1. The Jews still expect the Messiah and in their synagogues they keep a chair of Elijah, the prophet who is to come and to announce the Messiah. They place newly circumcised male babies into the chair in hopes that Elijah will announce this child as the Messiah.
2. The Jews believed that Elijah would return as forerunner of the Messianic age (Mal 4:5; Lk 1:17) There was a debate in the early Church around the question. If Jesus is the Messiah why has Elijah not come?
· Jesus is here represented as saying that Elijah has come, not in reincarnation, but in striking likeness of the flesh and in verity of the spirit.
· John dressed like Elijah, lived in the desert as Elijah had lived, and defied Herod and Herodias as Elijah has defied Ahab and Elijah.
3. Why did Elijah not restore all things according to promise? Why had the golden age not come?
Men did not see in John the prophet of God, and in heedlessness they slew him. Mankind has a certain freedom, and darkly abuses it. The golden age cannot be forced upon them, for then it would not be fold but only a gilded coercion. The golden age comes only through golden souls. Elijah awakens and Christ renews; Elijah arouses penitence and Christ forgives if the people see and believe but they will not see.
4. Jesus accepts what the Scribes believe. Their expectation of the return of Elijah is very scriptural. But they were making a mistake for it was literal Elijah whose return they expected, the Tishbite in person. Malachi’s prophecy had actually been fulfilled not literally but figuratively in the person of John the Baptist.
5. Did John the Baptist bring restoration?
The emphasis should not be placed on the number or quantity of people affected but on the thorough going character or quality of the change which John as God’s servant, demanded and was instrumental in bringing about, a turnabout of heart, mind and whole life.
All of us do have expectations and when the expectation is not fulfilled we are disappointed. It is good to have expectations but we should not expect things to happen in the exact way we expect. We should be ready to expect the unexpected. People of Israel rightly expected the Messiah and the forerunner but the way they expected the coming of these two was not the way God intended. This happens to all of us even today. There is nothing wrong to have expectations but to expect something in the way we want may lead to discouragement and disappointed.
The Interpreter’s Bible
New Testament Commentary the Gospel of Matthew – William Hendrickson