And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” – Mark 9:9-13
There are two ways you can hear the phrase, “I’m not going to lie to you.” One is with skepticism: You mean you normally do lie to me, but this time you’re not?!? “I will pay back the money I want to borrow.” The other is with good faith: So you’re revealing something you would not normally reveal, but you want me to know. “I’m not going to lie to you, it was the hardest day of my life.”
We don’t need Jesus to tell us he’s not lying, but in these moments following his transfiguration he is offering some sobering truth to his disciples. This is a hard reality check that is of the type that people would rather not hear. This is not good news in the normal sense of the term. It is a sad report of the current state of the faith and the spiritual condition of the world in which they lived.
Jesus was going to die. That was implied in his instruction about not telling anyone what they had seen until he had risen from the dead. While the disciples were confused and puzzled about what that meant, they were also confused about the coming of Elijah.
My sense is that Jesus was agreeing with the Scribes, but putting that in a context that that no one really understood. Things were happening that were beyond the mere outward appearances. Elijah had come. This was John the Baptizer. They had done to him as they pleased – putting him to death. Jesus pointed them to the suffering servant and the contempt he would endure. This suffering and all injustice suffered by the godly is bathed in the grace of God. For by Jesus’ suffering, and in spite of all injustice, God is at work.
Things are not always as good at they ought to be, but this does not negate God’s rule and reign over all. Even when the greatest and most faithful servants of Christ are mistreated, God is at work. His work is that of redemption, salvation, rescue, and deliverance. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the truth of our plight. This Jesus will consistently do. The whole truth of all this – and even the most unjust of situations – is that God is redeeming his people. There is a great victory before Jesus, and for all who trust in him. That truth of God is precious to all who also embrace the grace in which it is bathed.