, when the axe was laid to the root of the tree, &c.; so Act_2:20; and the day of the Jews’ particular judgment, which some understand hinted in those texts.
d) That our Lord first repeateth the words of Malachi, and so he saith, Elias shall come, or is coming; and then he expounds the words of Malachi of John the Baptist.
e) That the words of Mal_4:6 are expounded by the angel, Luk_1:16,17, and there applied to John the Baptist.
f) That John did fulfil the words of the prophet, by endeavouring the conversion of the Jews, and prevailing in a great measure.
g) That the last words in Malachi, lest I smite the earth with a curse, plainly show that the text in Malachi cannot be understood of the day of judgment.
And though the name of Elias be given to John, yet it is no more than the giving the name of David to the Messias, Eze_37:24. So as there is no other Elijah to be expected, but the Elijah prophesied of by Malachi was (as our Saviour doth expound it) John the Baptist, whom Herod had beheaded.
They knew him not, their tradition blinded them so as they could not discern the prophecy of Malachi fulfilled in him, so did unto him whatsoever they listed; and, saith our Saviour, so shall they do with the Son of man, that is, with me, who am the Son of man.