Readings: Psalm 125; Malachi 3:16-4:6; Mark 9:9-13
As they were coming down from the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.” [Mark 9:9-13]
Prophets in general don’t have pleasant or long lives. They tend to annoy everyone with truths that are difficult to accept, and a world that isn’t ready for such things tends to kill them. John was no exception. Some recognized the lifeline he offered – they heard in his words and saw in his eyes the love of God. Those who had nothing to lose, who lived in darkness and despair, found themselves transformed – and saw how the whole world could be changed. Perhaps they didn’t understand why some didn’t welcome John.
Those whose darkness could not be penetrated by prophetic words, whose lives were acceptably comfortable and successful, didn’t see a lifeline: they saw in John the end of their place in the world. Perhaps they had too much to lose and not enough courage to understand.
The disciples didn’t understand what it all meant, or who John was, even after a mountaintop vision. They couldn’t understand why suffering and death walked with Jesus, or that there might be something holy beyond it all. Soon enough, they would understand all too well.
I’d like to think that I’d have believed John, that I’d have known he was a prophet. I’d like to believe that I would have understood and accepted what Jesus said must come. But I doubt it.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me: I misunderstand everything.