On Wednesday night, during one of our weekly Read the Bible in a Year discussion groups, a great question was asked about the prophets Elijah and Elisha, whose stories are told in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings.*
God empowered both of them to perform miracles, including bringing several dead persons back to life. The question raised was why neither Elijah or Elisha were hailed as the Savior of the world the way Jesus would be by some people about nine centuries later.
Here are a few possible answers that cross my mind.
First: Both Elijah and Elisha lived before anyone really considered the possibility of a Messiah. The two prophets lived in the northern kingdom of an Israel that had fractured in two after the death of King Solomon. The north, which took for itself the name of Israel, was mired in idolatry and arrogance while enjoying relative prosperity and stability. They weren't looking for redemption from Israel's God.
Second: Even if the people of the northern kingdom had had hopes for a Messiah, chances are that they would have been just as wary to see Elijah or Elisha in that role as the people of Judea (and their Roman overlords) were to see Jesus as Messiah eight centuries later. A Messiah/Savior rightly demands on our lives that we, as self-centered people, prefer not to meet. That's one big reason that many people spurn Jesus to this day.
Third: Neither Elijah nor Elisha ever made the same claims for themselves that Jesus made for Himself.
In John 10:30, for example, Jesus flat out says, "The Father and I are one."
Earlier in John's gospel, He tells some of His fellow Jews in a grammatically awkward phrase, "Before the Father was, I AM." "I AM," ego eimi in the Greek of the New Testament, translates the Hebrew noun and verb that Israel's God gave to Moses as His Name at the burning bush, Yahweh.
Jesus claims to be God in human flesh. From any other person, even miracle workers like Elijah and Elisha, this claim would be blasphemous. And it was on the charge of being a blasphemer that the Jewish religious leaders of His day sought Jesus' execution.
But Elijah and Elisha claimed simply to be prophets, people who go before others to tell them (and show them) the Word of God.
*Go here and type in 1 Kings, chapter 1 [1 Kings 1], if you want to see what we've been reading lately. Then, keep following the arrows leading you to the next chapters.