Jesus and Elijah 1 Kings 18:22-39

Which people from the Old Testament do you think get the most mentions in the Four Gospels? Obviously top of the league is great King David with 39 appearances, closely followed by Moses at 38. Abraham is named 32 times. But the next might be a surprise to you. Not Jacob with 14 mentions or Isaac with just 7. It is the prophet Elijah, whose whole story only occupies 5 chapters in the Old Testament, who appears 26 times in the Gospels.
If we are comparing people in the New Testament with those in the Old Testament, when we think of Elijah we would immediately think of John the Baptist. The Old Testament foretold that God would send a Messenger to prepare the way for the nation of Israel to welcome her Saviour the Messiah.
Malachi 4 5 ‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.’
So the Jews were expecting God’s Messenger to come, to prepare the way for the Saviour, and that the Messenger would be Elijah. Jesus actually identified John the Baptist as the fulfilment of those prophecies.
Matthew 11 14 … he is the Elijah who was to come.
John the Baptist was certainly Elijah returning to prepare the way for the Saviour and the day of salvation. But this morning I want us to make a different comparison and see the many ways in which Elijah also foreshadowed the life of Jesus himself.

During Lent we have already thought about three individuals whose lives serve as types, or patterns, for the life of Jesus. Adam brought us condemnation but Jesus bought us salvation. As in Adam all die so in Christ all are made alive. Joseph was the physical saviour of the descendants of Abraham and of the whole region of Egypt. Jesus is the spiritual saviour of everybody who puts their trust in him. Last week we saw how Moses what the saviour of the Israelites, and more than that all the events of the Exodus give us a pattern for the wonderful salvation we received through Christ. Escape from slavery and death to freedom and eternal life – all through the death of Christ our Passover Lamb and the glorious miracle of his resurrection from the dead.
Elijah foreshadowed John the Baptist but there were also many ways in which Elijah’s life pointed forward to Jesus as well. Elijah was a type, or a pattern, of Christ. We can start by pointing out that during Jesus’s ministry there were some people who did identify Jesus was Elijah.
While Jesus and his disciples were preaching throughout Galilee, we read this.
Mark 6 14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
The disciples reported the same.
Matthew 16 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
14 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
The reason people were thinking that Jesus was Elijah was that

Both had an itinerant, travelling ministry.
Matthew 8 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Both Jesus and Elijah brought God’s love and blessing to the poor and oppressed and even to those outside Israel.

Both Jesus and Elijah were preaching God’s righteousness, calling a nation who had rejected their God to repentance.

Both were hated and feared by the King and by the nation’s leaders, because the common people recognised them as prophets.

Both Jesus and Elijah worked powerful miracles, signs and wonders.
They fed the hungry. They healed the sick. They even raised dead people back to life again. One comparison is particularly significant. They each blessed poor widows in desperate situations. We know the story of Jesus feeding 5000 families with just five loaves and two fishes. But in Elijah’s time, during a desperate famine, God worked a miracle with a jar of flour and a jar of oil which never ran out. A widow and her son were saved. When Jesus gave his first sermon and talked about taking God’s blessings to outsiders, and to the poor and the needy, he compared his ministry to that of Elijah.
Luke 4 24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.

Both Jesus and Elijah were despised and rejected by God’s own people.

Both Jesus and Elijah could well be described as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”

Being God’s messenger always brings opposition and persecution and suffering. You might remember the story of how discouraged and depressed Elijah became, foreshadowing Jesus’s experiences of rejection and suffering. How Elijah just wanted to die. Remember how God appeared to Elijah on Mount Horeb and comforted him, not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the still small voice of calm. Elijah as one of the greatest Old Testament prophets pointed forward to Jesus as the greatest messenger from God. And Elijah’s sufferings as a prophet foreshadowed Jesus’s sufferings.

Jesus is like Elijah because

In the contest on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal, God demonstrated his superiority over the false gods of the surrounding nations.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!’
The contest on Mount Carmel was a decisive victory over the false gods who were leading the people away from God.
Throughout his ministry Jesus was defeating the powers of evil.
1 John 3 8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
We thought about this in our evening Zoom Church last week. Jesus did not only come to save human beings from death. At the same time he came to set the world free from the grip of the devil. A large part of that was his ministry of driving out demons, setting free those who were imprisoned by evil.
Matthew 12 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
In that little parable of disarming the strong man, the strong man represents the devil and Jesus is represented by the person plundering his possessions which is a picture of Jesus driving out demons. Jesus was able to command the demons because he had already “tied up” the devil. And Jesus accomplished that at the very beginning of His ministry when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Jesus was tempted. But He did not give in to temptation. Jesus was the first human being ever who did not give in to the devil’s temptations. He proved there that He was stronger than the devil. It was there in the wilderness that Jesus “bound the strong man”. From that point on, the battle was won. Demons would have to obey Jesus every time!
Jesus came to release the prisoners and set the captives free – to set people free from evil by driving out demons. But the decisive victory over the devil and all the powers of evil was won on the cross. Just a few days before he died Jesus said this.
John 12 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
The hour has arrived. The hour which Jesus had been anticipating every day of his life was getting very close indeed. It would be a vital hour not just for Jesus but for the whole world, the whole of humanity in every age. Jesus would be glorified – but that would be through his death. The judgment and the salvation of the whole world would hang on that one hour. For Jesus it would be the hour of his departure – the hour Jesus had to leave the world in death. But that be the hour when the devil was finally defeated and the grip of evil on the world would be broken for good. On the cross Christ not only paid the penalty for our sin. He also won the victory over the devil and all the powers of evil.
Colossians 2 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
It was by the sacrifice of his death on the cross that Jesus set human beings free from the grip which the devil has over us all. We were slaves of sin – Jesus’s death sets us free.
Hebrews 2 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Both Elijah and Jesus went into battle with evil. Just as Elijah won that decisive victory over the prophets of the false god Baal on Mount Carmel, even more so on the cross Jesus defeated the devil and set us free. As we put our trust in Jesus, we share in the benefits of his victory. We have overcome, because he has overcome.
And there is just one more way in which the life of Elijah foreshadowed the life of the Jesus.
SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know how the story of Easter ends, look away now.

Jesus is like Elijah because
This is how the life of Elijah ends.
2 Kings 2 11 As (Elijah and Elisha) were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ And Elisha saw him no more.
Elijah was one of the two people who the Old Testament tells us went straight to heaven without dying. His life had a very happy ending. He was still alive!
In contrast, Jesus was not spared death. But the Bible tells us that his life had an even more glorious end. The tomb was empty. Jesus rose from the dead, never more to die. Elijah foreshadows Jesus because both are alive forever,
And after his resurrection, just as Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind, we read in Acts 1 that Jesus ascended to heaven.
9 After (Jesus) said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
Jesus and Elijah. Mighty prophets, bringing God’s message of judgment and salvation and calling God’s people to repentance. Working miracles, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and even raising the dead. Defeating the powers of evil. And finally triumphing over death, alive forevermore.
Jesus asked in Matthew 16:13 … , ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
14 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
15 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

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