If you wish to contact me for any purpose or would like to ask any questions, I can be contacted through these various ways:

Email: barryjustinhobert@gmail.com

Facebook: 'Things As They Really Are' Facebook Page

Facebook Messenger

Twitter: @Thingsastheyrea


Lesson Plan for Matthew 1-2 & Luke 1-2


First, an explanation of the Gospels of Matthew & Luke. As the Come Follow Me manual states, Matthew's gospel was written for a Jewish audience. This is why you see often in his writings (a handful of times in the first two chapters) him invoking prophecies from ancient prophets to make the case that Christ was the long-promised Messiah. As for Luke's gospel, it is written more towards a Gentile audience. He states it himself in the opening verses when he addresses Theophilus for whom this book was written. Theophilus' name means in Greek, "a friend of God".  Luke's gospel, more than the others, includes the experiences of women and Jesus' treatment of those on the outskirts of society. Therefore, we have two contrasting styles, which is important to keep in mind as both gospels have two different intended audiences.

The style I wish to take this lesson borrows insight from Joseph Fielding McConkie's classic talk on these chapters. In essence, during these opening accounts of Jesus' birth and childhood, there are 12 witnesses of Christ mentioned between Matthew & Luke: no more and no less than 12. The number 12 to the ancient Jews had special significance, especially when we recognize that they had 12 tribes of Israel. Today we have 12 apostles which suggest meaning even for us. In the ancient world, "The number twelve in Hebrew is the number of perfect Government. Twelve is the last of the four numbers God uses to show His perfection. It is the number that God shows He is in control and actively ruling over something as King. When God wants to show us He is ruling and there is a perfect plan. He likes to use the number 12 in his language." (1)

The 12 witnesses are as follows:

  1. Gabriel
  2. Zacharias
  3. Elisabeth
  4. John the Baptist
  5. Mary
  6. Joseph
  7. The Shepherds
  8. The Heavenly Choir
  9. Simeon
  10. Anna
  11. The Wise Men
  12. Herod
We will spend more time on and discuss some more than others, but they all have important parts to play in what Matthew & Luke are setting up for us in their narratives of Christ.


The angel Gabriel makes his first appearance in the Old Testament where he appears twice to the prophet Daniel (see Daniel chapters 8 & 9). Interestingly, it was Daniel who, according to ancient Christian tradition, would have heavily influenced the eventual Magi who visited the Christ child. In other words, what Gabriel revealed to Daniel would be key for future witnesses of Christ. In our LDS theology, Gabriel is an archangel second only to Michael and Joseph Smith taught that the angel Gabriel is the ancient prophet, Noah. (2) One wonders if Noah's involvement with the flood qualified him to be an Elias for Christ who will baptize the world in fire and with the Holy Ghost. Gabriel appears often in these chapters and, therefore, his appearance might be worth pondering over. Namely, why was he used to be the first to announce the birth of Christ.


In the New Testament, it was initially Zacharias whom Gabriel appears unto. Zacharias got the rare opportunity to officiate on behalf of all Israel to enter the holy place in the temple and burn incense on the inner altar. He was a much older priest after the Aaronic order and had yet to have the child that he and his wife desperately wanted. An insight Joseph Smith gives us that is not in the scriptures is that Zacharias entered the temple on this occasion with his priesthood robes and Aaronic keys to "plead with the Lord in the temple that he might have seed so that the priesthood might be preserved". (3)

QUESTION: What can we learn from Zacharias in this instance? What benefit do we have that he didn't have?

We have temples much more readily available to us and we can enter the more holy spaces therein much more readily than the faithful Zacharias could in his day. Elder Ronald A. Rasband once said:
"I testify that all of the temples of the Lord are His sanctuaries here upon the earth. I invite all of you to attend more frequently, as your circumstances permit, and claim your blessings and protections that have been promised to you by prophets of God." (4)

The angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias on the altar and promises him a son. This son will be John the Baptist. Zacharias doubts this promise as he and his wife are old, therefore, Gabriel gives him a sign of being struck dumb. He doesn't speak again until after John is born, therefore, Zacharias, despite his faithfulness endured this trail of not being able to speak for possibly close to a year.


Zacharias' wife, Elisabeth, enters the picture as she becomes pregnant with John the Baptist. We might get a hint of it being a hard pregnancy for her in Luke 1:25 in which case having a husband who could not speak must have been an even harder thing to deal with. Zacharias couldn't comfort her, and Elisabeth remained hidden for months due to the hardness of the pregnancy. 

One scholar has written:

"We assume that like most women of her day, Elisabeth is illiterate. So Zacharias presumably cannot communicate directly with her by writing, but perhaps he could through a literate family member. By the time of her son’s birth, Elisabeth knows what his name is to be (see 1:59–60). Fortunately, the priest Zacharias enjoys the support of a loyal wife. Though he disappoints the angel of God with his response, Elisabeth still stands by him and nurtures him through the long, silent months that follow his once-in-a-lifetime service at the incense altar. The two of them stand as shining examples of how a couple can pull together to meet a significant challenge, even if the challenge affects one person more than the other." (5)

During this time of pregnancy, Mary visits Elisabeth after having a special visitation herself.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist becomes a witness of Christ at this point, and he isn't even born yet. In Luke 1:39-45, when Elisabeth is greeted by Mary, John leaps in the womb and Elisabeth begins to prophesy of Christ. It is interesting to point out, given that John the Baptist was the Elias for Jesus, that he was the first witness of Christ's conception within Mary. Quite literally, he was the first witness of the mortal messiah. He was the first to witness of Jesus while he was in a tabernacle of flesh. In the coming weeks, we will read much more about John the Baptist.


Mary's actual name was probably Miriam, which is the name of Moses' sister. Mary was a younger woman herself who was known for her purity (the meaning of virgin in Greek). 

Read Luke 1:26-38

"26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her."

We admire the faith of Mary here and some possible additional context makes the moment even more beautiful. In an ancient Christian text known as The Infancy Gospel of James (this book is almost as old as some of the writings we have in the New Testament), we learn that Mary began her life like Samuel in the Old Testament. She was given to temple service at a very young age and grew up therein. She was always in and around the place. In addition, this ancient record tells us that she was hand selected while she was pregnant to help weave a new veil for the temple. She was spinning the threads in her house when the angel Gabriel appears. (6)

QUESTION: What principles do we learn from Mary in this experience? About submission? About how life in the temple led to this moment?


Joseph, being Mary's fiancĂ©, was dealing with a lot of stress at this time but was obviously a holy man. It says a handful of times during these chapters we have read the past two weeks that he had dreams. The JST in every instance changes these dreams to visions and visitations for Joseph which is also more consistent with the Greek word that is used in all those instances (i.e. hypnou). It was this personal and powerful revelation that Joseph was worthy of that led him to continue to pursue his marriage to Mary and be the pillar of strength for Mary and Jesus in the early years.

As we transition to Luke 2, we find that Joseph & Mary return to the land of their lineage due to a decree from Caesar Augustus. It was there, in Bethlehem the classic Christmas scene unfolds.

Read Luke 2:6-7

"6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

Verse 7 is drenched in Christ-centric imagery. For example, swaddling clothes is a detail mentioned twice in this account, which points to its significance. Some scholars attach its intended symbolism to the high priestly robs that the priests would wear in the temple. Even further, the Greek here for 'manger' is 'ebus' which is eerily similar to one of the more ancient names for Jerusalem, 'yebus'. Even more, the Greek for inn is 'kataluma' which is the same word used in Luke 22 to describe the room where the Last Supper was had and in Acts 1:13 it is used to describe the 'upper room' where the disciples beheld the resurrected Lord. This word, 'kataluma', also sounds a lot like the Hebrew word 'taaluma' which means 'hidden'. Once scholar summarizes what Luke is really saying here with his clever wordplay:

"This was not the King set on Zion, but the king set in the manger, because there was no room for them in the inn... He was set in a manger because there was no room for them in the hidden place in Zion." (Margaret Barker, King of the Jews, p. 136)

This heavy temple allusion continues in the story, but a note of the JST is worth mentioning. Joseph Smith changes 'inn' to the plural, 'inns'. This means that Joseph & Mary sought several places for refuge in Bethlehem. Some scholars suggest this means that Joseph & Mary's family probably were not very welcoming to them given Mary's pregnancy. In other words, this verse can serve as a reminder to withhold judgment.

The Shepherds

 Most Biblical scholars will tell you that the shepherds within the Christmas story were no ordinary Shepherds. It is thought that they were the stewards of the temple flock which was kept somewhat near the village of Bethlehem. 

Therefore, the symbols and signs given to them by the angel of the Lord take on increased significance.

Read Luke 2:8-12

"8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

King David, Israel's most popular ancient King, was a lowly shepherd boy before he became Israel's political Savior. Therefore, 1) the Shepherds come as a witness of Christ's heirship to the throne of David, 2) a sign of his eventual death by sacrifice because they were keepers of the temple sacrifice, and 3) a witness of how Christ's redemption will transcend socio-economic lines as Shepherds tended to be regarded as the lowest class among the inhabitants of the ancient near east. 

QUESTION: What sign is given to the Shepherds by the angel? What symbolic significance does the manger have for us? If these were the only signs given to them, how did they find the Christ child?

The record has no indication that the Shepherds had a star to follow like the wise men eventually had. The Shepherds, probably, had to go to Bethlehem, a village of maybe a few hundred people, and find the baby. Maybe a lesson learned here is that coming unto Christ took a little more effort for them than we usually think. The Shepherds are an example of the faith it takes to come unto Christ when, at times, we don't have a lot of information to go off of. For those going through a Faith Crisis, this might be a helpful example. Instead of being in crisis about the lack of information or the kind of information, they still held onto what was given and ended up having a Holy of Holies experience at the manger scene that night.

Recently, Elder Holland has said:

"I bless any among you who might be speaking these days of a faith crisis. Real faith — life-changing faith, Abrahamic faith — is always in crisis. That’s how you find out if it’s faith at all. I promise you that more faith will mean less crisis until, finally, God says, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'" (7)

The Heavenly Choir

Before the Shepherds make their way, they did have a shocking appearance of an Angelic host appear unto them. The Shepherds' one-day-long experience might be a microcosm of our Faith journey. They had a lack of information but initially had born unto them a powerful witness of the Savior by this angelic choir that did not waiver in their minds. The choir is gone almost as quickly as they first appeared. They are recorded as having said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (see Luke 2:14).

Christ is the Prince of Peace and his mission transcends the usual vicissitudes we experience that do not bring us peace. President Harold B. Lee has commented:

"[The angels are] not talking about the peace that can be achieved between nations, by military force or by negotiation in the halls of parliaments. Rather, [they] were speaking of the peace we can each have in our own lives when we live the commandments and come unto Christ with broken hearts and contrite spirits." (See Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 70.)

QUESTION: How can we bring peace on earth as covenant makers with Christ?


Still a newborn, the Christ child is presented to the temple to fulfill the "law of the Lord" (see Luke 2:23). The poor family is required to present a sacrifice and does so with a pair of turtledoves and two pigeons. Again, this invokes the humble beginnings of the Christ child but also highlights the commitment to keep the commandments by Mary & Joseph. 

While in the temple, a holy man named Simeon is prompted by the spirit to come to the temple at the same time (see Luke 2:27). Simeon had been promised previously that he would not see death "before he had seen the [Messiah]". Simeon in a moment of praise scooped up the child and prophesied.

Read Luke 2:29-35

"29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

 QUESTION: What significance does it have for us that this Christ child would be a "light to lighten the Gentiles"? How does Christ cause some to fall and others to rise in covenant Israel?

Christ's commandments and covenants appear to sift out who has real intent and who does not. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said:

"Does one really have an inner “desire to believe”? (Alma 32:27.) Frankly, some find discipleship constraining and the world appealing. These individuals are merely going through the motions without real intent." (8)


Immediately after Simeon's prophetic input, a prophetess named Anna enters the picture in the temple. Anna is one of only 7 women in the Bible referred to as a prophetess. Most scholars peg her as a possible temple worker, as she had been a widow for a long time and choose to be in the temple fasting and praying night and day (see Luke 2:36-37). Luke's record doesn't tell us what she said, but only that she also witnessed of the Savior in giving thanks for redemption.

QUESTION: A consistent theme we are seeing in these 12 witnesses thus far is that most of them frequented the Lord's house often. How does consistent temple worship prepare us to have similar experiences like Anna and others did?

President Nelson in 2018 said:

"Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater. I plead with you to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time. Invest time in your future and in that of your family. If you have reasonable access to a temple, I urge you to find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord—to be in His holy house—then keep that appointment with exactness and joy. I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples." (9)

 The Wise Men

After the experience in the temple, perhaps a year or two passed. In Matthew's account, wise men show up from the east. These men are not accounted for in Luke, nor are we told how many there were. They first come to Jerusalem and meet with Herod, whom we will discuss in a bit. After they leave Herod, Matthew records some beautiful scriptures for us.

Read Matthew 2:9-12

"9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 ¶ And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."

The star that appeared to the Wise men in the east is nowhere prophesied of in the Bible, but it is prophesied of in the Book of Mormon. 

One interesting piece of LDS Scholarship considers this star to have been a comet recorded by the Chinese in 5 B.C. It would have created a trail of debris in the sky for these wise men to follow. The research corroborates the Jewish Historian Josephus' account of a comet that came through and caused a lunar eclipse during the late reign of Herod. In addition, Josephus tells us, in ancient records that we do not have, tell us that a star also appeared near the birth of Moses in the Old Testament. (10)

Who these wise men were isn't necessarily for us to speculate on, but the Bible Dictionary appears to give us some definitive insight:

"Who these men were we are not told, but it is certain they were not ordinary men. That they were privileged to search out the Son of God and give Him gifts, and that they were spiritually sensitive and knowledgeable, suggests that they were actually prophets on a divine errand. The customary identification of them as astrologers is a gross misrepresentation. They evidently were holy men from a land east of Palestine." (11)

Other Scholars speculate these men were prophets who had the prophecies of Daniel passed down to them. They would have come from the east due to still being among the Persians who hailed from the East. Others speculate it could have been other Israelites who. like Lehi and his family, had left Jerusalem hundreds of years earlier. These wise men could have possibly been prophets they had among themselves wherever they had settled in the east. 

A note on the gifts they brought the Christ child. In short, they testify of the Savior’s mission:

Gold = Kingship

Frankincense = Priest

Myrrh = the dew of resurrection (12)


Not much to say about Herod that isn't already said by the wonderfully insightful Joseph Fielding McConkie. He said the following:

"Our concluding witness is a most unlikely and reluctant one: a fiend in human body, a man who had drenched himself in the blood of the innocent, a man whose deeds were enough to cause hell itself to shudder—none other than Israel’s king, Herod the Great. Herod had made his alliance with the powers of the world; his friends were Augustus, Rome, and expediency. He had massacred priests and nobles; he had decimated the Sanhedrin; he had caused the high priest, his brother-in-law, to be drowned in pretend sport before his eyes; he had ordered the strangulation of his favorite wife, the beautiful Hasmonaean princess Mariamne, though she seems to have been the only person he ever loved. Any who fell victim to his suspicions were murdered, including three sons and numerous other relatives.

Such is the irony of history that the most wicked man “ever to sit on David’s throne was its occupant in the very day when he came whose throne it was, and who would in due course reign in righteousness thereon.” It was to this man, who personified the wickedness of the world and the corruptions of the earth, that the Wise Men from the East went and bore their testimony that Israel’s rightful king and ruler had been born. Such a testimony would not have been heeded had it come from Simeon or Anna or from simple shepherds, but coming as it did from these eastern visitors, whose credentials, whatever they were, established them as men of great wisdom, it was given credence by Herod.

Of a truth, the kingdom of God will never go unopposed in the days of earth’s mortality, the period of Satan’s power. The question as to whether Herod really believed that Israel’s king had been born is of little moment. What is of importance, that which makes the Nativity story complete, is the evidence of the anger and wrath of hell at the birth of God’s Son. The glad tidings of heaven have no such effect on the prince of darkness and his murderous wrath. As Satan’s chief apostle, with all the cunning of hell, he sought to destroy the Christ child. Thus the decree went forth that “all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under,” according to the time that Herod had inquired of the Wise Men, were to be slain (Matthew 2:16)." (13)

CONCLUDING QUESTION: When we witness of Christ we can expect opposition to come. From the 12 witnesses given, how can their witness enliven and enlighten our witness of the Savior?

In conclusion, I quote a classic Christmas Poem that Elder Holland referenced a few years ago. They highlight why there were Hallelujah shouts in Bethlehem that first Christmas night:

That night when in [the] Judean skies

The mystic Star dispensed its light,

A blind man [groped] in his sleep,

And dreamed [that] he had sight.

That night when shepherds heard the song

Of hosts angelic choiring near,

A deaf man stirred in slumber’s spell,

And dreamed [that] he could hear.

That night when in the cattle-stall

Slept Child and Mother [without talk],

A cripple[d] [man] turned his twisted limbs,

And dreamed [that] he [could walk].

That night when o’er the new-born Babe

The tender Mary rose to lean,

A loathsome leper smiled in sleep,

And dreamed [that] he was clean.

That night when to his Mother’s breast

The little King was held secure,

A harlot slept a happy sleep,

And dreamed [that] she was pure.

That night when in the manger lay

The Sanctified, who came to save,

A man moved in the sleep of death,

And dreamed there was no grave. (14)



Popular Posts