Today’s title is found in Luke 1:17, spoken by Gabriel to Zachariah about his son who would be born and known as John the Baptizer. In today’s text we see it brought to fruition.
Elijah was a powerful preacher, one who was unafraid of the kings and rulers of Israel (1 Ki 18:17-18; 21:20-24). In today’s language, some might say, “He spoke truth to power.”
Though powerful in his preaching, Elijah was not without compassion. Through him God raised the son of the widow at Zarephath (1 Ki 17:8-24).
In Luke 3, John burst on the scene with a message of repentance (v 3, cf Matt 3:1-3). Moreover, seeing the religious leaders of the day (cf Matt 3:7), he condemned them saying, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John also spoke truth to power when he declared to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother Philip’s wife” (Mark 6:18), which is also referenced in today’s text (v 19).
But like Elijah, John was not without compassion. In Luke 3 we find John preaching a message of self-control and compassion, commanding the people, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (v 11). To the hated tax collectors John gave instruction, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you” (v 13).
Jesus’ own disciples did not understand the prophecy concerning John and Elijah. In Matthew 11:13-14, Jesus declared, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”
In his life and in his preaching, John truly represented Elijah as he prepared the way of the Lord and made His paths straight. Perhaps this is nowhere made clearer than in Matthew 16:13 when Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I the Son of Man am?”
To this the apostles responded by including both John the Baptizer and Elijah (v 14). What a great testimony to these two men!