Friday, May 26, 2017
2Kings 2:1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
We find here another moment in history where the baton is passed from one generation to the next. Just as Moses had passed on the mantle of leadership to Joshua, now Elijah is passing this on to Elisha. They make an interesting journey as Elisha refuses to leave the side of Elijah. It almost appears to be a test on the part of Elijah, whether with stubborn insistence Elisha will stick with him until the very end. The role of leadership which Elisha would be assuming would not be easy, often fraught with difficulties, and commitment to the task would be necessary.
The journey of Elijah and Elisha takes them through stops which are reminiscent of the Israelites’ entrance into the promised land. Every moment is significant and symbolic, including the crossing of the Jordan river on dry land. Elisha refused to stop or give up. He then asked for the impossible — a double share of Elijah’s power. Elisha pressed on and in the end, received the mantle of leadership and the power of God.
Time after time we see the mantle of leadership change within the Old Testament narrative. These stories become a foreshadowing of a time when the mantle of leadership will shift from Jesus to his disciples. Just as we have recently read of the ascension of Jesus Christ, we recognize in this story the ascension of Elijah. Elijah is taken up into heaven and the stubbornly insistent disciple follows him to the very end. The result is that he is empowered.
As Jesus’ disciples we are all called to become stubbornly insistent. We follow Jesus all the way to the foot of the cross, refusing to let him suffer and die alone. We stand in stunned amazement that our Messiah has been crucified, but three days later we are blessed when we experience his resurrection. But now he begins to speak of his departure and we just don’t know what that means and so we stubbornly follow him day after day, not wanting to miss out on anything. Finally we find ourselves gathered with the disciples on a mountain top and Jesus disappears into the heavens. Just as Elisha found himself alone, we find ourselves wondering and waiting. The promise for Elisha was double the power of the great Elijah. The promise for us is the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The problem is that far too often we give up before we ever get to the moment of receiving what Jesus has for us. We refuse to stick with it and we find ourselves at a loss, wandering around in the desert of life. Being a follower of Jesus Christ isn’t easy but requires tenacity and spiritual discipline. Stubborn insistence, if you like! To reach the end of the journey means that we continually press on, following in faith the one who is leading the way.
Lord, we often need the reminders that help us continue to seek you, and stay near to you, every day. Amen.