We are studying the New Testament in Sunday School this year, and I love what I am learning through my personal study as well as my preparations to teach the lesson every other Sunday. Because we never have time to cover all the wonderful messages, I decided that I want to record some highlights of what I discover.
- John the Baptist, “a child of promise” was the “last” and the “first” – last of the Old Testament prophets and first of the New Testament prophets. (See Bible Dictionary, a resource found in the King James Version used by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons.)
- Baptizing the Savior was not the only way John prepared the way for Christ’s teachings as he taught the higher law that was to replace the Law of Moses:
- Repent and be baptized to gain a remission of sins versus offering sacrifices upon altars.
- Repent means to change, and so in Luke 3: 10-14, John answers the honest queries of those who asked “what shall we do” to change?
- To those who have “enough and to spare”, exercise charity by giving raiment and food to those who have none.
- Just as he challenged the tax collectors who also asked the question, exercise charity in your work by not exacting more of people than you should.
- In a day when soldiers suffered from “blood lust” and felt the “ends justified the means” and gathered the “spoils of war” because it was their right, John asked the soldiers to abandon those practices: don’t be violent; don’t falsely blame others to justify your actions, and be content with what you earn or what you have rather than to take what isn’t yours to take.
- John’s reply applies to us, too. In charity, we should resist being cruel or unkind or accusatory to others, plus we need to appreciate what we have and not be unethical in pursuing more and more.
- Although he acknowledged Jesus was sinless and not in need of baptism, John did not realize the man was the Messiah until he and the Savior both saw the Holy Ghost in the sign of the dove light upon Christ, and heard God the Father confirm that Jesus was His Son and that the Savior had pleased Him. (See John 1: 29-34.)
- While reading these verses, I received the impression that John and Jesus were the only two who witnessed that miraculous confirmation of the Savior’s divinity.
- Having been foretold that he would recognize the Christ by this “sign”, John testified from that time forth that Jesus was the Messiah especially when he uttered the powerful and beautiful words, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
- I also learned that Matthew 3:17 records Heavenly Father’s confirmation of the Savior by saying “THIS is my beloved Son …”; but Mark 1:11 and Luke 3: 22 reports the voice from heaven said “THOU art my beloved Son …”.
- To me the significance of this difference is that God the Father “considered the audience” as the message was not meant to testify to John only, but to His Son as well.
- Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost and the spirit directed Him to the wilderness to fast and pray and learn – just as many holy men had done before. But the Savior had much more to contemplate than most men. And it was here, as He fought to understand who He was and what His mission was that Satan delivered his three temptations.
- James E. Talmage, former apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and author of Jesus the Christ maintains that among Lucifer’s purposes in tempting the Savior was to plant doubts about the words He had just heard: “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”
The few who may read this post may not find anything new or startling or amazing in what I’ve written, but I recorded this for myself. At age 66, I am still working on my testimony of the Savior and His gospel, and I want to look back and remember what I learned and felt. Through my recent scripture studies, I not only want to better know and follow Christ, I want to better know and learn from those who were with Him – men like John the Baptist.