NEW TESTAMENT - LESSON 4
Matthew 3-4; John 1:35-51
- John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist.
- Jesus withstands Satan's temptations in the wilderness.
- Some of John the Baptist's disciples decide to follow Jesus.
A study of this lesson should inspire us to draw near to the Savior
by repenting of our sins, keeping our baptismal covenants, and withstanding
Prepare The Way Of The Lord
- John's mission foretold.
John's Calling in the Spirit of Elias.
- READ ISAIAH 40:3-5. The voice of John crying in
- READ 1 NEPHI 10:7-10. Nephi reviews Lehi's prophecy
- John's divinely appointed role was as the Elias, forerunner, and witness
of the Messiah.
- WHAT IS THE SPIRIT OF ELIAS?
- Joseph Smith: "...the spirit of Elias was a going before to
prepare the way for the greater, which was the case with John the Baptist....
The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God,
which is the Priesthood of Elias, or the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained
unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater
work,...it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of
the world." (TPJS, p335)
- THREE ELEMENTS HAD TO BE IN PLACE FOR JOHN THE BAPTIST TO FULFILL THIS
ROLE OF ELIAS. WHAT WERE THEY?
- Must have been appointed in his premortal life?
To be legally entitled to be a high priest in the Aaronic Priesthood,
John had to be of the firstborn lineage among the sons of Aaron.
- Joseph Smith: "Every man who has a calling to minister to the
inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand
Council of heaven before this world was." (TPJS, p365)
John's mission was to be the living embodiment of the law of Moses.
- 1) John was the firstborn of Zacharias, a priest of the family of Aaron.
The Time & Setting (see The Mortal Messiah, Volume 1).
- The law of Moses was the "preparatory gospel" functioning
under the Aaronic Priesthood.
- As the link between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
he had to be one who fully lived the preparatory gospel.
- Robert J. Matthews: "He (John) was the right person to be the
final representative of the law of Moses in its capacity as a schoolmaster
to bring men to Christ. He bridged two dispensations by being the last
legal representative of the law of Moses and, at the same time, being the
one preappointed to introduce and prepare the way for the coming of the
Lord." (Ensign, Jan. 1991)
WHERE DID JOHN GET HIS AUTHORITY?
- Summer, AD 26 (according to Bruce R. McConkie in The Mortal Messiah,
- John is 30 years of age and begins his ministry of preaching &
- In 6 months the Lord will begin his ministry.
- A Day of spiritual darkness.
- Rome ruled the world.
- The world enshrined everything that was carnal, sensual, and devilish.
- There were no accepted standards of morality.
- Temporal leaders:
- Tiberius Caesar - emperor of Rome.
- Ruled with all the despotism of Augustus.
- Reveled in all the vices of Caligula.
- Pontius Pilate - Roman procurator (governor) in Judea.
- An evil underling of Roman.
- Held contempt for the Jewish people & their religion.
- There were many disturbances in Judea during his time in power.
- He was eventually removed from office due to a disturbance in Samaria.
- Herod Antipas - tetrarch of Galilee.
- A man that ruled in lust and evil.
- Eventually deposed by Emperor Caligula and banished to Gaul.
John spent some time in the desert as a period of trial, testing, training.
- READ D&C 84:26-28.
- He was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb.
- Baptized as a child.
- Ordained by an angel at 8 days of age to his mission as forerunner.
According to Bruce R. McConkie this ordination was not John's ordination
to the priesthood: "We do not know when he received the Aaronic
Priesthood, but obviously it came to him after his baptism, at whatever
age was proper, and before he was sent by one whom he does not name to
preach and baptize with water." (Mortal Messiah, 1:385)
- Joseph Smith: "The Levitical Priesthood is forever hereditary—fixed
on the head of Aaron and his sons forever, and was in active operation
down to Zacharias the father of John." (TPJS, p319)
- Thus, it would seem that John's ordination by an angel was to bestow
special keys and to ordain John to his unique calling. The Aaronic priesthood
was on the earth and there would have been no need for a restoration from
WHAT DID JOHN DO TO PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD?
- 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." (TPJS,
- Bruce R. McConkie says that it is only speculation that John was a
Nazarite and lived his entire life in the desert.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "We can think of no good reason why the
Lord would send one of his servants off into the deserts for thirty years
to prepare him for the ministry. Men are prepared to serve their fellowmen
by associating with them and by learning of their foibles and idiosyncracies
and how they will react to spoken counsel and proffered help."
(Mortal Messiah, 1:385)
- Bruce R. McConkie also believes that John had a wife & children:
"That he was married, had children, and lived as normal a life
as his ministerial assignments permitted, we cannot doubt." (Mortal
WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT THAT SOMEONE PREPARE THE WAY FOR JESUS?
- READ MATTHEW 3:1-6. John preached in the wilderness
- Taught the people.
- Cried repentence.
- Performed baptisms.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "No one is ever prepared for the Lord until
he confesses and forsakes his sins, until he repents, until he is baptized
for the remission of sins. And the fact that John was to prepare 'a people'
for the Lord means that a people--composed of a host of individuals--had
to set their houses in order, be baptized by him, and await patiently the
coming of Him who would give them the Holy Ghost." (Mortal Messiah,
- READ MATTHEW 3:7-10. The children of Abraham must
- Many Jews believed that since they were of Abraham's posterity, they
were assured a place in the Messiah's kingdom.
- WHAT DID JOHN TEACH THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES ABOUT HOW A PERSON
IS CHOSEN IN GOD'S KINGDOM?
- Every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down.
- All must repent.
- HOW MIGHT WE, TODAY, MAKE AN ERROR SIMILAR TO THESE EARLY JEWS?
- John taught a higher gospel (see Luke 3:10-18).
- He taught a gospel of love.
- He taught of the Messiah who would soon follow.
- John was the link between the Law of Moses & the Gospel of Christ.
- Ancient forerunners:
- Ran before the chariot of the King.
- They cleared rocks and other obstacles from the path.
- Loudly proclaimed the coming of the ruler.
- John as a forerunner:
- Single-handedly challenged the network of apostasy that existed among
the leaders of his people.
- He preached repentence.
- He challenged evil.
- Proclaimed the imminent coming of the Messiah.
- His influence extended to individuals who would later become the Apostles
and special witnesses of the Lord.
- Andrew followed John's teachings to find Jesus (Peter was his brother).
- It appears that John the beloved was also a disciple of John the Baptist.
- Peter seems to suggest in Acts that many, if not all of the Twelve,
had been tutored by John.
- We also have a commission to prepare the way for the Second Coming
of the Lord.
- READ D&C 65:1-6. Given to Joseph Smith and
all Latter-day Saints.
The Baptism Of Jesus
- Baptism Anciently.
Can you imagine what John must have felt when Jesus came to him requesting
- Baptism did not begin with John.
- Began with Adam (see Moses 6:51-66).
- It was performed throughout the ages prior to John.
- The Book of Mormon teaches that baptism was an important part of religious
practice prior to the time of Jesus.
- Baptism was an established part of life among faithful Jews in John's
- Not all Jews were baptized at that time due to great apostasy.
- We know that John was baptized in his childhood.
- Alfred Edersheim (a Christian scholar): "Hitherto the Law had
it that those who had contracted Levitical defilement were to immerse before
offering sacrifice. Again, it was prescribed that such Gentiles as became
'proselytes of righteousness' or 'prosylytes of the Covenant,' were to
be admitted to full participation in the privileges of Israel by the threefold
rites of circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice--the immersion being, as
it were, the acknowledgement and symbolic removal of moral defilement,
corresponding to that of Levitical uncleanness." (quoted in Mortal
WHY DID JESUS NEED TO BE BAPTIZED?
- READ MATTHEW 3:13-17. Jesus baptized by John.
- READ JOHN 1:29-34. John bears witness of the Lord.
WHY WAS THE HOLY GHOST SYMBOLIZED BY A DOVE AT JESUS BAPTISM?
- A noted by Bruce R. McConkie:
- To signify his humility before the Father.
- As a covenant of obedience.
- To receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, "...to conform to the
law that gave him the right to the constant companionship of that member
of the Godhead. As we are aware, this was a formality only in his case,
for he being holy and without sin, the Spirit was his companion always.
At baptism he simply went through the form that is required of all men"
(Mortal Messiah, 1:402).
- To gain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom.
- As an example to all men.
- Joseph Smith: "The sign of the dove was instituted before the
creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot
come in the sign of a dove.... The sign of a dove was given to John to
signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth
and innocence." (TPJS, p275)
The Temptation In The Wilderness
- Jesus communes with God in the wilderness.
Jesus tempted to change stones into bread.
- After Jesus' baptism by John at the Jordan, two things happened which
always come to pass in the lives of the faithful.
- The Spirit of God descended upon him with power, though in his case
that Spirit had ever guided his thoughts and words and acts.
- Greater temptations confronted him than had ever been the case before.
- READ MATTHEW 4:1-2. Jesus goes into the wilderness.
- JST Matthew 4:1-2: "Then Jesus was led up of the Spirit, into
the wilderness, to be with God. And when he had fasted forty days and forty
nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was
left to be tempted of the devil."
- WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS CORRECTION BY THE PROPHET?
- The King James version seems to indicate that Jesus' main purpose in
going into the wilderness was to face temptation.
- The Joseph Smith Translation broadens the scope of the story. The Lord
went into the wilderness to commune with His Father, to learn more fully
of His mission, to fill his jar so that He may share it with Israel, to
be energized for the difficult mission ahead. The temptations came only
after the 40 days of communing and fasting.
- READ MARK 1:12-13. Jesus was with wild beasts
and ministered to by angels.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Surely the spiritual stature of the Man
Jesus was such that for forty days the lions and wild beasts treated him
as they did Daniel. Surely the visions of eternity were opened to his view
as they were to Paul and Joseph Smith. Surely he saw all that was seen
by Enoch and Moses and Moriancumer. Surely there was purpose and preparation,
refinement and testing, growth and development, during this period when
our Lord's body was made subject to his spirit. Fasting and prayer and
pondering and visions and revelations prepare men for the ministry, and
it was no different, except in degree, where the preparation of the Lord
Jesus was concerned." (Mortal Messiah, 1:409-410)
- DO YOU EVER GO INTO THE "WILDERNESS", IN FASTING AND PRAYER,
TO COMMUNE WITH THE FATHER? AND WHY WOULD YOU DO SO?
- I believe that each of us, periodically, needs to take time to escape
into the "wilderness" (a place where we can be alone and not
be disturbed) for an hour, a day, a few days and commune with the Father.
- We might well go fasting.
- It is a time to back away from life and contemplate our spiritual progression.
- We may have difficulties that need spiritual direction.
- An example has been set:
- The Lord went into the wilderness for 40 days.
- Moses went up on the mountain.
- Enos went hunting and cried unto the Lord all day and into the night.
- The Prophet Joseph went into the Sacred Grove.
- Few of us have the luxury of going into the wildernss for 40 days.
But it is important for us to escape to a quiet place where we can ponder
and pray upon those things which are most important. It may be behind a
closed door late in the evening or early in the morning. It might be a
hike in the woods, a walk along the seashore, or just a quiet place in
- I have taken the opportunity at various times in my life to escape
into the wilderness and spend time pondering the things of God and the
direction of my life. In each instance, I have come away with a sense of
renewel and a greater determination to live my life more fully in accordance
with the will of the Lord.
Several months before my mission, I went
on a solo backpacking trip in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. I spent much
of my time contemplating my future and what I wanted to accomplish. As
I was touched by the Spirit in those quiet surroundings, I was determined
to prepare for and serve an honorable mission and later to seek out a bride
that would marry me in the temple. I read the scriptures, prayed, and fasted.
I came out of the woods more determined to do what is right.
I have had several similar experiences since
then and each time I feel more determined to do the will of the Lord. Sometimes
we are racing down the freeway so fast that we forget to check the map
and see where we are going. Occassionally, we need to get off the freeway
and get our bearings.
READ MATTHEW 4:5-7. Tempted to cast Himself down
from the temple.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "When man is communing with his Maker, he
is not subject to temptation; when angels are ministering to him and he
is under the spell of their angelic influence, he is not subject to temptation;
when the Holy Spirit rest mightily upon him and the visions of eternity
are open to his view, he is not subject to temptation.... As the period
of edification and spiritual enlightenment drew to its close, as the visions
and spiritual experiences ceased...and as Jesus prepared to go back into
the normal mortal way of life, with angels no longer at his side and his
eyes not open to the unending visions of eternity, then the devil came
to entice, to trap, to tempt." (Mortal Messiah, p410)
- Some theologians speculate as to whether the Lord was capable of being
tempted and then able to commit sin. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
- The Savior had a great mission but He, just like us, came to earth
to continue his eternal progression.
- Free agency is inherent in that plan.
- Lehi states that there must be "opposition in all things".
- Satan tempted the Lord because he was in a weakened mortal body subject
to temptation like all of us.
- READ MATTHEW 4:3-4. Tempted to change stones to
- WAS THIS A REAL TEMPTATION TO JESUS?
- He had been fasting for 40 days. Jesus was a mortal and subject to
the same physical necessities as each of us. He knew that food was necessary
to even continue his mortal life.
- WHY DID SATAN TEMPT HIM?
- He said: "If thou be the Son of God" do this thing.
- He was tempting Jesus to doubt his own divinity as the Son of God.
- WHAT DOES THE LORD'S RESPONSE TO SATAN MEAN?
- The Lord did not doubt his divinity and would not accept the temptation.
- There is more to living than just meeting physical necessities.
- This brings us to a most difficult question for ourselves: How does
one balance physical and spiritual needs? We cannot survive without
meeting our basic physical needs. Are the physical and spiritual nees
- I remember back to the first few weeks after I returned from my mission.
For the past two years I had been engaged in preaching the word of God
full time. I did not have to worry about where I would sleep or if I could
eat. Those needs were provided for me by the generosity of my father and
others who helped from time to time. Upon my return from my mission, I
was thrust back into "real" life. I had to get a job and I needed
to continue my education. I was frustrated in leaving the full time work
of the ministry and now having to engage most of my time in pursuit of
that which would meet my temporal needs. This was a difficult period of
- We need to learn to dedicate all that we do to the Lord and the upbuilding
of his kingdom. As time marched on, I came to learn that most of what we
do can be a part of building up the kingdom, whether the activity seems
temporal or spiritual. Working for a living provides for the needs of a
family, a sacred trust. Getting an education enables us to not only provide
for our families, but can provide valuable skills as we seek to serve others.
- In the 34th chapter of Alma, we are counseled to pray for all our needs
(see verses 17-27). He says to "cry unto him for mercy; for he
is mighty to save" (v18), but he also says to "cry unto
him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them"
(v24). The spiritual and temporal are linked together and we need to remember
READ MATTHEW 4:8-10. Tempted with the kingdoms
of the world.
- JST Matthew 4:5 reads: "Then Jesus was taken up into the holy
city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple."
- TO WHAT APPETITE DID SATAN APPEAL WHEN HE TEMPTED JESUS TO CAST HIMSELF
DOWN FROM THE PINNACLE?
- Desire for a physical sign from the Father regarding His power and
- Desire to a have fame among men.
- Had he cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple and then been
bouyed up by angels, would not the people have stood in awe and proclaimed
the Savior as a man of great power.
- HOW DOES SATAN TRY TO APPEAL TO THIS APPETITE IN US TODAY?
WHY WAS JESUS TEMPTED?
- JST Matthew reads: "And again, Jesus was in the Spirit, and
it taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the
kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. And the devil came unto him
- It is interesting to note the contrast in the KJ and JST versions.
In the JST version it was the Spirit which transported the Lord. Satan
has no power to physically transport the Lord or any other human being.
- TO WHAT APPETITE DID THIS TEMPTATION APPEAL?
- The wealth and power of the world.
- I find it amazing that Satan would try to tempt the Creator of worlds
with number in such a way.
- How many men in the history of the world have longed for such power
and would quickly have worshipped Satan for such power?
- HOW DOES SATAN TRY TO APPEAL TO THIS APPETITE IN US TODAY?
- F.W. Farrar wrote: "There are some that will say that we are
never tempted with kingdoms. It may well be, for it needs not be, when
less will serve. It was Christ only that was thus tempted; in Him lay an
heroical mind that could not be tempted with small matters. But with us
it is nothing so, for we esteem more basely of ourselves. We set our wares
at a very easy price; he may buy us even dagger-cheap. He need never carry
us so high as the mount. The pinnacle is high enough; yea, the lowest steeple
in all the town would serve the turn. Or let him but carry us to the leads
and gutters of our own houses; nay, let us but stand in our windows or
our doors, if he will give us so much as we can there see, he will tempt
us throughly; we will accept it, and thank him too.... A matter of half-a-crown,
or ten groats, a pair of shoes, or some such trifle, will bring us on our
knees to the devil." (quoted in The Mortal Messiah, p417)
- On the other hand, President Kimball said: "great women and
men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion." (Teachings
WHAT CAN THE SAVIOR'S RESPONSES TO SATAN TEACH US ABOUT OVERCOMING
- It provided experiences the Lord needed to work out his own salvation.
- It prepared him to sit in judgement of men, for he also had been tempted.
Matthew 4:11: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels
came and ministered unto him."
- We need to consider the eternal perspective.
- President McKay: "Nearly every temptation that comes to you
and me comes in one of those forms [that they came to Jesus in]. Classify
them, and you will find that under one of those three nearly every given
temptation that makes you and me spotted, ever so little maybe, comes to
us as (1) a temptation of the appetite or passion; (2) a yielding to the
pride and fashion or vanity of those alienated from the things of the world,
or (3) a desire for the riches of the world, or power among men."
(Gospel Ideals, p.154)
- Howard W. Hunter: "Satan may have lost Jesus, but he does not
believe he has lost us. He continues to tempt, taunt, and plead for our
loyalty. We should take strength for this battle from the fact that Christ
was victorious not as a God but as a man."
- This was the Lord's blessing after the temptation, and so it can be
Disciples Of John The Baptist Follow Jesus
- READ JOHN 1:35-40. Andrew & John follow Jesus.
WHAT DID ANDREW DO WHEN HE DISCOVERED THE MESSIAH?
- The second disciple was John, son of Zebedee according to both Elders
Talmage and McConkie.
- WHAT CAUSED THESE TWO MEN TO LEAVE JOHN AND FOLLOW JESUS?
- John the Baptist was a man both speaking and baptizing with authority.
What would cause these two men to leave such a great teacher?
- In v36 John the Baptist testified that Jesus was the Lamb of God.
- John had been teaching that he was the forerunner of the Messiah, so
John and Andrew should have been looking for the Messiah.
- Certainly their hearts were touched by the Holy Ghost to know that
what John had said was true. They turned away from their past and followed
READ JOHN 1:43-51. Phillip and Nathanael called
to follow the Lord.
- He was so filled that he wanted to share the good news.
- READ JOHN 1:41-42. Andrew tells the good news
to his brother Simon.
Five have been called by the Lord to follow him:
- Phillip, like Andrew, wanted to share the new found good news.
- John - Andrew - Simon - Phillip - Nathanael.
- WHAT KIND OF MEN WERE THEY? THE LORD SAID "FOLLOW ME" AND
THEY FOLLOWED WITHOUT QUESTION.
- Men foreordained in the pre-earthly councils.
- Men born in humble families where they were taught not just the law,
but to look for the Messiah.
- Certainly they must have been taught love of the Lord and a desire
to learn the truth.
- Most at that time were seeking a Messiah who would be a great political/military
leader. They had open hearts and minds which the Spirit could touch.
- HOW EASY WAS IT FOR THESE MEN TO LEAVE THEIR FORMER LIFE AND FOLLOW
- It seems that good men of all ages are willing to sacrifice all when
touched by the Spirit. I suppose it was not easy to turn away from their
old life. This certainly indicates that they were great spiritual giants.
- Recall the story of the rich young man who was not willing to sell
all and follow the Lord. Not even all the believers are willing to make
this kind of sacrifice. These five disciples were willing to give all they
had to follow the Lord.
- Modern examples:
- Brigham Young, Parley Pratt, Heber Kimball, John Taylor.
- Heber J. Grant - left a successful business enterprise.
- Dallin Oaks and Russell M. Nelson - highly successful careers given
up for the work of the Lord.
John the Baptist was called to prepare the way for the Lord. His ministry
was involved in assisting individuals to prepare themselves to participate
in the kingdom of God. He taught them to repent, to be baptized, seek for
the true Messiah, and to live a good life. Jesus set the example by being
baptized and resisting temptation. We need to prepare ourselves for the
coming of the Lord by following in the footsteps of Jesus and heeding the
counsel of John.
Lesson 5: John 3-4
Additional Reading: Topical Guide: Living Water, p294
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