John the Baptist preached repentance and testified of the coming Messiah. Jesus Christ was baptized by John and then fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. After traveling to Galilee, Jesus declared in Nazareth that He was the Messiah. The people of Nazareth rejected Him, and He went to Capernaum, where He healed the sick and cast out devils.
Before class, ask a student to study the account of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:1–16 and another student to study the account of Naaman and Elisha in 2 Kings 5:1–15. Explain that they will give a brief summary of these accounts later in the lesson. Ask them to emphasize what Naaman and the widow of Zarephath did to demonstrate their faith and to point out that both were Gentiles (not of the house of Israel).
To begin the lesson, ask students to write on a piece of paper about a time when they felt separated or isolated from those around them as a result of living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ (make sure that students do not write their names on their papers). After sufficient time, ask students to give you their papers. Read a few of the experiences aloud to the class.
Invite students to look for a truth as they study Luke 3:1–22 that can explain why those who live the gospel may feel separated from others at times.
Explain that under the law of Moses, the high priest functioned as the presiding officer of the Aaronic Priesthood and political head of the nation of Israel. However, by the time of the Savior’s ministry, the office of high priest had become corrupted. Rather than being selected by God, high priests were chosen by men such as Herod and other Roman officials (see Bible Dictionary, “High priest”).
Invite a student to read Luke 3:2–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whom God spoke to instead of the high priests.
Whom did the word of the Lord come to instead of the high priests? (“John the son of Zacharias,” also known as John the Baptist.)
What was John the Baptist teaching?
Explain that in John’s day some people believed that because they were descendants of Abraham, they were better or more loved by God than non-Israelites. Invite a student to read Luke 3:7–9 aloud, and ask the class to look for what John the Baptist taught the Jews they needed to do to please God.
What did John teach the Jews they needed to do to please God? (Explain that the “fruit” is a symbol of the results of the choices we make.)
According to verse 9, what will happen to those who do not bring forth “good fruit,” or live righteously?
Summarize Luke 3:10–15 by explaining that John taught specific groups of Jews how they could bring forth good fruit. John’s ministry was impressive, and some thought he might be the Messiah.
Invite a student to read Luke 3:16–17 aloud, and ask the class to look for what John said the Messiah would do when He came.
What did John say the coming Messiah would do?
To help students further understand verse 17, display a handful of kernels or small pebbles and some sawdust or small pieces of newspaper. Mix the kernels and sawdust together, and place the mixture in a shallow tray.
How might someone separate the kernels from the sawdust?
Explain that after wheat was harvested and threshed (when the grain was separated from the rest of the plant), the grain would be winnowed. Winnowing is an ancient method used to separate wheat kernels from the chaff (the outer shell) and the husk. A winnower would use a large shovel or wooden fork (translated in the scriptures as “fan”) to throw the threshed wheat into the air. The breeze would then carry away the lighter, undesirable chaff, and the heavier wheat kernels would fall in a pile on the threshing floor.
To illustrate this concept, display a handheld fan (you can use heavy paper, cardboard, or folded paper if necessary). Invite a student to come to the front of the class, and ask him or her to wave the fan over the kernels and sawdust. As the student waves the fan, gently toss the mixture so that the moving air begins to blow away the sawdust while the kernels drop back to the tray. Invite the student to be seated.
What do the wheat and the chaff represent? (The wheat represents the righteous, and the chaff represents the wicked.)
According to verses 16–17, who separates the righteous from the wicked? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Jesus Christ separates the righteous from the wicked.)
Although the final separation of the righteous from the wicked will take place at the Day of Judgment, in what ways can following Jesus Christ and living His gospel cause His disciples to be separated from others now?
Why do we need to understand that seeking to follow Jesus Christ and live His gospel can cause us to be or feel separated from others?
Summarize Luke 3:18–22 by explaining that Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist. Later, John the Baptist was put in prison by Herod.
Summarize Luke 3:23–38 by explaining that Luke included a genealogy of Jesus and testified that Joseph was the “supposed” (not actual) father of Jesus, who was the Son of God.
Explain that Luke 4:1–13 contains an account of Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and rejecting Satan’s temptations.
List the words broken, bruised, captive, poor, and blind on the board. Ask students to ponder a time when one or more of these words may have described how they felt about themselves. Invite them as they study Luke 4:14–30 to look for how they might find relief from these feelings.
Summarize Luke 4:14–17 by explaining that after Jesus returned from the wilderness, He began to preach in the synagogues in Galilee. Soon, He returned to His hometown of Nazareth. While there, He stood in a synagogue and read from the book of Isaiah.
Invite a student to read Luke 4:18–21 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Isaiah taught about the divine mission of the Messiah.
What did Jesus testify of to the people of His hometown of Nazareth? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Jesus is the Messiah who was sent to heal the brokenhearted and deliver those who are spiritually captive.)
What experiences have you had that have shown you that Jesus Christ continues to heal and deliver us in our day?
Invite a student to read Luke 4:22 aloud, and ask the class to look for how the people of Nazareth responded to Jesus’s bold declaration that He was the long-awaited Messiah.
How did the people react to Jesus’s declaration?
Based on verse 22, why do you think the people of Nazareth had a difficult time believing that Jesus was the Messiah?
Summarize Luke 4:23 by explaining that Jesus knew that the people in Nazareth would challenge Him to prove He was the Messiah by repeating the miracles He had performed in Capernaum.
Invite students to scan Luke 4:24–27 silently, looking for two Old Testament accounts the Savior referred to as He responded to the people of Nazareth. (You may need to clarify that Elias refers to Elijah and Eliseus refers to Elisha.) Invite students to report what they find.
Ask the two students you previously invited to study these accounts to now present their summaries. Afterward, explain that Jesus taught those in Nazareth that although there were Israelite widows and lepers, it was two non-Israelites (Gentiles) who experienced miracles.
In what ways did Naaman and the widow of Zarephath demonstrate faith?
How was the faith of the widow and Naaman different from the faith of the people in Nazareth?
What principle can we learn about faith when we contrast the people in Nazareth with the widow and Naaman? (Help students to identify a principle similar to the following: When we demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ, we can see miracles occur.)
Ask students to come to the board and make a list of ways we can demonstrate our faith that Jesus Christ is our Savior. After students have completed the list, ask:
What are examples of blessings or miracles that come only as we first act in faith?
Invite a student to read Luke 4:28–30 aloud, and ask the class to look for how those in the synagogue responded to Jesus. Invite students to report what they find.
In what ways does this account illustrate how Jesus Christ will separate the wicked from the righteous? (See Luke 3:17.)
Divide students into pairs. Invite them to read Luke 4:31–44 aloud with their partners and look for the blessings the people of Capernaum received in comparison with the blessings the people of Nazareth received. After they read, invite them to discuss their answers to the following questions with their partners (you may want to write these questions on the board):
How did the people in Capernaum respond differently to Jesus, in comparison with those in Nazareth?
What blessings did the people of Capernaum receive, in comparison with the blessings received by the people of Nazareth?
How do these accounts illustrate the principle that as we demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ, we can see miracles occur?
Invite a few students to share their responses to the last two questions with the class.
Conclude the lesson by sharing your testimony of Jesus Christ and of the blessings you have received as you have demonstrated faith in Him. Ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals several ways in which they can demonstrate their faith in Jesus Christ. Invite them to make a goal to do the things they wrote down.