What does the Lord Jesus Christ mean when He says, "To be sure Elijah does come first, and restores all things"? Why then is it written that "the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected, But I will tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him" (Mark 9:12-13)?
Our Lord Jesus Christ was talking about St. John the Baptist who came in the spirit of Elijah. The Angel, in announcing to Zacharias the birth of St. John the Baptist, said about him "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). St. John the Baptist came with the same spirit of truth as Elijah. He faced Herod telling him "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." (Mark 6:18) the same way Elijah faced King Ahab condemning him for taking the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite (1 Kings 21).
St. Ambrose wrote a comparison between Elijah and St. John the Baptist:
- Both Elijah and St. John lived in the wilderness.
- Elijah survived on food provided by crows. St. John lived in the wilderness hating luxury and loving poverty.
- Elijah did not try to gain the favor of King Ahab, St. John despised King Herod's deeds.
- Elijah's mantel separated the waters of the Jordan River. From the same water St. John made a washing basin that grants salvation.
- Elijah appeared with the Lord in glory at the Transfiguration. St. John lived with the Lord on earth.