The Mantle of Christ
Elijah Ascends to Heaven
Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 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. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
Elisha Succeeds Elijah
He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. They said to him, “See now, we have fifty strong men among your servants; please let them go and seek your master; it may be that the spirit of the Lord has caught him up and thrown him down on some mountain or into some valley.” He responded, “No, do not send them.” But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send them.” So they sent fifty men who searched for three days but did not find him. When they came back to him (he had remained at Jericho), he said to them, “Did I not say to you, Do not go?”
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree1
In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
I do not know this as a fact, but I believe we get more energized, more polarized, and more extreme in large groups of people. Sometimes we get dumber too. However, that does not mean that we therefore are better off on our own. That is exactly the polarized thinking you would expect out of large groups. There is a kind of sweet spot within small groups that employs the concept of two heads are better than one while avoiding the dangers of groupthink. That small group, in ages past, marking perhaps one or two dozen, was found in the family unit, consisting of perhaps 3 generations in one homestead. Pioneering families, all over the world, survive because of each other, and the knowledge of the past they pass on which serves as a foundation for innovation, allows these groups to flourish.
Today we pass on that knowledge through much larger educational institutions rather than the hands-on work of families. Even home-schooled children benefit from the aide of approved curriculums that aid in the teaching process and unify us into much larger groups. Passing the mantle of authority within these groups was not merely a matter of accomplishment, it was a matter of responsibility for the survival of the group.
Elisha had no ambition to receive the mantle of his master Elijah when he could have the man himself. He understood the weight of that mantle and wanted to learn as much and gather as much strength as he could before taking it up. Even then, he understood that it was not enough. Elisha knew his own weakness and so he prayed to God for a double portion of strength to take it up. Elisha was an inspiration among prophets, standing out as one who took the role with a serious reverence that inspires us all.
We are not given the mantle of Elijah. Instead, we have been given the mantle of Christ – one greater and slightly different in scope and purpose. While both proclaimed God’s word to lost and rebellious people, Jesus Christ brought grace, forgiveness, and healing wherever He went. Our mantle is not just one of power and authority, it is one of transformation and redemption.
Unlike Elisha, we will never be left alone. Jesus gave us His Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us. The Spirit of God was not given to us separately as individuals, but poured out upon all God’s people working together. We not only have a double portion of God’s Spirit, we have an army of Spirit-filled people in the Body of Christ to stand and to go with us. We need never fear being alone or lacking the strength to persevere.
What kind of responsibility has Christ given you?
Where do you need more of Christ’s Spirit to strengthen you today?
- (Mt 21:20–22)↩