Lesson 1: Introduction to the New Testament

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

The New Testament is primarily a record of the mortal life, teachings, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, the establishment of His Church, and the ministries of His early disciples as He continued to guide them after His Ascension into heaven. This lesson is intended to prepare and motivate students to study the New Testament by introducing them to two major themes found in the teachings of Jesus Christ and His ancient Apostles: the Savior’s repeated invitation to come unto Him and the responsibility of His disciples to assist others to do the same.

Suggestions for Teaching

The New Testament helps us come unto Jesus Christ

Before class, write the following question on the board: What are some difficult burdens that youth experience in our day?

Bring to class an empty box or backpack and heavy objects to put in the box or backpack, such as large rocks or books. Invite a student to come to the front of the room, and ask him or her to hold the empty box or to put on the backpack. Ask the class to respond to the question written on the board, and ask another student to list students’ responses on the board. After each response, place a heavy object in the box or backpack until it is full.

  • How would you feel if you had to carry this burden all day?

Ask students to explain challenges or difficulties that a few of the burdens listed on the board could cause someone.

Explain that the New Testament teaches us about Jesus Christ’s mortal and post-resurrection ministries, including His teachings, miracles, atoning sacrifice, and visits to early church disciples. Throughout His teachings and interactions with others is a repeated truth that can help us with the burdens we carry.

Explain that Matthew 11 includes an example of this major theme that students will see often in their study of the New Testament this year. Invite a student to read Matthew 11:28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s invitation to those who carry difficult burdens.

  • What do you think it means to labor and be heavy laden?

  • What did the Savior say we must do in order to receive His rest? (Using students’ words, write the following principle on the board: As we come unto Jesus Christ with our burdens, He will give us rest.)

  • What do you think it means to come unto Jesus Christ?

To help students understand what it means to come unto Christ, invite a student to read Matthew 11:29–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s instructions to those who desire to come unto Him.

  • According to these verses, what must we do in order to come unto Christ?

Draw a picture of a yoke for oxen on the board, or show a picture of a yoke.

wooden yoke

Explain that a yoke is a wooden beam that joins or couples a pair of oxen or other animals, enabling them to pull together on a load.

  • What is the purpose and benefit of a yoke? (Although the yoke is a weight or a burden, it allows both animals to combine their power and strength, thereby increasing their productivity.)

  • What do you think it means to take the Savior’s yoke upon us?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how we can take the Savior’s yoke upon us and what blessings we can receive by doing so.

Elder David A. Bednar

“A yoke places animals side-by-side so they can move together in order to accomplish a task.

“Consider the Lord’s uniquely individual invitation to ‘take my yoke upon you.’ Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, the Savior is beckoning us to rely upon and pull together with Him, even though our best efforts are not equal to and cannot be compared with His. As we trust in and pull our load with Him during the journey of mortality, truly His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

“We are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and ‘strength beyond [our] own’ (‘Lord, I Would Follow Thee,’ Hymns, no. 220)” (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 88).

  • What “yokes” us to the Savior Jesus Christ?

  • According to Elder Bednar, what are the blessings of being yoked to the Savior?

Point out that the Savior’s promise of “rest” in Matthew 11:28–29 does not necessarily mean that He will always remove our problems or challenges. Often, the Savior will give us the peace and strength we need to overcome or endure our trials, thus making our burdens lighter. If we are faithful through the challenges of mortality, the ultimate rest we will receive is exaltation with God (see D&C 84:23–24).

Ask students to ponder how the Savior has given them rest when they have come unto Him. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class. You might consider sharing one of your own experiences.

Invite students to set specific goals regarding ways they can come unto Jesus Christ throughout this year of studying the New Testament. Encourage them to include in their goals studying the scriptures daily and reading all of the New Testament this year.

Disciples of Jesus Christ have a responsibility to help others come unto Him

Ask students to think about times in their lives when they were eager and excited to tell someone about an experience they had or something they saw, read, or heard. Invite several students to report what they were eager and excited to tell someone about.

Explain that the New Testament contains numerous examples of individuals who were strengthened, taught, or blessed by the Lord and then felt a desire to tell others about Him. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from John 1:37–42. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what two of John the Baptist’s disciples did after hearing his testimony of Jesus.

  • What did Andrew learn about Jesus as he spoke with Him?

  • What did Andrew do after he learned that Jesus was the Messiah?

  • Why do you think he was so anxious to share this news with his brother, Simon Peter?

Summarize John 1:43–44 by telling students that the Savior invited a man named Philip to be His disciple. Invite a student to read John 1:45–46 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Philip did after he learned that Jesus was the Messiah.

  • What did Philip say to Nathanael about Jesus of Nazareth?

  • How did Nathanael respond to Philip’s testimony that Jesus was the Messiah?

  • What was Philip’s invitation to Nathanael?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: As we come unto Jesus Christ, 

  • Based on these examples from the New Testament, what desire will we have as we come unto Jesus Christ? (As students respond, complete the statement on the board so it reflects the following principle: As we come unto Jesus Christ, we will have a greater desire to invite others to come unto Him.)

To help students better understand this principle, copy the accompanying diagram on the board:

arrow diagram
  • Why do you think we will have a greater desire to invite others to come unto Christ as we come unto Him ourselves?

Explain that President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught about a great blessing we receive as we invite others to come unto Jesus Christ. Invite a student to read the following statement aloud:

President Henry B. Eyring

“When you give your heart to inviting people to come unto Christ, your heart will be changed. … By helping others come unto Him, you will find that you have come unto Him yourself” (“Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 2008, 49).

  • What can happen in our lives as we invite others to come unto Jesus Christ?

Add an arrow to the illustration on the board so it looks similar to the accompanying diagram:

two arrows diagram
  • Why do you think inviting others to come unto Christ can help us come closer to Him as well?

  • Who has invited you to come unto the Savior and His gospel? How has your life been blessed as a result?

Encourage students to prayerfully consider whom they could invite to come unto Jesus Christ.

  • What can we do to invite others to come unto Him?

Explain that inviting friends and classmates to attend seminary is one way that students can invite others to “come and see” who Jesus Christ is and how His gospel can bless their lives.

Invite a student to read John 1:47–50 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nathanael experienced when he met the Savior (explain that the phrase “no guile” means no deceit).

  • What did the Savior say that caused Nathanael to declare that Jesus was the Son of God?

  • According to verse 50, what did the Savior promise Nathanael because he believed?

Explain that along with Andrew, Peter, Philip, and others, Nathanael became one of Jesus’s Apostles. Because these Apostles heeded the invitation to come unto Jesus Christ, they witnessed many “greater things” (verse 50), including the miracles and teachings of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

Close by testifying that as students study the New Testament this year, they will feel the Savior’s continual plea to come unto Him. As they apply the doctrines and principles they learn throughout the year, they will receive His help with their burdens and, like the ancient Apostles, be filled with a desire to help others come to Him as well.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 11:29–30. “Take my yoke upon you”

President Howard W. Hunter taught of blessings that come when we take Christ’s yoke upon us:

“In biblical times the yoke was a device of great assistance to those who tilled the field. It allowed the strength of a second animal to be linked and coupled with the effort of a single animal, sharing and reducing the heavy labor of the plow or wagon. A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one to bear could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke. His yoke requires a great and earnest effort, but for those who truly are converted, the yoke is easy and the burden becomes light.

“Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter? To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in … mortality” (“Come unto Me,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 18; see also “Take My Yoke upon You” [Ensign, Sept. 2013, 22–23] for a picture of a yoke and further explanation of its use and function).

John 1:39, 46. “Come and see”

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how we can follow the Savior’s example to share the gospel with others:

“The Savior taught us how to share the gospel. I like the story of Andrew, who asked, ‘Master, where dwellest thou?’ [John 1:38]. Jesus could have responded with the location of where He lived. But instead He said to Andrew, ‘Come and see’ [John 1:39]. I like to think that the Savior was saying, ‘Come and see not only where I live but how I live. Come and see who I am. Come and feel the Spirit.’ …

“To those who show an interest in our conversations, we can follow the Savior’s example by inviting them to ‘come and see.’ Some will accept our invitation, and others will not. We all know someone who has been invited several times before accepting an invitation to ‘come and see.’ Let’s also think about those who once were with us but who now we rarely see, inviting them to come back and see once more” (“It’s a Miracle,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 79).