The First Two Years of Jesus’ Ministry
● 45 recorded events occurred during the first two years of Jesus’ ministry.
— In the first year of His public ministry he gradually revealed His messiahship to the Jews.
— This was principally done through the miracles he performed, which attested to His godhood.
— Because of these miracles, he was increasingly popular among the common Jewish people.
— Opposition by Jewish leaders mounted when he challenged their traditions of rabbinical authority.
— Because of the opposition in Jerusalem, Jesus went to Galilee and concentrated His efforts there.
— Due to continued opposition from those who opposed Him, Jesus veiled His message with parables.
● The calling of the Twelve concluded the second year of our Savior’s formal ministry on earth.
— He eventually ordained these twelve men as His Apostles.
— He quietly trained the Twelve concerning the great authority which he had conferred upon them.
— He gave them a commission to go forth to teach the gospel message to the inhabitants of Israel.
— This ended the second year.
The Third Year Begins
● From this point on, Jesus’ eyes are firmly fixed on Jerusalem and on the prime purpose for his coming into the world—to make an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men.
● There is an increasing tempo leading to a climax as Jesus’ life approaches its most critical moments.
● At this time Jesus performed some of His most impressive miracles.
— Healing a man at the Pool of Bethesda
— Feeding the five thousand
— Preventing the masses from forcibly making Him their king
— Walking on the sea
● He taught concerning service, scriptures, unity and purity, and showed great mercy to many.
● His Bread of Life sermon—one of His most important—also bore witness to His divine mission.
TEACHINGS ON RIGHTEOUSNESS
“Take My Yoke upon You and Learn of Me”
● He invited those who “labour and are heavy laden” to “come unto Him” and he would “give [them] rest” from their burdens (Matthew 11:28–30).
— The Lord says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (v. 30).
— A yoke is a frame or bar that can be placed on one or two people or animals pulling or carrying a heavy load. The yoke balances the burden and makes it easier to manage.
— President Ezra Taft Benson said: “In Biblical times, the yoke was a device of great assistance to those who tilled the field. It allowed the strength of a second animal to linked and coupled with the strength of a single animal, sharing and reducing the heavy labor of the plow or wagon. A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke . . . Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter. To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support , balance, and strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.”1
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
● Jesus’ disciples pick corn (wheat) on the Sabbath; the Pharisees condemn them (Matthew 12:1–2).
● The Lord says,”I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (v.7). He wanted the people to focus on loving others, not merely on performing religious ceremonies (Matthew 12:3–8).
The Importance of Unity
● Jesus healed a man who is blind, dumb, and possessed of a devil (Matthew 12:22–30).
— The Pharisees claim he did it by “Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (v. 24).
— “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (v. 25).
— “He that is not with me is against me” (v. 30).
Pure Thoughts and Actions
● We will be judged for even our “idle” words (Matthew 12:35–37).
● Our iniquities will be made known to everyone (D&C 1:3).
● The intents of our hearts will also be known (D&C 88:109).
● Priesthood power depends upon our purity (D&C 121:34–37).
● Self-confidence arises from purity of thoughts (D&C 121:45–46).
● Boyd K. Packer said: “I have the idea that many go through life with their minds something like a corner lot at a city intersection, just a lot on which there is no house. It’s used for many things—children cross it to play, people cross it going here and there, sometimes a car will take a shortcut across it. Here is a mind, a vacant playing field; and anyone who comes by can crisscross it. I don’t have that anymore. On my lot I have some signs that say ‘No Trespassing,’ and then I list to whom that refers. I will not consent to contamination of the slightest single spot from a perverse source . . . If a thought like that enters my mind, it comes as a trespasser; it comes as an unwanted intruder. I do consent openly—without reservation, . . . pleadingly, with all invitation— to inspiration from the Lord.”2
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “If you live up to these principles, how great and glorious will be your reward in the celestial kingdom! If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. . . . If we would come before God, we must keep ourselves pure, as He is pure.”3
Ceremonial vs. Spiritual Purity
● Many are made “perfectly whole” by merely touching the hem of His garment (Matthew 14:34–36).
— Bruce R. McConkie said, “Perhaps they had knowledge of the woman who, plagued for twelve years with an issue of blood, had been healed by touching the hem of his garment (Mark 5:25–34); perhaps they considered the garment fringe as holy because of the divine command that garments be bordered in blue so that all Israel might ‘look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them’ (Num. 15:37–41); or perhaps, overpowered in the divine presence, they sought even the slightest and least physical contact with him. But in any event, so great was their faith that all partook of his infinite goodness and were healed.”4
● The hatred of the scribes and Pharisees for Jesus had grown to where they were plotting to kill Him.
— Frustrated in an attempt to get Jesus to Jerusalem so that they might fulfill their plans, the Jews sent a delegation from Jerusalem to try to trap the Lord into saying or doing something that would give them license to seek His life.
— When these Jews saw some of the disciples of Jesus eating without first washing their hands, they accused Jesus of not following the law of Moses.
● The Pharisees were nit-picking about their man-made rules (Matthew 15:1–3, 7–9).
— The word “Corban” meant a gift or sacrifice to God (Matthew 15:3–6; Mark 7:11). Its use permitted a man to take a vow to avoid any obligation. Thus, a man might say, “Corban to me for a time is to not assist my parents.”5
— In this way the intent of such laws as “honor thy father and thy mother” was frustrated. The Savior chastised the Pharisees and scribes for avoiding legitimate obligations in this manner.
● Righteousness comes from inner purity not external washing (Matthew 15:10–14).
● Jesus explained the meaning of this teaching (Matthew 15:15–20).
IMPORTANT AND SYMBOLIC EVENTS
Jesus Forgives a Woman in the House of Simon the Pharisee
● The woman who entered Simon the Pharisee’s house carried the burden of sin (Luke 7:36–38).
— Knowing that ridicule might come from her entrance into the eating chamber, knowing that her reputation would accompany her, and knowing that she would not be welcomed by some within, still she entered.
● Jesus tells the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:39–43).
● She showed repentance, respect, humility, and love, which the Savior contrasted with Simon’s pride, lack of courtesy, and judgmental attitude (Luke 7:44–50).
— Elder James E. Talmage said: “It was the custom of the times to treat a distinguished guest with marked attention; to receive him with a kiss of welcome, to provide water for washing the dust from his feet, and oil for anointing the hair of the head and the beard. All these courteous attentions were omitted by Simon.”6
Jesus Is Nurtured by Several Women
— James E. Talmage said:
“The first mention of Mary Magdalene by name presents her in association with other honorable women, among whom was the wife of the royal steward. They accompanied Jesus and the Twelve and “ministered unto Him their substance” (Luke 8:1–3). These women of station were beneficiaries the Lord’s healing power, for each of them had been cured of infirmities, and specifically had been relieved of the combined physical and mental ailments incident to possession by evil spirits. Mary Magdalene, as we read, had been delivered from the affliction of seven devils; but the fact of even such grievous plague is without warrant for the imputation of unchastity.
“Mary Magdalene became one of the closest friends Christ had among women. Her devotion to Him as her Healer, and the One whom she adored as the Messiah, was as deep, as genuine, and as pure as her own soul. She stood by the cross while other women looked on from afar in the hour of His mortal agony. She was among the earliest at the tomb in the resurrection day. She conversed with angels, and was the first mortal to behold the resurrected Savior—the Lord whom she had loved with all the fervor of spiritual adoration. To say that this woman was once a fallen creature, her soul seared with the heat of unhallowed lust, is to perpetuate an infamy.”7
A Brief Return to Nazareth
— David H. Madsen8 said, “He had brothers—James, Joses, Simon, and Judas—and sisters. Josephus cites “the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, James by name,”9 who is also mentioned in Gal. 1:19 and Jude 1:1 and who is “probably the writer of the Epistle of James.”10 Apparently Jesus took the active part of a “son of the law.”11
— Bruce R. McConkie said, “And they were offended at him.” Why? Why should anyone take offense because someone else goes about doing good? Why should men seek to slay a man because he raises the dead or stills a storm? Why should their spirits be stirred up within them because he preaches the Sermon on the Mount or gives forth with an endless flow of gracious words? These Nazarenes were witnesses against themselves. They heard his words and knew of his works, and yet they rejected him. It was not reason but emotion that motivated them. They were offended because their deeds were evil.”12
— Elder McConkie also said, “These Nazarenes were witnesses against themselves, they had absolute knowledge that their fellow townsman excelled in wisdom and performed miraculous works beyond man’s power; yet they rejected him. According to the eternal laws which Jesus himself ordained in eternity, miracles are the fruit of faith. Where there is faith, there will be signs, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit. Where there is no faith, these things cannot occur.”13
John the Baptist Is Beheaded
● Herod’s wife, Herodias, was not only his sister-in-law whom he had stolen from his brother Phillip, but was also his niece, the daughter of another brother, Archelaus. This relationship, both adulterous and incestuous, was denounced by John, as were the other evils that Herod had done (Matthew 14:3–5; Luke 3:19–20).
— For speaking out, John the Baptist was thrown by Herod into a dungeon.
— Herodias feared that even in prison John might succeed in intimidating the weak and superstitious Herod into putting her aside. Thus she used her daughter Salome to attain what she had failed to achieve on her own.
1. In Conference Report, October 1990, 20.
2. “To Those Who Teach in Troubled Times,” Growing Edge, 5:3 [Nov 1972].
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 226–227.
4. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:350–351.
5. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible , 678.
6. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 261.
7. “Mary Magdalene,” Improvement Era, July, 1917.
8. New Testament Symposium, 1984, 8–9.
9. Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 20, chap. 9, par.1.
10. Bible Dictionary, s.v. ‘James’.
11. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 113.
12. The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–1981], 2:300–301.
13. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:322.