What does Matthew 17:12 mean?
ESV: But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”
NIV: But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.'
NASB: but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.'
CSB: "But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn't recognize him. On the contrary, they did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands."
NLT: But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.'
KJV: But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Verse Commentary:
The disciples are asking Jesus about the return of Elijah the prophet. The scribes teach from Malachi 4:5–6 that Elijah must return before the Messiah can come. Now, they know Jesus is the Messiah who has come to earth (Matthew 17:1–11). So, what about Elijah? They had just seen Elijah talking with Jesus during the transfiguration, but was that his "return"?

Jesus has confirmed that the prophecy is true and adds now that it has already taken place. Elijah has already come, in the prophetic sense which was predicted. Jesus says the reason the scribes are still insisting that Elijah is yet to come—meaning that Jesus must not be the Messiah—is that they did not recognize that John the Baptist was "the Elijah who was to come" (Matthew 11:14). The people are treating the prophecy as a superstition—that Elijah will be raised from the dead. This is why John the Baptist denied being Elijah when questioned by the Pharisees (John 1:20–21).

Although John's ministry was successful in leading many in Israel to repentance (Luke 1:17), he was ultimately rejected by most of Israel's religious leaders. Israel's political leaders, in the form of Herod Antipas, did to John whatever they pleased as the political leaders of old had done to the prophets of old. Herod had John arrested and eventually executed (Matthew 14:1–12).

Jesus concludes by saying the same—rejection followed by execution—will happen to Him. He will go unrecognized for who He truly is. He will be rejected, and He will suffer at the hands of the religious and political leaders of Israel (Isaiah 53:3–6). Jesus is not disguising His words to the disciples about His approaching suffering, death, and resurrection. They are still struggling to understand what this means and how the Messiah could possibly die in such a way.
Verse Context:
Matthew 17:1–13 follows Jesus' prediction that some of the disciples won't die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28). Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured—radiating the glory of God––while talking with Moses and Elijah. Peter blunders in his attempt to contribute to the moment. The voice of God the Father identifies Jesus as His Son and commands the disciples to listen to Him. Jesus tells the three not to tell anyone else what they've seen until after He is raised from the dead. He answers their question about a prophecy involving Elijah.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. There, they see Him "transfigured" into a shining, divine form. They also see Christ speaking with Moses and Elijah but are commanded not to speak of this event until later. Jesus heals a demon-afflicted boy after the disciples cannot cast the demon out. Jesus very clearly tells the disciples He will be delivered into the hands of men, killed, and raised on the third day. After explaining why He is exempt from a temple tax, Jesus agrees to pay it and tells Peter to find the money in the mouth of a fish.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 17 begins with the fulfillment of Jesus' prediction at the end of the previous chapter: that some of those present would not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom. Jesus casts out a demon, predicts His death, and commands Peter to pay a temple tax with a coin from the mouth of a fish. This leads Matthew back to extensive records of Jesus' teachings, continuing through chapter 20.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 4/16/2024 12:55:41 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com