Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Matthew 17:9-13; Mark9:9-13; Luke 9:36
9. And as they were going down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead. 10. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? 11. And Jesus answering said to them, Elijah indeed will come first, and restore all things. 12. But I say to you, That Elijah is come already, and they did not know him, but have done to him whatever they pleased: thus also will the Son of man suffer from them. 13. Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them concerning John the Baptist. 481
9. And when they were going down from the mountain, he charged them not to tell any man those things which they had seen, till the Son of man had risen from the dead. 10. And they kept this saying among themselves, disputing with each other what was the meaning of the expression which he had used, To rise from the dead. 11 And they asked him, saying, Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? 12. And he answering said to them, Elijah indeed will come first, and restore all things; and, as it is written, the Son of man must suffer many things and be despised. 13. But I say to you, That Elijah is come, and they have done to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.
36. And they kept silence, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
Matthew 17:9. And as they were going down from the mountain. We have said that the time for making known the vision was not yet fully come; and, indeed, the disciples would not have believed it, if Christ had not given a more striking proof of his glory in his resurrection. But after that his divine power had been openly displayed, that temporary exhibition of his glory began to be admitted, so as to make it fully evident that, even during the time that he emptied himself, (Php 2:7,) he continued to retain his divinity entire, though it was concealed under the veil of the flesh. There are good reasons, therefore, why he enjoins his disciples to keep silence, till he be risen from the dead.
10. And his disciples asked him, saying. No sooner is the resurrection mentioned than the disciples imagine that the reign of Christ is commenced; 482 for they explain this word to mean that the world would acknowledge him to be the Messiah. That they imagined the resurrection to be something totally different from what Christ meant, is evident from what is stated by Mark, that they disputed with each other what was the meaning of that expression which he had used, To rise from the dead Perhaps, too, they were already under the influence of that dream which is now held as an undoubted oracle among the Rabbins, that there would be a first and a second coming of the Messiah; that in the first he would be mean and despised, but that this would be shortly afterwards followed by his royal dignity. And, indeed, there is some plausibility in that error, for it springs from a true principle. The Scripture, too, speaks of a first and a second coming of the Messiah; for it promises that he will be a Redeemer, to expiate by his sacrifice the sins of the world 483 And such is the import of the following prophecies:
Rejoice, daughter of Zion, behold, thy King cometh, poor, sitting on an ass,
We beheld him, and he had no form or beauty, and he resembled a leper, so that we had no esteem for him,
(Isa. 53:3, 4.)
Again, Scripture represents him as victorious over death, and as subjecting all things to his dominion. But we see how the Rabbins corrupt the pure word of God by their inventions; and as every thing was greatly corrupted in the time of our Lord, it is probable that the people had also embraced this foolish notion.
Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? The gross mistakes which they committed as to the person of Elijah have been pointed out on two or three occasions. 484 Perhaps, too, they cunningly and wickedly endeavored to lessen the authority of Christ by bringing forward Elijah; for as it had been promised that Elijah would come as the forerunner of Messiah, to prepare the way before him, (Mal. 3:1, Mal. 4:5,) it was easy to excite a prejudice against Christ, by saying that he came unaccompanied by Elijah By a trick closely resembling this, the devil enchants the Papists of the present day not to expect the day of judgment till Elijah and Enoch have appeared. 485 It may not usually be conjectured that this expedient was purposely resorted to by the scribes, in order to represent Christ as unworthy of confidence, because he wanted the legitimate badge of the Messiah.
11. Elijah indeed will come first. We have stated elsewhere the origin of that error which prevailed among the Jews. As John the Baptist was to resemble Elijah by restoring the fallen condition of the Church, the prophet Malachi (Mal. 4:5, 6) had even given to him the name of Elijah; and this had been rashly interpreted by the scribes, as if Elijah the Tishbite (1Ki 17:1) were to return a second time to the world. Christ now declares that every thing which Malachi uttered was true, but that his prediction had been misunderstood and distorted from its true meaning. “The promise,” says he, “that Eliah would come was true, and has been already fulfilled; but the scribes have already rejected Elijah, whose name they idly and falsely plead in opposing me.”
And will restore all things. This does not mean that John the Baptist restored them perfectly, but that he conveyed and handed them over to Christ, who would complete the work which he had begun. Now as the scribes had shamefully rejected John, Christ reminds his disciples that the impostures of such men ought not to give them uneasiness, and that it ought not to be reckoned strange, if, after having rejected the servant, they should, with equal disdain, reject his Master. And that no one might be distressed by a proceeding so strange, our Lord mentions that the Scripture contained predictions of both events, that the Redeemer of the world, and Elijah his forerunner, would be rejected by false and wicked teachers.
“Que c’estoit de Iean Baptiste qu’il leur avoit parle;” — “that it was of John the Baptist that he had spoken to them.”
“Ils imaginent que c’est l’entree du regne de Christ, et leur semble qu’ils y sont desia;” — “they imagine that it is the commencement of the kingdom of Christ, and think that they are already in it.”
“Faisant par son sacrifice satisfaction pour les pechez du monde;” — “making satisfaction by his sacrifice for the sins of the world.”
Among other passages in which our Author has treated of the erroneous notions entertained by the Jews respecting Elijah, the reader may consult his Commentary on John 1:21, 25. — Ed.
“Iusques a ce qu’on voye Elie et Henoch retourner en ce monde;” — “till Elijah and Enoch are seen returning to this world.”