Jesus has just talked about how He is going to die, and the disciples didn’t get it. God in His grace, gives Jesus some companionship who will get it: Moses and Elijah. If Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, this is also another way of showing how the Old Testament points to the coming Messiah! Unfortunately, the disciples still don’t understand Jesus’ uniqueness, so God had to step in!
After Jesus reveals his upcoming death (again), the disciples ask Him about Elijah, since Malachi 4:5-6 reveals that Elijah is going to come: “Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD arrives. He will encourage fathers and their children to return to me, so that I will not come and strike the earth with judgment.” Jesus hints at the fact that John the Baptist fulfilled that role for them.
When they come down of the mountain they are confronted with a distraught man who wants help for his son. The disciples who were left weren’t able to help, which causes Jesus to once again reproach them: “You unbelieving generation!” Jesus casts out the demon, and says something vital for our understanding of prayer and spiritual power:
- Do we just assume that the disciples didn’t pray at all? Perhaps they commanded the demon to come out, thinking that they had the power to do it! God is the one who has the power, as Jude 9 indicates: “But even when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil and debating with him concerning Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a slanderous judgment, but said, ‘May the Lord rebuke you!’” In such matters it’s all about the intent of the heart, as opposed to whatever words are used. Michael was humble. Perhaps the disciples were not.
- Maybe they prayed, but not much. They didn’t persist in prayer.
- Or perhaps Jesus was referring to the idea that their prayer lives were substandard. They felt that prayer in the moment was enough. However God wants us to engage in an ongoing prayer relationship with Him. Maybe Jesus is teaching us that prayer (and other spiritual disciplines) prepare us for times of spiritual testing and exertion.
Whatever the truth, the intent is clear. We need to have an ongoing, intimate, humble relationship with God that expresses itself in prayer.