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Lesson Plan for Matthew 4 & Luke 4-5


This week's readings are brimming with lessons about discipleship. They begin with the temptations of Jesus, but to set the stage we must be reminded of how Matthew 3 and Luke 3 end.

READ Matthew 3:13-17

"13 ¶ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Much can be said about these verses, but I want to point out that the culmination of this ordinance for Jesus was a declaration from Heaven that He was God's beloved Son.

Interestingly, after Jesus is baptized in Luke chapter 3, Luke immediately gives us Jesus' genealogy which culminates with Adam and Heavenly Father. Therefore, since we all descended from Adam, it is my opinion that the declaration from the Father of Jesus being His beloved Son is NOT the same thing as Him saying Jesus was his Only Begotten Son. When Luke mentions Adam, it should remind us of Adam's baptism which was similar to Jesus'.

READ Moses 6:64-68

"64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.

65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.

66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;

67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.

68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen.

 Adam had his divine sonship declared from Heaven as well. This becoming a son or daughter of God must not be what we are used to discussing.


How does one "become a son or daughter of God"? I thought we were already sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents?

Elder Andersen gives us some insight:

"Every person on earth is the “offspring” of God, but to be called the “children of God” means much, much more. As we come unto Jesus Christ and make covenants with Him, we become “his seed” and “heirs of the kingdom,” “children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters.” (1)

Elder McConkie has a similar insight:

"We are well aware that all men are the children of God, the offspring of the Father, his sons and his daughters. We know that we were all born in his courts as spirit beings, long before the foundations of this earth were laid, and that the Lord Jehovah was in fact the Firstborn Son. What is not so well known is that nearly all the passages of scripture, both ancient and modern, which speak of God as our Father and of men on earth being the sons of God, have no reference to our birth in preexistence as the children of Elohim, but teach rather that Jehovah is our Father and we are his children." ("The Promised Messiah", pgs. 351-352)

This sets the stage for Jesus' temptations. Jesus has become a covenantal child of God and, as John notes, has been growing from grace to grace (see D&C 93:11-15). The JST notes that the spirit drives Him into the wilderness to be with God.


READ Matthew 4:1-2

1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Jesus goes into the wilderness to be with God and fasts for forty nights all in preparation for Him to begin his earthly ministry. Here are a few notes that can help us with application:

1. The detail of 40 days anciently should not be understood as an actual 40-day period. One Jewish scholar notes, "Every time one finds the number forty in Torah, its inner meaning is the ascent from one level to the next higher one." (2) 

2. We remember that the earth was flooded for 40 days and that Israel's Exodus is said to have been 40 years. If Matthew is read carefully, he carefully places these 40 days after a baptism (flood) and during Jesus' own Exodus into the wilderness. One scholar notes that this experience is a recapitulation of the Exodus experience where Jesus actually proved faithful to the promises given at Sinai. In contrast, the people of Israel, hundreds of years earlier, did not (N.T. Wright, "The New Testament In Its World", p. 592). For an ancient Jewish reader looking for the Messiah, this narrative crafting by Matthew would have been thrilling.

3. We don't have much detail, other than fasting, of what Jesus was doing during this long period in the wilderness. We know he went to be with God (see JST) and that angels were also present at some point. We might get more information from Mark 1:13 in which we are told that wild beasts were present. Wild Beasts in Hebrew, hayyôth, can mean wild animals "but also the creatures of the cherub throne" (Barker, King of the Jews, p. 122). Wild Beasts around God's throne are recounted in the Book of Revelation, chapters 4-5. Interestingly, Revelation 1:1 tells us that the visions of the Book of Revelation were first given to Jesus before they were passed onto John. For this reason, some Christian Scholars reasonably speculate that Jesus was beholding grand visions of the Plan of Salvation coming to fruition in the wilderness. He would have been front and center in those visions. What better way to be prepared for His oncoming ministry?

These three points, taken together, remind me of President Nelson's words:

"Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know... To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!" (3)

After this 40-day revelatory period, Satan shows up to tempt a hungry Jesus.


"3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

6 And saith unto him, 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.

7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."


What about Jesus does Satan call into question?

From Jesus' baptism and from his 40-day revelatory experience He is now having the knowledge that he is a covenantal child of God called into question. Satan almost always attacks divine identity first.

How do we guard against attacks on our divine identity? What did Jesus do here?

"I wish to encourage every one of you today regarding opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose... This opposition turns up almost anyplace something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage... Like Moses [or Jesus] in his vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and some confusion, but they will pale when you measure them against the real thing. Remember the real thing." - Elder Holland (4)

 "Satan seeks to lead us to the breeding ground of doubt." - Elder Sean Douglas (5)

Jesus quotes scripture in every instance to combat Satan. Satan even quotes scripture in one of his temptations.


How does quoting scripture help us to combat doubt? 

Elder Scott once said:

"Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The scriptures provide the strength of authority to our declarations when they are cited correctly. They can become stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar. They are always available when needed. Their use provides a foundation of truth that can be awakened by the Holy Ghost. Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world." (6)

I would add that an informed reader of the scriptures is better able to detect when Satan is quoting scripture for our own destruction. It highlights the need to study daily and often.

Another thing to note is how Jesus gets or is taken by the spirit to higher ground after each temptation. He goes from the wilderness to 160 feet above the temple plaza in Jerusalem to on top of a mountain after each subsequent temptation.

Speaking of this phenomenon, Elder Sill in the 1960s gave us this insight:

"From the pinnacle of the temple, Satan said to Jesus, "Cast thyself down". Satan has been giving that same direction ever since with the most terrifying success. And the first step toward any failure is always merely to look down, to let earthly things absorb our interests. It is pretty difficult to look down and to look up at the same time. It has been said that one may not always look where he is going, but he will always go where he is looking. If we merely look down long enough, many will be sure to fall." (7)


After telling Satan to 'depart' Jesus is then transported by the spirit back to Galilee, particularly to his home city of Nazareth. We learn that fame has spread quickly across the region, possibly due to what happened at his baptism. It is interesting to note that fame is one of the things Satan tempted Jesus with and now Jesus is brought face to face with fame. How he handles it is a lesson for all disciples.

READ Luke 4:16-21

"16 ¶ And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."

First of all, notice how it was Jesus' custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day. This detail and many other details throughout the gospels highlight that Jesus was a practicing Jew. This is a detail we might often miss if we simply think he came to 'override' Judaism and establish His own Church. Jesus honored and observed the salvific commandments of the Torah in His day.

 Here Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 which is, obviously, Isaiah speaking Messianically.


Given the fame we see in the previous verses, what does Jesus proclaim here that runs counter to his newfound celebrity status?

What aspects here about the Savior's mission do you find most helpful, comforting, or hopeful?

"In proclaiming “liberty to the captives,” the Lord promises His Atonement and gospel path can break temporal and spiritual bonds. This hope of freedom includes those seeking to overcome debilitating habits or addictions, self-defeating behaviors, intergenerational guilt, or any sorrow. Mercifully, this redemptive freedom extends to those who have passed from mortality." - Elder Gong (8)

How many read Jesus' words "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" and think it is kind of presumptuous by Jesus? As far as we have records, he hadn't done miracles yet. He hadn't completed His atonement yet. His words sort of resemble some other hard-to-understand words in Matthew 4 which occurs around the same time as His declaration within the synagogue.

READ Matthew 4:17

"17 ¶ From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The ancient teachers and rabbis understood Isaiah's prophecy to be millennial and understood it to be final deliverance from all political and foreign enemies. Ancient commentaries actually connect this Messiah prophecy to the powers of Melchizedek, which would enable this prophesied of Messiah to be a King, prince of peace, and priest of the most high god (see Hebrews 7:1).  In addition, saying that the kingdom of heaven was here is a head-scratcher as well. In both of these instances, it was as if Jesus saying, "My Reign is here".


What does Jesus mean here that the kingdom of heaven was upon them and that this supposed millennial prophecy was fulfilled within the halls of that ancient synagogue? How was the reign of second David upon them?

"When Satan is bound in a single home—when Satan is bound in a single life—the Millennium has already begun in that home, in that life." - President Spencer W. Kimball (9)

At times we look at the Plan of Salvation too chronologically. Jesus was bringing forth all the keys, gifts, powers, ordinances, and blood needed to enable one to access the eternal here and now. Later we will read how Jesus prayed to bring to earth that which is in heaven. Jesus, through his ministry and the power he proffers us, asks us to keep his commandments, not so we can eventually earn an eternal reward but so we become his sealed Jewels (see Malachi 3:16-18). Through our covenant-keeping and sealing powers of the priesthood, we become reclaimed pieces that become heaven on earth.

One LDS Scholar has commented on this idea:

"This heaven was not a future reward for the faithful or the elect; it is the material heaven on earth, constructed welding link by welding link on the anvil of the temple altar." (Jonathan A. Stapley, "The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, p. 17)

In short, the Kingdom was at hand because the fulness of the gospel to enable men to walk back into the presence of God was had again on the earth.

We read in the following verses in Luke 4 that the people of the synagogue openly mocked and were irate at Jesus' bold words. They try to throw Him off a cliff, but he miraculously escapes while also bringing back to their collective mind miracles Elijah and Elisha did for Gentiles. I can't help but think that was done on purpose. 

This experience is probably why at the beginning of His ministry he told people he healed not to announce it publicly. This happens frequently in the Gospel of Mark.


Throughout the rest of the reading, we have a miracle of Jesus healing a leper and he forgives sins while at the same time healing a paralytic. He gains an even more massive following as "His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy, and he healed them" (see Matthew 4:24).


What does Jesus' healing teach us about Him? What significance do Jesus' healings have for you?

Jesus invites all to be healed in 3 Nephi 9:13 and connects such to conversion. It is my opinion that the healings Jesus performed were Him pushing the boundaries of our fallen world; drop by drop letting in the new heaven and new earth seep through so that those who become converted will "see & enter the kingdom of God" (see John 3:3-5). This might be one of the more plain meanings of Jesus' first public teachings about new wine and old bottles.

To wrap up this lesson, let's end with the call to some of the original disciples who would later become the original apostles. Jesus, after preaching a sermon from Peter's boat, does the miraculous:

READ Luke 5:4-11

"4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.

7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:

10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.

11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him."

In Matthew's version of this story, it has the men leaving their nets straightway while Luke has them beholding one of Jesus' first miracles during His ministry before extending the invitation to "Follow Him". Some scholars note that this haul of fish would have been enough to support the families of Peter, James, & John (and Andrew in Matthew 4) while they went out on their future ministry with the Savior. This miracle, apparently, has a deep impact on Simon Peter. In the JST of Matthew 4 of this event, the Savior plainly declares to them that he is the one that prophets have foretold of. That declaration in unison with this miracle stirred Peter enough that he realized he was standing on Holy Ground next to the Savior. It set's up future exchanges Peter and the Master will have.


What things do we learn about discipleship in this event of fishes?

The Savior in Mark chapter 1 uses the phrase "fishers of men" which would have been Him repurposing Jeremiah's prophecy in Jeremiah 16:16. He applies that scripture towards the ministry of souls instead of, like Jeremiah did, towards the political and societal tribulation that had plagued Israel since their exile to Babylon. Jesus' call, therefore, to Peter, James, and John was filled with miracles, Messianic declarations, and a witness that the prophesied Kingdom was indeed at hand. In some sense, we should marvel at these men leaving their nets straightway. In another sense, we can appreciate that in their ancient Jewish setting their hearts were set on fire spiritually by Jesus.

Elder Holland writes about Peter during this experience:

"[After the Savior commands Peter to] Launch out into the deep[,] Peter could not have known the ever-widening circles that single command would make in the stream of his plain and simple life. He was launching out into the expanse of godliness, into the eternal possibilities of redeemed and celestial life. He would be learning the mysteries of the kingdom. He would be hearing unspeakable things. To launch out into that limitless sea of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Peter brought his craft to shore, turned his back on the most spectacular single catch ever taken from Galilee, “forsook all, and followed him.” (Luke 5:11.)" (10)

Peter's plummet and climb of discipleship is a call and a mirror of our own discipleship, if we too will also forsake all and follow the Master. 


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