Jesus Christ rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who sought a sign of His divinity. Peter bore testimony that Jesus is the Christ and was promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The following teaching ideas can help students understand how to strengthen their testimonies.
Before class, write the following phrases on the board:
To begin the lesson, ask students to choose the phrase on the board that best describes how they would like to receive a testimony of the gospel. Invite a few students to report which phrase they chose and explain why they chose it.
Invite students as they study Matthew 16 to look for truths concerning how the Lord helps us to receive and strengthen our testimonies of the gospel.
Invite a student to read Matthew 16:1 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted from Jesus.
What did the Pharisees and Sadducees want from Jesus?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 16:2–4. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s response to the Pharisees and Sadducees.
What sign did the Lord say He would provide?
Explain that Jesus was referring to the Old Testament prophet Jonah, who had been swallowed by a “great fish” (Jonah 1:17). Jonah’s “burial” in and then coming forth from the belly of the fish after three days symbolized the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb on the third day.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the sign of the prophet Jonas: “Jonah’s burial in and coming forth from the ‘great fish’ (Jonah 1:15–17; 2) symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 711–12).
What did the Savior do after He rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees?
What can we learn from this experience about the improper way to seek spiritual truth? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: We do not receive spiritual truth by seeking for signs.)
Summarize Matthew 16:5–12 by explaining that the Savior warned His disciples of the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ false teachings.
Explain that after Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for seeking a sign, He taught His disciples how to receive a testimony of the truth. Invite a student to read Matthew 16:13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the question Jesus asked and the response His disciples gave.
What did the Savior ask His disciples? How did they answer? (You may need to explain that Elias and Jeremias are the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Jeremiah.)
What can their response tell us about how well people understood who Jesus was at this point in His ministry?
Note: In the lesson for day 4, students studied the scripture mastery passage Matthew 16:15–19. Consider spending a few minutes reviewing the passage with them.
Invite a student to read Matthew 16:15–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the second question the Savior asked.
What was the second question the Savior asked? How did Peter respond?
According to verse 17, how did Peter know that Jesus is the Son of God? (Point out that Heavenly Father had revealed this truth to him through the Holy Ghost.)
What truth can we learn from these verses about how we can gain a testimony of Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: We gain a testimony of Jesus Christ through revelation from the Holy Ghost.)
Why do you think it is important for us to receive a testimony through revelation from the Holy Ghost rather than by some other way?
To help students further understand the role of the Holy Ghost in helping us gain a testimony of the Savior, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith , 183–84).
What are some things we can do to prepare ourselves to receive revelation through the Holy Ghost?
How did you come to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and your Savior? What did you do to prepare to receive that witness from the Holy Ghost?
Invite students to ponder how they might strengthen their testimonies or what they may need to do to receive a testimony through the Holy Ghost. Encourage them to act on any impressions they receive.
Ask students to consider a time when it was difficult for them to forgive another person. Invite them to consider the following questions: Why did you feel justified in not forgiving this person? Why should we forgive others of their trespasses even if we feel justified in not forgiving them? Invite students to look for answers to these questions as they continue their studies in the coming week.