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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

The Cloak and the Staff

"He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan."

(2 Kings 2:13 NKJV)

When Elijah was transported to heaven it happens what he had foretold to Elisha, namely, the descent of his cloak as a sign of the required anointing: "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me" (v. 9). During the journey with that cloak the elderly prophet had parted the waters of the Jordan. It had nothing special about it. It was a customary garment among the prophets, the manufacture was of the most modest and it was generally all that these people possessed. In fact, when the prophet, in order to escape the threats of Queen Jezebel, fled to Mount Horeb, he had only his cloak with him. God called him to come out of the cave in which he had taken refuge, but he covered his face with it, put his face inside it literally hiding himself. After the rapture when he saw the cloak descend from heaven, Elisha understood what the prophet had said and done to him. In fact, after the Lord commanded Elijah to come down from the mountain on which he had taken refuge to return, he commanded him to anoint Elisha as his successor. He covered him with his cloak, announcing that he would take his place in the future.

Now that Elijah was gone it fell to him to put on his cloak to do as much and more of what the latter had done. So he went back and as Elijah rolled up his cloak and beating it on the Jordan shouted, "Where is the God of Elijah?" (v. 14). As if to say, "If you are with me, prove it to me by doing as you did to him". The moment the cloak touched the waters they opened allowing passage. On the other shore the disciples witnessing the scene observed how the Spirit of the LORD was on Elisha. The cloak represents our dignity, humanity, what we are and appear to be, what everyone sees and appreciates. It is a symbol of what God has deposited within us, but it does not belong to us because when the time comes it must be passed on to others. Although it is not reported Elisha will have left his cloak to someone else.

In the continuation of the narrative there is a change: we move from the cloak to the staff. In fact, when the Sunamite woman loses her son, whom God had granted her, she goes to the prophet to report it and ask him to intervene. Elisha sends his servant Gheazi with these directions, "Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way [...] but lay my staff on the face of the child" (2 Kings 4:29). The staff in this context represents the transfer of authority, a ministerial delegation. The servant, having arrived in the woman's house, does what the prophet had commanded him, but nothing happened. The failure is ironically explained by a Hebrew Midrash, in which Gheazi is said to have played with the staff during the journey, as if to say that he lost sight of the goal of his mission. Today, it would be like saying that an undiligent disciple, forgetting the pressing needs, allowed himself to be distracted by something else and, once he arrived at the place, put on a kind of show. Sometimes when we find ourselves supporting someone experiencing a difficult situation, our presence is reduced to a "duty" and we fail to bring either love or power in the name of the Lord. In ministerial service, it is increasingly essential to delegate. Jesus did this when He sent out the seventy disciples, caring for twelve in particular and spending time on them. Nevertheless, many after His death left everything and returned to their former life.

Gheazi returned to Elisha to report to him about the failure, but received no word. There was little to be said and much to be remedied, for at the time the servant had received the staff he should have kept well in mind the mission he was going on. What staff has been entrusted to us? How are we living out our faith? When we reach out to others what staff are we using? What are we bringing to others? As we search for answers, let it be clear that today we do not wear cloak, nor do we carry staff, but we have "the sword of the Spirit," that is, the word of God. In it we find the authority given to us by Jesus, the ability to do His own works. How? With a grain of faith. It is necessary that we read it and meditate on it since it alone feeds our faith. Experience is accumulated over time, transferred and told to others. Faith is not unknown to us. As the prophet kept his cloak on him and his staff in his hands, we should be wrapped in God's word and hold it in our hands: it is the lamp that lights our steps. When it is about to go out, we should make provision to recharge it like the wise virgins, asking the Lord to fill us with the Spirit. It remains essential to read, study and meditate on the word, as well as to pass it on to our children. Thus the Lord will bless us and future generations.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan #23

May 29, 2 Chronicles 7-9; John 11:1-29

May 30, 2 Chronicles 10-12; John 11:30-57

May 31, 2 Chronicles 13-14; John 12:1-26

June 01, 2 Chronicles 15-16; John 12:27-50

June 02, 2 Chronicles 17-18; John 13:1-20

June 03, 2 Chronicles 19-20; John 13:21-38

June 04, 2 Chronicles 21-22; John 14

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