Scripture: Lectionary #187. Sirach 48:1-4,8-11. Psalm 80:2-3.15-16.18-19.
We can see why Elijah who is central to our first reading from Sirach is a
perfect prototype of John the Baptist, the new Elijah of the Messianic era.
The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion describes him in this way: “In the
Biblical narrative Elijah emerges as a stern. fearless, and uncompromising
figure, zealously determined to uproot the idolatrous worship of Baal
introduced by Jezebel, the Tyrian wife of Ahab.” Elijah is considered to be
alive and disguised and helping the true present day prophets and leaders
who are holy before the Lord. He is present at every bar mitzvah; a
special chair is reserved for him just as it is at the Passover Seder.
This fiery prophet challenged all who refused to worhip the one true God
and he was the one who vindicated Nabaoth who was killed by Jezebel so that
Ahab could have his ancestral plot of land. Thus he is a great prophet of
In Sirach, a deuterocanonical work, we have a thumbnail sketch of him that
is clear and concise. Sirach had a great love and reverence for all of the
patriarchs, prophets, and saints of former times. Elijah is understood as
the precursor of the Messiah so when John the Baptist appears on the scene,
Jesus answers his disciples questions and tells them that John the Baptist
is Elijah. Thus it is in conformity with the thought within present day
Judaism about Elijah being alive. We remember he was taken up to heaven in
a fiery chariot.(“Swing low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home”).
Jesus and the Baptist are seen as needing one another as we enter the
gospel narratives where the two are mentioned together. We even have the
scene of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth where it is said that John leaped
in his mother’s womb when Mary, now pregnant with Jesus, came to embrace
Elizabeth her cousin and the mother of the Baptist. Zacahria, from the
priestly family, was the father of John. Both the mission of John and that
of Jesus complemented one another and led to the salvation of the world by
the Savior announced by his precursor, according to our Christian
We are like the apostles and need to stay with Jesus while asking our
questions about him and John. Jesus’ shows us how to listen to God’s will
both through what he says about the Baptist and also what his many words
say to us. We know God’s will by knowing the Scriptures and living them
out in what they call us to do. The ten commandments are only a start but
they remain the foundation for the rest of our lives in the journey of
faith to the kingdom of God. Jesus and John show us the bigger picture that
the Bible gives us and they mesh our messy secular history with the faccia
of salvation history. They announce that the kingdom is already here and
the messianic age continues on whether we recognize it or not. We are
called by the Baptist to repent and to be baptized in the Spirit by Jesus.
Today believers are to be the precursors of what the Messianic Age is all
about from the perspective of God and the bigger spiritual world. By our
words and actions we are to walk the path that both Elijah, John, and Jesus
have traced out for us. Amen.