Imagine that you are sitting in class and a fellow student takes something that belongs to you (such as your pen, book, or jacket). He apologizes for taking the item but proceeds to take items from other students. He apologizes each time but continues taking items that do not belong to him. What would you think about this student’s apologies?
How might this student’s actions be similar to trying to repent without a sincere desire?
As you study Matthew 3, look for truths that help us understand what we must do to truly repent.
Jesus Christ had reached the age when He was to begin His ministry. (The typical age that Israelite men entered the ministry was 30 years old [see Numbers 4:3].) Read Matthew 3:1–4, looking for what was happening at that time that would help to prepare the people for the Savior’s ministry.
John the Baptist was the “son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, being of priestly descent through both parents. This lineage was essential, since John was the embodiment of the law of Moses, designed to prepare the way for the Messiah, and make ready a people to receive Him” (Bible Dictionary, “John the Baptist”). Elisabeth was also related to Mary, Jesus’s mother. John held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 13; 84:27–28). His clothing and diet, described in Matthew 3:4, indicate his humble circumstances.
From what you learned in Matthew 3:1–4, what was John doing?
John’s mission had been foretold by Isaiah (Esaias) and other prophets (see Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 1 Nephi 10:7–10). John was to prepare the way for the Messiah (Jesus Christ) by declaring repentance and baptizing with water.
Read Matthew 3:5–6, looking for how people responded to John’s message.
How did people respond to John’s message?
Being willing to confess one’s sins to Heavenly Father and, when necessary, to designated priesthood leaders is essential to repentance (see True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 134).
Read Matthew 3:7, looking for the people to whom John spoke.
The Pharisees were a religious group of Jews whose name suggests being separate or apart. They took pride in strictly observing the law of Moses and believed that man-made additions to it, known as the oral law, were as important as the law of Moses itself (see Bible Dictionary, “Pharisees”). The Sadducees were a small but politically powerful group of Jews who believed in obeying the letter of the law of Moses but did not believe in the doctrine of resurrection or eternal life (see Bible Dictionary, “Sadducees”).
What did John call the Pharisees and Sadducees?
The Palestinian viper is the most common poisonous snake in Israel. Vipers are active at night and typically hunt by hiding and then sneaking up on their prey. When they feel threatened, vipers will coil their body, hiss, and strike at their opponents.
Why do you think John referred to the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers?
“Why is it that ye receive not the preaching of him whom God hath sent? If ye receive not this in your hearts, ye receive not me; and if ye receive not me, ye receive not him of whom I am sent to bear record; and for your sins ye have no cloak.
“Repent, therefore, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 3:34–35 [in the Bible appendix]).
According to John, if the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected his preaching, whom would they also reject?
How would you summarize John’s message to them?
Consider marking the phrase “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” in Matthew 3:8.
In the scriptures people are sometimes symbolized by trees that produce either good fruit or bad fruit. The fruit represents our desires and actions. The phrase “meet for” in verse 8 means “worthy of” (see Matthew 3:8, footnote b).
Consider the scenario from the beginning of this lesson—about the student taking items from other students. Did this student appropriately demonstrate the true principle of repentance through his desires and actions? Why not?
Matthew 3:8 helps us understand that we demonstrate true repentance to the Lord as we change our desires and actions to follow His teachings. Consider writing this principle in the margin next to Matthew 3:8.
Ponder how our desires and actions can indicate that we have truly repented of our sins as you consider the following behaviors: cheating in school, being mean to siblings, using bad language, and viewing pornography.
In your scripture study journal, explain how someone who has repented of these sins might think and act.
Read Matthew 3:10, looking for the consequence of not truly repenting.
Ponder any desires or actions you may need to change in order to truly repent. Think about how you can demonstrate true repentance by changing any desires and actions that are not in accordance with God’s teachings.
Read Matthew 3:11, looking for what John the Baptist said the Savior would do.
Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). This baptism is necessary following baptism by water and refers to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, which sanctifies and refines our souls as if by fire (see 2 Nephi 31:13–14, 17).
Matthew 3:12 describes what will happen symbolically to the righteous who accept Jesus Christ and to the wicked who reject Him.
Take a moment to reflect on your own baptism. In your scripture study journal, record what you remember about this important event in your life.
As recorded in Matthew 3:13–17, Jesus Christ was baptized. As you study these verses, look for similarities between your baptism and the Savior’s.
Read Matthew 3:13–17, looking for the answers to the following three questions about Jesus’s baptism:
If needed, adjust your answers based on the following information:
Jesus traveled from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John because John held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood and had the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism. Write John the Baptist and Proper authority on the line next to “By whom?”
Jesus coming “straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16) indicates that He was baptized by immersion—meaning He was covered completely by the water. Write By immersion on the line next to “How?”
John the Baptist knew that Jesus’s position and authority were higher than his own. However, according to Matthew 3:15, Jesus said He needed to be baptized “to fulfil all righteousness.” Write this phrase on the line next to “Why?”
“To fulfil all righteousness” means to do all that Heavenly Father requires of us so that we can live with Him again. This includes receiving the ordinances of salvation. By being baptized, Jesus set the perfect example for us to follow. Read 2 Nephi 31:4–9, and write it as a cross-reference in the margin next to Matthew 3:15. Mark words and phrases that help you understand what “to fulfil all righteousness” means.
Use the answers to the preceding three questions to identify a doctrine about proper baptism from Matthew 3:13–17.
How does your baptism compare with the example the Savior set for us?
Another important doctrine in Matthew 3:16–17 relates to the Godhead. Reread these verses, looking for what they teach about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
On the following lines, write the general location of each member of the Godhead during the Savior’s baptism:
The Holy Ghost:
It is important to understand that the Holy Ghost did not actually transform into a dove. Rather, the dove was a sign or symbol that the Holy Ghost had descended upon Jesus (see Bible Dictionary, “Dove, sign of”).
What doctrine do these verses teach about the Godhead? (See also D&C 130:22–23.)
Many people do not have a correct or complete knowledge of the Godhead. The more we understand the true nature of the Godhead, the greater love we can feel for Them and the better we will be prepared to teach and testify of Them to others.
Look up the entry for “God” in the Bible Dictionary, or for “God, Godhead” in the Guide to the Scriptures (scriptures.lds.org). Read the entry, looking for information about each member of the Godhead. In your scripture study journal, write one to two sentences about each member of the Godhead that include information you feel is important to know.
Consider sharing your testimony of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost with someone you know.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Matthew 3 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: