The powerful miracles Jesus performed (see Matthew 8–9) and His activities on the Sabbath day (see Matthew 12) caused a great stir among the people. Many of the multitudes who followed Him believed He was the “son of David,” the promised Messiah (see Matthew 12:23). However, most the Jewish leaders of the day accused Him of doing miracles by the power of the devil (see Matthew 12:24). They wanted Jesus to show them a sign to prove His claims (see Matthew 12:38–45). They condemned Him for His Sabbath activities and “held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (see Matthew 12:2, 14). At that time Jesus “withdrew himself from thence” (Matthew 12:15). Thereafter he often spoke in parables to the public (see Matthew 13:34). Speaking in parables allowed Him to teach those who were spiritually attuned while hiding truths that would enrage or condemn those who were unattuned.
Prayerfully study Matthew 11–13and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
In the last days the righteous will be gathered as they accept the gospel. The wicked will be destroyed at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 13:1–52).
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 65–67, 72–76.
Suggestions for Teaching
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Matthew 11–13.
New Testament Video presentation 6, “Parables” (13:25), can be used in teaching Matthew 13 (see New Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).
Matthew 11:1–19 (see also Luke 7:18–35). Among those “born of women,” there was not a greater than John the Baptist.
Explain to students that these verses will be covered in more detail during their study of the book of Luke (see the teaching suggestion for Luke 7:17–35, p. 81). The following is intended to preserve the flow of Matthew’s testimony.
Have students read Matthew 11:2 and find where John the Baptist was during this period. Have them read verse 11, and ask how Jesus described John the Baptist. Share the following statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith, who described three reasons for John’s greatness:
“First. He was entrusted with a divine mission of preparing the way before the face of the Lord. …
”Secondly. He was entrusted with the important mission … to baptize the Son of Man. …
“Thirdly. John, at that time, was the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom there was then on the earth, and holding the keys of power. … These three reasons constitute him the greatest prophet born of a woman” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 275–76).
Matthew 11:28–30. The burdens we experience in mortality can be lightened through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Bring to class a box of medium to large rocks. Invite a student to come to the front of the room and put on an empty backpack. Ask students to name things that cause stress and anxiety, and have another student list their answers on the board. (Responses might include the death of loved ones, moving to a new apartment or house, starting a new job, sickness, divorce, school, and sin.) With each response place a rock in the backpack. Ask the student with the backpack: How would life be different if you had to carry around that much more weight everywhere you went? Ask the class:
Have you ever experienced any of these things? Could you share with the class which ones?
When these things happened to you, what effect did they have on other areas of your life?
Of the things listed that you have not experienced, which do you think you might experience in the future?
What can you do now to prepare for when they come?
Why would it be valuable if we had a way to gain relief from our burdens?
Invite students to read Matthew 11:28–30and look for what the Savior offers us.
Write the following three questions on the board:
What are some heavy burdens we carry?
How does the Savior lift our burdens?
What is the lighter, easier yoke Jesus offers us in place of our burdens?
Take time to discuss these questions:
What are the heavy burdens we carry? Have students read Alma 7:11–13and find words that describe the kinds of burdens we carry that the Lord suffered for (pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death, infirmities, sins). Ask: According to Alma, which of the causes of anxiety we wrote on the board earlier would be included in what Jesus suffered?
How does the Savior lift our burdens? Ask: When did the Savior suffer the burdens mentioned in Alma 7:11–13? (see Matthew 26:36–39). Share the following statement by President George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency on the results of the Atonement:
“If we are in sorrow, if we have heavy burdens, or are in any manner perplexed, He will hear us; He will lift our burdens, lighten our sorrows, dispel darkness, and fill us with light and with that heavenly feeling that comes from Him through the presence of the Holy Ghost” (“Blessings Not Appreciated,” in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. [1987–92], 4:12).
Draw on the board or show students this picture of a yoke for oxen.
What is the lighter, easier yoke Jesus offers us in place of our burdens? Notice that the yoke has a place for two oxen. It takes two oxen working together to accomplish the task. Ask: What relationship do we enter into with the Lord when we are baptized? (A covenant relationship.) Read Mosiah 18:8–10and look for one of the most important covenants we make with the Lord. Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
“To keep the commandments and serve with fidelity and devotion in the Church is to wear the Yoke of Christ, the yoke of service and devotion. Those who love the Lord and desire salvation willingly shoulder this yoke, thereby finding rest to their souls (Matt. 11:28–30) and discovering that the Lord’s commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:3.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 853).
Help students understand that ultimately a righteous life leads to greater peace and happiness than a wicked life. Conclude by singing or reading the words to the hymn “How Gentle God’s Commands” (no. 125).
Matthew 12:1–13(see also Mark 2:23–3:5; Luke 6:1–10). On the Sabbath day we should rest from our daily labors and be actively engaged in good works.
Bring an ordinary object to class, such as a glass of water or a small houseplant. Set it in the middle of the room, and use masking tape to tape off a section of the floor around it. Ask students to imagine that the object is something dangerous, such as a vial of sulfuric acid or a poisonous plant.
If this were really something dangerous, why would it be a good idea to place a barrier around it?
If you cross the barrier, will you necessarily be burned or poisoned? Why or why not?
Would it be fair, if some individuals crossed over the tape without touching the dangerous item, if we treated them as though they had been burned or poisoned anyway? Why or why not?
Explain that some religious leaders in the Bible did something similar. They built rules and regulations around the commandments to protect people from breaking them. While their original intent may have been good, they sometimes went too far. This would be like cordoning off the whole room for the “dangerous object” in the object lesson, or even the whole building. By Jesus’ day, the religious leaders felt that crossing one of these man-made barriers was the same as breaking the actual commandment.
Invite students to read Matthew 12:1–9, and ask:
What commandment did the Pharisees claim Jesus’ disciples broke?
Read verses 10–14. What did Jesus do then that enraged the Pharisees?
Read Exodus 20:8–11 and Doctrine and Covenants 59:9–10looking for details in the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. According to these verses, was there anything wrong with what Jesus or His disciples did? Read the Joseph Smith Translation of Mark 2:27and ask:
What gave Jesus power over the Sabbath day?
What general principle did Jesus teach to help us know what is appropriate on the Sabbath? (see Matthew 12:12).
What are some of the blessings you receive by keeping the Sabbath day holy?
According to the Lord, for whom was the Sabbath made?
According to Doctrine and Covenants 59:9, 13–17, what blessings has the Lord promised if we honor the Sabbath day?
Matthew 12:30(see also Luke 11:23). We are to cultivate our relationship with the Lord and further His work. We cannot be neutral or indifferent and still stand with the Lord.
Bring a toy car, marble, or ball to class. Set up a table or large book on a slight incline. Label the top of the incline “Closer to the Lord” and the bottom of the incline “Further from the Lord.” Set the object in the middle and let it roll down to the end. Ask why the object won’t stay in the middle. Invite students to read Matthew 12:30, and ask: How is our relationship with the Lord like the toy car on the incline?
Share the following conversation with Joseph Smith, recounted by Daniel Tyler, an early member of the Church:
“Soon after the Prophet’s arrival in Commerce (afterwards Nauvoo) from Missouri prison, Brother Isaac Behunnin and myself made him a visit at his residence. His persecutions was the topic of conversation. He repeated many false, inconsistent and contradictory statements made [against him] by apostates, frightened members of the Church and outsiders. …
”When the Prophet had ended telling how he had been treated, Brother Behunnin remarked: ‘If I should leave this Church I would not do as those men have done: I would go to some remote place where Mormonism had never been heard of[,] settle down, and no one would ever learn that I knew anything about it.’
“The great Seer immediately replied: ‘Brother Behunnin, you don’t know what you would do. No doubt these men once thought as you do. Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it.’“ (Juvenile Instructor, 15 Aug. 1892, 491–92).
”I am Christ; I cast out devils in my Father’s name; I heal the sick by his power; salvation comes by me. Let none of you longer stand neutral. Either ye are with me, or ye are against me. Unless you come unto me, and espouse my cause, and keep my commandments, ye are against me. There is no middle ground“ (Mortal Messiah, 2:213).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–27and ask:
What principles mentioned in these verses help us continually move toward the Lord?
What else can we do to show the Lord that we are on His side?
Encourage students to constantly strive to draw closer to the Lord.
Matthew 12:31–32(see also Mark 3:28–29; Luke 12:10). All manner of sin and blasphemy may be forgiven unto men except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
Ask: Which sin cannot be forgiven?
Ask students to read Matthew 12:31–32and identify the only sin for which a person cannot obtain forgiveness. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:31–36and 132:27 and discuss how these verses define blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Share the following statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. … He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him“ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 358).
Also share the following statement, in which Elder Melvin J. Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, explains why sinning against the Holy Ghost is even more serious than sinning against Jesus Christ:
“Unto the Holy Ghost has been given the right and the privilege of manifesting the truth unto men as no other power will. So that when He makes a man see and know a thing he knows it better than he shall ever know anything else; and to sin against that knowledge is to sin against the greatest light there is, and consequently commit the greatest sin there is” (Millennial Star, 11 Aug. 1932, 499–500).
Write on the board: How does knowing that all sins except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost can be forgiven make you feel about the Atonement of Jesus Christ? How can this knowledge give us greater hope? Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 19:16–19and the words to “In Memory of the Crucified” (Hymns, no. 190). Invite them to write in their notebooks their feelings about the questions on the board.
Matthew 13:1–52(see also Mark 4:1–34; Luke 8:4–18). In the last days the righteous will be gathered as they accept the gospel. The wicked will be destroyed at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Draw the following symbols on the board (or substitute four of your own):
Ask students to do the following:
Raise your hand if you know what any one of the symbols represents.
Keep your hand up if you know what two of them represent.
Keep your hand up if you know three of them.
Keep your hand up if you know the meaning of all four.
Let someone who knows all four identify what each symbol represents. Ask: Why do some students know the meaning of the symbols while others don’t? Have students read the first paragraph of “parables” in the Bible Dictionary (pp. 740–41). How are parables like symbols? Read Matthew 12:14 and look for why Jesus might want to veil His teachings from some.
Before class write the word gathering in large letters on a piece of paper. Cut the paper into several pieces, and then cut up a second piece of paper and mix all the pieces together. Give the pieces to a few students and ask them to separate the pieces of paper with writing on them from the other pieces. Have them assemble the pieces with writing to form the word, and have them throw away the other pieces. Read Matthew 13:27–30 and ask:
What word appearing several times in these verses applies to the object lesson? (Gather.)
What is the gathering of Israel?
Share the following:
“Gathering Israel in the latter days consists of the following: (1) the spiritual gathering, which includes coming to know that Jesus is the Christ and joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; (2) the assembling of Church members to organized stakes; and (3) the gathering of the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons—including the lost ten tribes (D&C 110:11)—to the lands of their inheritance” (“Israel: Gathering of Israel,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. , 2:351).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the parables in Matthew 13“afforded us as clear an understanding upon the important subject of the gathering, as anything recorded in the Bible” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 94). Divide the class into eight groups and assign each a parable from the chart on page 39. Explain that there are other possible interpretations for these parables, but ask them to spend 5–10 minutes searching their parable to see what it teaches about the gathering. Have them look for the answers to questions such as these:
What kinds of changes do you note in the parable? What grows? What is sorted or gathered together?
How are some changes that people undergo when they come into the kingdom of God similar to the changes in the parable?
Have a member of each group summarize their assigned parable for the class and tell how it relates to the gathering. Use the chart as an overhead transparency or handout to aid in your discussion if desired. Ask the students:
How does the gathering apply to us today?
What are we gathered to?
Are there some who have been gathered who later stray? Why?
How can we avoid straying?
At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, what happens to those not gathered?
For more information on the meaning of the parables, see The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, pages 71–76.