Chapter 4: “Behold the Lamb of God”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 27–31


Map Chp. 4

Opening Events in Jesus’ Ministry

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Wilderness of Judea

John the Forerunner

3:1–12

1:1–8

3:1–18

 

Near Bethabara, Judea

Baptism of Jesus

3:13–17

1:9–11

3:21–23

 

Wilderness of Judea

Jesus Communes with God; Is Tempted Afterward

4:1–11

1:12, 13

4:1–13

 

Bethabara, Judea

John Testifies That Jesus Is the Christ

   

1:14–34

Bethabara, Perea and Bethsaida, Tetrarchy of Philip

Calling of Andrew, Simon, Philip and Nathanael

   

1:35–51

Cana, Galilee

Miracle of Wine at the Wedding Feast

   

2:1–11

Jesus Goes to Capernaum

   

2:12

Interpretive Commentary

(4-1) Matthew 3:1. How Important Was the Mission of John the Baptist?

“Few prophets rank with John the Baptist. Among other things, his ministry was foretold by Lehi (1 Ne. 10:7–10), Nephi (1 Ne. 11:27; 2 Ne. 31:4–18), and Isaiah (Isa. 40:3); Gabriel came down from the courts of glory to announce John’s coming birth (Luke 1:5–44); he was the last legal administrator, holding keys and authority under the Mosaic dispensation (D. & C. 84:26–28); his mission was to prepare the way before, baptize, and acclaim the divine Sonship of Christ (John 1); and in modern times, on the 15th of May, 1829, he returned to earth as a resurrected being to confer the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. ([Joseph Smith—History 1:66–75]; D. & C. 13.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 393.)

(4-2) Matthew 3:1–3. How Was John an Elias?

When the angel came to Zacharias in the temple to foretell the birth of John, a promise was given, that he would prepare the way of the Lord “… in the spirit and power of Elias. …” (Luke 1:17.)

Though John was not actually named Elias, his mission was accomplished through the “spirit and power of Elias.” Joseph Smith explained it as follows:

“… for the spirit of Elias was a going before to prepare the way for the greater, which was the case with John the Baptist. He came crying through the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ And they were informed, if they could receive it, it was the spirit of Elias; and John was very particular to tell the people, he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

“He told the people that his mission was to preach repentance and baptize with water; but it was He that should come after him that should baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost.

“If he had been an impostor, he might have gone to work beyond his bounds, and undertook to have performed ordinances which did not belong to that office and calling, under the spirit of Elias.

“The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood of Elias, or the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of the world.

“John’s mission was limited to preaching and baptizing; but what he did was legal; and when Jesus Christ came to any of John’s disciples, He baptized them with fire and the Holy Ghost.” (Teachings, pp. 335–36.)

Though John’s mission was short and his message was simple, the unselfish, fearless manner in which he carried out his work as an “Elias” brought from Jesus the solemn expression that there had not been “a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” (Luke 7:28. Italics added.)

(4-3) Matthew 3:9. What Did John Mean by Saying That God Was Able to Raise Up Children unto Abraham from the Stones?

“… Judaism held that the posterity of Abraham had an assured place in the kingdom of the expected Messiah, and that no proselyte from among the Gentiles could possibly attain the rank and distinction of which the ‘children’ were sure. John’s forceful assertion that God could raise up, from the stones on the river bank, children to Abraham, meant to those who heard that even the lowest of the human family might be preferred before themselves unless they repented and reformed.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 123.)

(4-4) Matthew 3:16. What Is the Significance of the Holy Ghost Descending “like a Dove”?

“All four gospel authors record that the Spirit descended ‘like a dove’; Luke adds that he also came in ‘bodily shape’; and the Book of Mormon accounts say he came ‘in the form of a dove.’ (1 Ne. 11:27; 2 Ne. 31:8.) Joseph Smith said that John ‘led the Son of God into the waters of baptism, and had the privilege of beholding the Holy Ghost descend in the form of a dove, or rather in the sign of the dove, in witness of that administration.’

“Then the Prophet gives this explanation: ‘The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 275–76. Italics added.) It thus appears that John witnessed the sign of the dove, that he saw the Holy Ghost descend in the ‘bodily shape’ of the personage that he is, and that the descent was ‘like a dove.’” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:123–24.)

(4-5) Matthew 4:1. Did Jesus Go into the Wilderness to Be Tempted?

Compare the Inspired Version account of these verses with the King James.

“Then Jesus was led up of the spirit, into the wilderness, to be with God.

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was left to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1, 2, Inspired Version. Italics added.)

“Jesus did not go into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; righteous men do not seek out temptation. He went ‘to be with God.’ Probably he was visited by the Father; without question he received transcendent spiritual manifestations. The temptations came after he ‘had communed with God,’ ‘after forty days.’ The same was true in the case of Moses. He communed with God, saw the visions of eternity, and was then left unto himself to be tempted of the devil. After resisting temptation he again communed with Deity, gaining further light and revelation.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:128; see also Mosiah 3:7.)

(4-6) Matthew 4:5, 8. Did the Devil Really Transport Jesus Up to a Pinnacle of the Temple and Later Show Him the Kingdoms of the World?

The Prophet Joseph Smith adds this insight:

“Then Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple.

Then the devil came unto him and said, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

And again, Jesus was in the Spirit, and it taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.

And the devil came unto him again, and said, All these things will I give unto thee, If thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:5, 6, 7, 9, Inspired Version. Italics added.)

(4-7) John 1:18. What about John’s Statement “No Man Hath Seen God at Any Time”?

Of course there have been prophets who beheld Deity. Joseph Smith taught, however, that the Father manifests himself only in order to bear record of Jesus:

“And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.” (John 1:19, Inspired Version.)

Notice also how John further clarifies his own statement in John 6:46.

(4-8) John 1:42. Why Was It Significant That Simon Was Given Another Name?

Christ told Simon he would be called Cephas, or Peter, meaning a stone.

“Destined to stand as President of the Church of Jesus Christ and to exercise the keys of the kingdom in their fulness, Peter was to be a prophet, seer, and revelator. (D&C 81:2.) Foreshadowing this later call, Jesus here confers a new name upon his chief disciple, the name Cephas which means a seer or a stone.

“Added significance will soon be given this designation when, in promising him the keys of the kingdom, our Lord will tell Peter that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the rock of revelation, or in other words against seership. (Matt. 16:18.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:132–33.)

(4-9) John 1:47–49. What Was Nathanael’s Experience “under the Fig Tree”?

“Jesus here exercises his powers of seership. From the fragmentary account preserved in the scripture it is apparent that Nathanael had undergone some surpassing spiritual experience while praying, or meditating, or worshiping under a fig tree. The Lord and giver of all things spiritual, though absent in body, had been present with Nathanael in spirit; and the guileless Israelite, seeing this manifestation of seership, was led to accept Jesus as the Messiah.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:134.)

(4-10) John 2:4. Did Jesus Willingly Respond to His Mother’s Request for Help at the Wedding Feast?

“Jesus said unto her, Woman, what wilt thou have me to do for thee? that will I do; for mine hour is not yet come.” (John 2:4, Inspired Version. Italics added.)

(4-11) John 2:4. What of Jesus’ Addressing His Mother as “Woman”?

“… The noun of address, ‘Woman,’ as applied by a son to his mother may sound to our ears somewhat harsh, if not disrespectful; but its use was really an expression of opposite import. To every son the mother ought to be preeminently the woman of women; she is the one woman in the world to whom the son owes his earthly existence; and though the title ‘Mother’ belongs to every woman who has earned the honors of maternity, yet to no child is there more than one woman whom by natural right he can address by that title of respectful acknowledgment. When, in the last dread scenes of His mortal existence, Christ hung in dying agony upon the cross, He looked down upon the weeping Mary, His mother, and commended her to the care of the beloved apostle John, with the words: ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ Can it be thought that in this supreme moment, our Lord’s concern for the mother from whom He was about to be separated by death was associated with any emotion other than that of honor, tenderness and love?” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 144–45.)

(4-12) John 2:6. How Much Constitutes a “Firkin”?

A firkin is about nine gallons. Thus each of the six water-pots contained around 18 to 27 gallons of water, with the result that Jesus then created between 100 to 150 gallons of wine—a miracle showing that the wedding celebration was quite large.

Points to Ponder

Jesus Was Totally Obedient to the Will of His Father

Jesus Christ is a perfect example of what your attitude should be toward the commandments of our Heavenly Father. Consider for a moment the baptism of Jesus. Why was Jesus baptized when he was without sin? Read 2 Nephi 31:5–10. What does this teach you about Jesus? What symbolic significance do you see in Jesus’ baptism with regard to his burial and resurrection? What significance does this have for you?

The Adversary Tested Jesus and Sought to Thwart His Mission

(4-13) The Three Temptations Jesus Faced Are a Pattern for All Temptations

“Now, nearly every temptation that comes to you and me comes in one of those forms. Classify them, and you will find that under one of those three nearly every given temptation that makes you and me spotted, ever so little maybe, comes to us as (1) a temptation of the appetite; (2) a yielding to the pride and fashion and vanity of those alienated from the things of God; or (3) a gratifying of the passion, or a desire for the riches of the world, or power among men.” (David O. McKay in CR, Oct. 1911, p. 59.)

It was after the Savior had made his special covenants with the Father through baptism that the tempter confronted him. But why should such strong temptations beset the Lord after his baptism? And if the Lord received his most severe trials after he was firmly committed to the kingdom of God, what about other men of greatness? Did their trials also increase? Why would this be allowed to happen?

For an answer, consider what took place as the Lord prepared for his ministry. First, there was a deep sense of his sacred responsibility. Secondly, he received revelation and instruction from his Father. Thirdly, he was challenged by trials and temptations and through them proved his loyalty. Finally, because of them he developed strength to overcome all obstacles and proceeded in his ministry with increased light and revelation.

Now consider some of the experiences which befell the Prophet Joseph Smith. As you read keep in mind the four points listed above. Read Joseph Smith—History 1:8–19. If the Savior and the Prophet went through trials and temptations after they were firmly committed to the Church, what about you? Read thoughtfully President Lee’s statement in reading 4-14.

(4-14) All Will Be Tested

“As I have labored among the brethren here and have studied the history of past dispensations, I have become aware that the Lord has given tests all down through time as to this matter of loyalty to the leadership of the Church. I go back into the scriptures and follow along in such stories as David’s loyalty when the king was trying to take his life. He wouldn’t defile the anointed of the Lord even when he could have taken his life. I have listened to the classic stories in this dispensation about how Brigham Young was tested, how Heber C. Kimball was tested, John Taylor and Willard Richards in Carthage Jail, Zion’s Camp that received a great test, and from that number were chosen the first General Authorities in this dispensation. There were others who didn’t pass the test of loyalty, and they fell from their places.

“I have been in a position since I came into the Council of the Twelve to observe some things among my brethren, and I want to say to you: Every man my junior in the Council of the Twelve, I have seen submitted as though by Providence, to these same tests of loyalty, and I wondered sometimes whether they were going to pass the tests. The reason they are here today is because they did, and our Father has honored them. …

“And so God has honored them, and it is my conviction that every man who will be called to a high place in this Church will have to pass these tests not devised by human hands, by which our Father numbers them as a united group of leaders willing to follow the prophets of the Living God and be loyal and true as witnesses and exemplars of the truths they teach.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Apr. 1950, p. 101. Italics added.)

Does this mean that there will be tests, trials, and temptations in your future? Yes! But do not fear. What was the result of overcoming the trials and temptations for the Savior and for the Prophet? Can you see that not only did they prove loyal to their stewardship but also they grew in spiritual power, light, and closeness to God? Can you see that as you become committed to the kingdom, you will have the opportunity to grow also, into a brilliant, scintillating child of God? Further, do you understand that through your covenant you will be supported by the Spirit in your trials? Look at the reassurance Alma gives in Alma 36:3–5, 27.

Do not look for temptation and trials, for they will come on their own, but determine to resist and overcome them as they do, that you may receive of the joy of the Lord.

(4-15) We Should Not Even Accommodate Temptation

“The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, ‘All right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition. I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept—but I’ll listen.’

“Christ did not so rationalize. He positively and promptly closed the discussion, and commanded: ‘Get thee hence, Satan,’ meaning, likely, ‘Get out of my sight—get out of my presence—I will not listen—I will have nothing to do with you.’ Then, we read, ‘the devil leaveth him.’” (Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 216.)

Am I Willing “to Do the Will of My Father”?

There is no way to account for the way Jesus kept his covenants except through that grand purpose which he expresses in the touching passages below.

Read and cross-reference the following scriptures:

John 4:33, 34

Jesus’ greatest satisfaction

John 6:38

Jesus’ grand purpose in coming

3 Nephi 11:11 and 3 Nephi 27:13, 14

Luke 22:42–44

D&C 19:16–19

What it cost Jesus to do the Father’s will

Jesus loved his Father. His devotion was unlimited. His poise, majesty, and flawless actions among men arose from his total submissiveness to the will of his Father. The mighty Shepherd among men was also the willing Lamb of God.

Though we can perhaps only begin to fathom the feelings that Jesus had for his Father, we should remember that his Father is also our Father in heaven. We can make the grand purpose of our lives the same as our Savior’s grand purpose. Each of us can resolve “to do the will of my Father.”

You may want to react to the following questions:

What do I see in the way Jesus approached his relationship with his Father that can help me? What specific things could I do to better keep my covenants and improve my relationship with my Father?