New Testament Lesson 03 (Luke 2; Matt. 2)
For the week of January 9–15
THERE WERE MANY WITNESSES (Luke 2:1–38; Matt. 2:1–12)
Jesus’ birth was first told to humble shepherds. Then followed witnesses in the temple when he was eight days old. Later, as a child, he was visited by the Wise Men from the East who had seen His star in the heavens and knew that the Messiah had come. In the Western Hemisphere, prophets saw his birth in vision and reported it. This was not an isolated and unheralded event. There were many witnesses.
The Heavenly Host of Angels
● “Unto you is born this day . . . a Savior which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:9–14).
— They sang “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men.”
— Why? Because this precious baby was born to save us all.
— As the Lamb of God . . . he would be sacrificed for our sins.
— Let us never forget that this little baby was born to die—so that all of us might have redemption and resurrection.
● “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad . . . concerning this child” (Luke 2:15–17).
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “These were not ordinary shepherds nor ordinary flocks. The sheep there being . . . cared for with love and devotion—were destined for sacrifice on the great altar in the Lord’s House, in similitude of the eternal sacrifice of Him who that wondrous night lay in a stable . . . And the shepherds—for whom the veil was then rent . . . were [of] spiritual stature . . . There were many shepherds in Palestine, but only to those who watched over the temple flocks did the herald angel come; only they heard the heavenly choir.”
Simeon in the Temple
● Elder James E. Talmage said, “Mary remained in retirement forty days following the birth of her Son; then she and her husband brought the Boy for presentation before the Lord as prescribed for the male firstborn of every family. . . . He was accordingly taken to the temple for the ceremon[y] of redemption. . . .”
● “It was revealed unto [Simeon] by the Holy Ghost, that he [would] see . . . the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:22–33). Elder James E. Talmage said, “Among the righteous and devout Israelites were some who . . . lived in righteous expectation of . . . (the birth of the Savior). One of these was Simeon, then living in Jerusalem. Through the power of the Holy Ghost he had gained the promise that he should not see death until he had looked upon the Lord’s Christ in the flesh. Prompted by the Spirit he repaired to the temple on the day of the presentation of Jesus, and recognized in the Babe the promised Messiah.”
● Simeon raised the Child reverently in his arms, and (said) . . . ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation’ (Luke 2:29–30). Then under the spirit of prophecy, Simeon told of the greatness of the Child’s mission, and of the anguish that the mother would be called to endure because of Him. . . .” (Luke 2:34–35).
Anna in the Temple
● Anna (84 years old) ” [who came also at] that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36–38, 41). Elder James E. Talmage called her “a prophetess who devoted herself exclusively to temple service; and she, being inspired of God, recognized her Redeemer, and testified of Him to all about her.”
Elizabeth and Zacharias (John the Baptist’s Parents)
● Elizabeth called her cousin Mary “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:36–40).
● Zacharias prophesied of his son’s role in “preparing the way of the Lord” (Luke 1:67–80).
The Wise Men from the East
● “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? . . . We . . . are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1–2).
— Daniel H. Ludlow said, “The statement of the wise men ‘We have seen his star in the east’ is extremely interesting inasmuch as the star as a sign at the birth of Jesus is not mentioned in the present Old Testament. However, reference to the sign of a star was mentioned by Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon some five years before the birth of Jesus. (Hel. 14:1–5; 3 Ne. 1:21). The . . . language used by the wise men would indicate that other groups besides the Lehites were aware that a new star would bear record of the birth of the Son of God.”
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “As to the star, there is nothing mysterious about it. The Magi . . . were not reading portents in the skies nor divining the destinies of men by the movement of celestial bodies in the . . . heavens. The new star was simply a new star of the sort we are familiar with. No doubt it exhibited an unusual brilliance, so as to attract special attention and so as to give guidance to those who walked in its light, but it was, nonetheless, a star.”
● The wise men visited Jesus in a house, not a stable (Matthew 2:3–12). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “[Since] He is called a ‘young child,’ not a baby, a total of 7 times in the course of 14 consecutive verses [and because] Matthew makes two pointed references to the diligent nature of Herod’s inquiry as to the actual time of the birth . . . the presumption arises that a number of months or even one or two years may have elapsed before the arrival of the [wise men].”
PARENTS RECEIVE REVELATION FOR THEIR CHILDREN (Matt. 2:13–23).
— Mary received the knowledge that her son was the promised Messiah and testified concerning it when she visited her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:46–55).
— Joseph, as Jesus’ earthly protector received revelation to take the child into Egypt to protect his life (Matt 2:13–23). (See the discussion of this below.)
JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST ARE PROTECTED
Joseph Takes Jesus To Egypt for Protection
● Joseph was warned in a dream to flee into Egypt with the baby (Matthew 2:13–23) in order to protect Him from Herod’s murderous intentions.
Elder James E. Talmage said, “Herod was . . . tyrannical and merciless, sparing neither foe nor friend who came under suspicion of being a possible hindrance to his ambitious designs. He had his wife and several of his sons, as well as others of his blood kindred, cruelly murdered; and he put to death nearly all of the great national council, the Sanhedrin. His reign was one of revolting cruelty and unbridled oppression.”
● The Significance of Places:
— He was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1; fulfillment of Micah 5:2).
— He was raised in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; fulfillment of a lost prophecy).
— He came out of Egypt (Matthew 2:14; fulfillment of Hosea 11:1).
John the Baptist Is Protected by His Father
● He was also a small child, just six months older than Jesus.
● He also lived with his parents in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
● He escaped Herod’s murders through the selfless courage of his father, Zacharias.
● Jesus alluded to what happened to John’s father (Matthew 23:34–36). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “When Herod’s edict went forth to destroy the young children, John was about six months older than Jesus, and came under this hellish edict, and Zacharias caused his mother to take him into the mountains, where he was raised on locusts and wild honey. When his father refused to disclose his hiding place, and being the officiating high priest at the Temple that year, was slain by Herod’s order, between the porch and the altar, as Jesus said.”
● John the Baptist grew safely to manhood (Luke 1:80). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “As is the case with his kinsman Jesus, the scriptures are virtually silent on the life and labors of John prior to his formal ministry, which commenced, according to Levitical law, when he was thirty years of age. (Num. 4:3, 47).
● We do know that ‘he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood’ (D&C 84:28), meaning when he was eight years of age; that his parents were faithful and righteous people; that he ‘was a priest after [like] his father, and held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, and was called of God to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God.’
● He ‘waxed strong in spirit,’ that is, became a tower of spiritual strength; and that he was guided during his whole life by the Holy Ghost. It naturally follows that he was trained in obedience to the law of Moses, officiated in the Levitical ordinances and performances, was married (an almost mandatory social requirement among the Jews), and probably had children.”
JESUS’ CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH
He Grew Up Like Other Children
● Isaiah said He would “grow up like a tender plant” and look like other children (Isaiah 53:2).
● Jesus did not have a fulness of godhood or knowledge at first, but continued from “grace to grace” until he received a fulness (D&C 93:12–14).
● He lived with his parents in Nazareth and was obedient to them (Luke 2:51–53).
● He was called a carpenter, showing he learned a trade, probably under Joseph’s direction (Mark 6:3).
● A summary of his character as he grew:
— Spirit (Spiritual growth).
— Wisdom (Intellectual growth).
— Grace (Divine help).
— Stature (Physical growth).
— Favor with God (Pleasing his Heavenly Father).
— Favor with man (Social growth).
JESUS HAD TO LEARN “LINE UPON LINE” LIKE WE DO (Luke 2:40, 52)
● He clearly knew that He was the literal Son of God.
● He learned this from His mother and father.
● Jesus also had a veil of forgetfulness of the pre-mortal life—like all of us. Elder James E. Talmage said, “[When Jesus was born,] the veil of forgetfulness common to all who are born to earth. . . . But even as a child he had all the intelligence necessary to enable him to govern the kingdom of the Jews . . . because he overcame the veil and came into communication with his Heavenly Father.”
● President Joseph F. Smith said, “Even Christ himself was not perfect [in knowledge or understanding] at first. . . . Jesus, the Son of God, and the Father of the heavens and the earth in which we dwell, received not a fulness at the first, but increased in faith, knowledge, understanding and grace until he received a fulness. . . .”
HE WAS TAUGHT BY HIS FATHER IN HEAVEN
● His training and intelligence showed as he talked with learned men in the temple at the age of twelve—fully aware of his calling and his relationship to the Father (Luke 2:41–50).
● Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “He astonished the doctors and wise men in the temple—he had learned a great deal about his Father’s business. This knowledge could come to him by revelation, by the visitation of angels, or in some other way. But his knowledge, so far as this life was concerned, had to come line upon line and precept upon precept. Without question he was in communication, from time to time, with his Heavenly Father. . . .”
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “When still a boy, He had all the intelligence necessary to enable Him to rule and govern the kingdom of the Jews, and could reason with the wisest and most profound doctors of law and divinity, and make their theories and practice to appear like folly compared with the wisdom He possessed; but He was a boy only, and lacked physical strength even to defend His own person; and was subject to cold, to hunger, and to death.”
● He was instructed directly by our Father in Heaven, and had God’s guidance continually (John 8:28).
● He spoke only those things the Father told him to speak (John 12:49).
● He served under Joseph, but “he needed not that any man should teach him” (JST Matt. 3:24–26). It is possible-even likely-however, that Jesus attended the Jewish synagogues and was taught in the learning of the Jews by the rabbis.
EVEN AS A CHILD, JESUS WAS FOCUSED ON DOING HIS HEAVENLY FATHER’S WILL (Luke 2:40–52).
— At age 12 he was found teaching the elders in the temple.
— His knowledge exceeded the wisdom and knowledge of these “wise men.”
— This knowledge came from His Heavenly Father through direct revelation.
— His explanation was that He “must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:47).
1: The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979-1981], 1:347.
2: Jesus the Christ, 95.
3: Jesus the Christ, 96–97.
4: Jesus the Christ, 96–97.
5: Jesus the Christ, 96–97.
6: A Companion to Your Study of the New Testament, Pt. 1, 29.
7: The Mortal Messiah, 1:359.
8: Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:107.
9: Jesus the Christ, 97–98.
10: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 261.
11: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 272–273.
12: Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:89–90.
13: Jesus the Christ, 111.
14: Gospel Doctrine, 68.
15: Doctrines of Salvation, 1:32–33.
16: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 392.