So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. And they asked Him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And He said to them, Elijah does come first to restore all things; and how is it written of the Son of Man, that He should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to Him whatever they pleased, as it is written of Him.
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw Him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to Him and greeted Him. And he asked them, What are you discussing with them?
Revised Standard Version
History flows on and, it seems, inexorably determines individual events. How many preparations there were to receive the Savior! At last, His closest witness, John, came-but what came of it? They have done … whatsoever they listed (Mark 9:13) to John, and the Son of man suffered and was humiliated. The flow of events could not be broken; it took its own course. So the flow of history always draws everything after it. People now ask, “Where is freedom? What would it be, given such an order of events? Nothing but a phantom.” Thus do fatalists usually reason. But this all-determining necessity of the flow of events is only an appearance. In reality all human events, both common and individual, are the fruit of man’s free undertakings. The common [history] flows exactly the way it does because everyone, or a majority, want this. And individual events enter into agreement with common events because someone or other in particular wants this. The proof of this is obvious: in the midst of general good there occur bad elements, and in the midst of general bad there occur good elements. Also, in the midst of a firmly established commonality are born elements which, spreading and becoming stronger and stronger, overpower the former commonality and take its place. But these elements are always a matter of freedom. What did Christianity have in common with the character of the time in which it was conceived? It was sown by several individuals who were not a result of the necessary flow of history; it attracted those who desired it, spread vigorously, and became the common cause of the humanity of the time, yet all the same it was a matter of freedom. The same is true in a bad direction: how did the West become corrupted? It corrupted itself. Instead of learning from the Gospel, they began to learn from pagans and adopt their customs-and they became corrupted. The same will happen with us [Orthodox]: we have begun to learn from the West which has fallen from Christ the Lord, and have transferred its spirit to ourselves. It will end with us, like the West, forsaking true Christianity. But in all of this there is nothing that necessarily determines the matter of freedom. If we want to, we will drive away the Western darkness. If we do not want to, of course, we will immerse ourselves in it.
– Theophan the Recluse (19th c.), Thoughts for Each Day of The Year (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2010)
And the apostles kept that saying to themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean. For they did not yet understand, the evangelist is saying, that Christ must rise from the dead.
– Theophylact of Ochrid (11th c.), The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Mark (tr. Fr. Christopher Stade, St. John Chrysostom Press, 2006)
It was commonly said among the Jews that Elijah would return before the Messiah came. But the Pharisees were not interpreting correctly the prophecies concerning Elijah, but of their own will and evil disposition they hid the truth. For there are two comings of the Messiah: this one, which had already taken place, and the one to come. John the Baptist was the Forerunner of the first coming; Elijah will be the forerunner of the second coming. Christ calls John “Elijah”, because, like Elijah, John was an admonisher, a zealot, and a desert-dweller. The Lord therefore refutes the opinion of the Pharisees who held that Elijah would be the forerunner of the first coming of the Messiah. How does He refute? “Elijah cometh first, and restoreth all things: and how that He must suffer many things?” What Christ is saying is this: when Elijah the Tishbite comes, he will make peace with the unbelieving Jews, and will bring them to faith. Thus he will be the forerunner of the second corning [see Malachi 4:5 LXX]. For if the Tishbite, who shall restore all things, were the forerunner of the first coming, how then is it written that the Son of Man shall suffer this and that? Logically it comes to this: if we believe the Pharisees’ teaching that Elijah will be the forerunner of the first coming, then the Scriptures are false which say that Christ will suffer. But if these Scriptures are true, then the Pharisees are wrong in teaching that Elijah will be the forerunner of the first coming. For Elijah shall restore all things, and then there will be no Jew who remains an unbeliever, but as many as hear Elijah’s preaching will believe. The Lord confounds the opinion of the Pharisees when He says that Elijah, meaning John, has already come, and they did unto him whatsoever they pleased. For they did not believe in him, and in the end his head was cut off, as the trophy of some game.
– Theophylact of Ochrid
When He came to His disciples, that is, to the nine that had not gone up onto the mountain with Him [Mark 9:2-8], He saw that they were being questioned by the Pharisees. For the Pharisees had seized the opportunity of Jesus’ absence to attempt to tum the disciples away from the Lord.
– Theophylact of Ochrid