NEW TESTAMENT - LESSON 2
Luke 1; Matthew 1
- John the Baptist is born to Elisabeth and Zacharias.
- Mary and Joseph learn that Mary will be the mother of the Son of God.
We should develop greater faith in Jesus Christ through a study of the
lives of Elisabeth, Zacharias, John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph.
Zacharias & Elizabeth
- Note: The source for some of the below information is The Mortal Messiah,
Volume 1, by Bruce R. McConkie.
- The office of Priest:
- One thousand years prior to the birth of the Lord, David divided the
priests into 24 courses, houses, or families.
- Lived in 13 towns mostly near Jerusalem.
- Each course went up to the city, twice a year, in rotation to serve
in the temple.
- Served for six days and two Sabbaths each time.
- Lived in the temple during that period.
- Wives & families remained at home.
- Priestly duties varied:
- Teachers of the law.
- Instructors of the people.
- Judges and magistrates in their communities.
- Watched over all the affairs of the temple.
- Only a priest could administer in the Holy Place of the temple.
- Temple duties:
- Offered the morning & evening incense.
- The burning of incense in the Holy Place, near the Holy of Holies.
- This was a duty favored above all others.
- The lot might fall to a priest once in a lifetime.
- Trimmed the lamps of the golden candlestick and filled them with oil.
- Set out the shewbread weekly.
- Kept up the fire on the great altar in front of the temple.
- Removed the ashes of sacrifices.
- Took part in the slaying and cutting up of sacrificial victims and
especially in the sprinkling of their blood.
- Laid the offerings of all kinds on the altar.
- Indeed, this was temple 'work'.
- The temple in Jerusalem had been refurbished by Herod the Great beginning
in 20 BC.
- Had been rebuilt in the days of Ezra.
- Defiled and cleansed in the days of the Macabees.
- Its construction continued through this time and was not completed
in every respect until 64 AD, just 6 years before its destruction.
- It was an enlargement and a perfection of previous temples.
- It was larger than even Solomon's temple, though not as magnificent.
- At times, during its construction, a thousand vehicles transported
stone, a thousand priests supervised the work, and 10,000 skilled laborers
worked on the structure.
- It may well have surpassed any of the architectural marvels of that
- Herod probably expanded the temple to court popularity among the people
and also had almost a lustful desire to build great buildings and monuments.
At the temple:
- A son of Aaron.
- The duties above and a host of other normal functions were part of
the ministry of Zacharias.
- Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia.
- Course of Abia administered in the temple twice each year, April and
- Zacharias and Elizabeth dwelt in a village in the hill country of Judea
- probably Hebron.
- This is the same local where Abraham had lived with Sarah.
- According to Bruce R. McConkie, these events occurred in October of
6 B.C. (Mortal Messiah, Vol.1, p.306)
- There are a number of opinions on this date.
- Herod the Great was approaching the end of his reign.
- Zacharias left Elizabeth in Hebron to attend to his priestly duties
at the temple. At the temple.
Zacharias & Elizabeth.
- Zacharias drew lots with his fellow priests so that each might be assigned
his duties for the week.
- On this occassion he drew the lot to do the burning of the incense
in the Holy Place and to represent all Israel in prayer
- Zacharias entered the holy sanctuary accompanied by another priest.
- The other priest bore burning coals taken from the altar of sacrifice.
He spread them upon the altar of incense and the withdrew.
- It was then Zacharias'duty to sprinkle incense on the burnin coals.
- The ascending smoke and odor was to typify the ascending prayers of
- He then prayed on behalf of all Israel. The prayer of Israel at this
time was for redemption, for deliverance from the Gentile yoke, for the
coming of the Messiah, and freedom from sin.
- READ LUKE 1:5-12. Zacharias & Elizabeth, Gabriel
appears in the temple.
- WHO IS GABRIEL?
- The archangel next in authority to mighty Michael.
- We know him from his mortal life as Noah.
- Joseph Smith: "The priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained
the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation.
He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed,.... He had
dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel,
spoken of in the Scriptures. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next
in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office,
and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the
dominion." (TPJS, p157)
- Bruce R. McConkie: "What could be more fitting, then, than
for Michael, who presides over the angels and directs their labors, to
send Gabriel, his next in command, to announce to the mortals involved
those things they needed to know concerning the Promised Messiah and his
Elias?" (Mortal Messiah, 1:312)
- READ LUKE 1:13-17. Birth of John announced.
- CAN YOU IMAGINE ZACHARIAS AT THIS POINT? CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT KIND
OF DAY HE IS HAVING?
- He draws the lot to administer in the Holy Place, a life long desire
- After drawing the lot, he was probably already humbled, grateful, and
- Then appears an angel to Zacharias.
- The scripture says he was troubled and fear fell upon him.
- Zacharias certainly realized that the heavens had been silent since
the time of Malachi.
- He certainly wondered what was happening, and why he, a humble priest,
had been singled out.
- The angel then announces:
- His wife, far past the child bearing years, would bear a son.
- This would not be just any son.
- His son would prepare the people in Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
- Can you picture old Zacharias, kneeling at the alter, totally stunned
by this turn of events?
- READ LUKE 1:18-25. Zacharias returns home. Elizabeth
- CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW ELIZABETH FELT?
- I think, in a very small way, my wife and I might know a little how
this blessed couple felt. After having our sixth child, my wife felt very
strongly that we still need to have one more child. She even went to the
temple to attempt to resolve this need in her heart. She came away still
feeling the need for this child. We had both reached our forties and conception
wasn't happening. Though we were not "well stricken in years",
we had arrived near the end of the normal child bearing years. My wife
went to the doctor and many tests were performed. Eventually, the doctor
said that it would be a miracle for conception to happen under normal means.
Alternatives were tried, without success. Then, early in 1997, we discovered
that my wife was pregnant. The following October, a healthy boy was born,
This event, with these two humble Judeans, was the start of many prophesied
events that would lead to the coming of the Promised Messiah.
- WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE WERE ZACHARIAS & ELIZABETH?
- Humble people of the Judean countryside.
- Zacharias was probably an older, undistinguished priest.
- Luke 1:6 says that they were both righteous and that they walked "in
all the commandments and ordinaces of the Lord blameless."
- WHY WERE THESE TWO PEOPLE CHOSEN TO BEAR SUCH AN IMPORTANT SON?
- Foreordained to this position.
- Does foreordination guarantee ones calling? (see Alma 13:3-4)
- They kept all the commandments.
- IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WE ARE MISSING FOREORDAINED CALLINGS IF WE DO NOT
LIVE WORTHY LIVES, AS DID ZACHARIAS AND ELIZABETH?
- How humbly it all began, the events leading up to the most important
happening in the history of this earth (and countless other worlds).
The Annunciation To Mary
- Time & Place.
- Time: about 6 months later.
- Place: Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, 80 miles north of Jerusalem.
READ LUKE 1:26-38. The Annunciation.
- Of the lineage of David.
- Espoused to Joseph, a carpenter.
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ESPOUSED?
- A formal contract of marriage.
- The contract was not completed in full until the performance of a second
ceremony. At that time they could then begin living together as husband
- She was considered by law to be the wife of Joseph.
- The contract could only be broken by a formal "bill of divorcement."
- Any infidelity on the part of one espoused would be classed as adultery
and subject to death under the laws of Moses.
WHY IS IT THAT THESE TWO BIRTHS WERE ANNOUNCED BY AN ANGEL?
- I think it goes without saying that Mary, too, was foreordained to
this calling and had lived her life in such purity that she was prepared
for this moment.
- WHAT IS HER RESPONSE TO THE ANGEL?
- "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to
- The parents had to be aware of the importance of raising these children
to fulfill their unique destinies.
- Mary and Joseph had to be able to testify of the divinity of Jesus'
Mary Visits Elisabeth
- HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED WHAT WENT ON WITH ZACHARIAS DURING THOSE MONTHS
OF QUIETLY WAITING FOR THE BIRTH OF HIS CHILD?
- It must have been a time for learning.
- It must have been a time for thinking and pondering.
- It must have been a time for cleansing.
- It must have been a time for preparation.
- With Elisabeth late in years, Zacharias must have spent a great deal
of time providing special care for her.
- CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW ELISABETH MIGHT HAVE FELT?
- Getting on in years, this pregnancy must not have been easy. Especially
for a woman who is carrying her first child.
- Luke 2:24 - The scripture says that Elisabeth hid herself up for five
months. Was this a custom. Certainly she must have gone through a certain
amount of teasing or ridicule by her neighbors for bearing a child so late
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Elisabeth—a daughter of Aaron, highly endowed
spiritually, rich in faith—she too was being tested and tried and purified.
With child in her advanced years, facing problems foreign to younger women
who bear children, emotionally troubled, fearing to face her friends of
years, she 'hid herself five months,' to return to normal associations
just before Mary's visit." (Mortal Messiah, 1:321)
- In the case of both Elisabeth and Zacharias, there must have been a
great feeling of reward for righteousness because of the great gift of
- Another important person comes into the picture.
- Another person who must have been foreordained as part the inauguration
of the mission of the Lord.
- WHAT KIND OF MAN WAS JOSEPH?
- The scriptures say little.
- He must have been the salt of the earth.
- A righteous man who loved the Lord.
- He must have been much like the Lord himself, for he was Jesus' earthly
example of manhood.
- He must have been gentle and loved children.
- WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE JOSEPH MUST HAVE GONE THROUGH WHEN HE FOUND THAT
HIS ESPOUSED WIFE, MARY, WAS TO BEAR THE CHILD OF ANOTHER?
- How great his faith in the Lord must have been.
- His love for Mary was greater than his own pride.
- Matthew 1:19: "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and
not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily."
Mary's visit to Elisabeth.
- Mary must have been both excited and frightened.
- Certainly she must have been afraid of what Joseph would say and do.
- She must have been concerned about what her friends and neighbors would
- This must have been a time of great preparation.
- She traveled to Judea to visit her cousin Elisabeth.
- She must have longed for the support and comfort that only Elisabeth
could offer her at this time.
- READ LUKE 1:39-47. Mary visits Elisabeth.
- Can you imagine the power and priesthood which Mary was carrying in
her womb. It was so great that the child within Elisabeth "leaped".
- You mothers that have born children, can you imagine a child leaping
within you? I know they kick and move around, but leaping?
- Mary remained with Elisabeth for 3 months.
- One can only imagine what a special time this must have been for these
two noble women with such great missions.
The Annunciation To Joseph
- Joseph's plan was to put Mary away privately.
Joseph spent some time thinking over the situation and pondered what
it all meant and what course he should take (Matt. 1:20).
READ MATTHEW 1:20-25. The Angel appears to Joseph.
- To give her a letter of divorcement in the presence of two witnesses
only as allowed by the law.
- He could have made the divorcement public knowledge and Mary would
have been subject to great gossip.
- And what might have been the future implications if this situation
- It would not have been good for the Lord to enter the world in perceived
- What a great relief and blessing this must have been to Joseph.
- How thrilled and relieved Mary must have been upon her return from
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Joseph now knew! Doubt fled. The circle
of true believers was growing. He had the same testimony, from the same
source, as did Mary and Elisabeth and Zacharias; and according to their
law, in the mouths of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
The Lord was providing his witnesses, and soon the whole nation and the
whole world would be bound to believe, and that at the peril of their salvation.
How often Joseph bore the special witness that was his we do not know,
but that he remained true to every trust and that he performed the mission
assigned him by the Lord, there can be no doubt." (Mortal Messiah,
John Is Born
- READ LUKE 1:57-58. John is born.
- John Is Named.
LUKE 1:80: "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit,
and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel."
Joseph Smith: "When Herod's edict went forth to destroy the
young children, John was about six months older than Jesus, and came under
this hellish edict, and Zacharias caused his mother to take him into the
mountains, where he was raised on locusts and wild honey. When his father
refused to disclose [John's] hiding place, [he] was slain by Herod's order".
- READ LUKE 1:59-66. John named by his father.
- Zacharias prophecies to those present.
- He said that John would prepare the way of the Lord.
These events comprise a great story. Four humble Jews had their lives
forever changed by these miraculous happenings. It is amazing that the
greatest event of all time begins with such humble people in a dusty, out
of the way country. What an inspiring story! It should remind us that no
matter what our station in life, we also have been foreordained to a certain
mission. If we are righteous and faithful as were Zacharias, Elisabeth,
Mary, and Joseph, we can fulfill our missions they did.
Lesson 3: Luke 2; Matthew 2
Additional Reading: JST Matthew 3:24-26; 1 Nephi 11:1-23; Helaman
14:1-8; 3 Nephi 1:4-21; 27:13-16; D&C 93:11-20
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