follow the Savior
Week 04 is scheduled for study Jan. 16-22, 2023. What does it mean to “find the Messiah?” This week we look at the Messiah’s role in the plan of salvation, and how people were able to both follow and find him. 

Who was John?

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get this straight. There are several Johns running around in the New Testament. The first one is John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, and the Elias, or the one sent to prepare the way for another who was to come. He began his mission just months before Jesus began his own ministry. His purpose was to prepare the minds of the people for the coming of Jesus by testifying to them that their Messiah was about to come.

There is John, the brother of Jesus, but he wasn’t an apostle, and we know little of him.

Finally, we have John, the brother of James. These two were part of the First Presidency of the ancient church as organized by the Lord during his ministry. It was Peter (the President of the Church), James, and John who appeared to Joseph Smith to give him the Melchizedek priesthood. John is also known as John the Beloved, for several times in the gospel of John he refers to himself as the man whom Jesus loved. This John is the one who was given charge of Mary, Jesus’s mother, while Christ was on the cross. John the Beloved also wrote the books of John and the book of Revelation. He was the only apostle to ask to be allowed to live until the Savior returned a second time so he could continue to bring souls to Christ.

This means that when Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith, Peter and James were resurrected beings, but John is still a translated being. Being translated allows him to remain on earth, but not age or be affected by the physical world around him. John never tells us that he wrote the gospel of John, but there are several hints that he wrote it in statements he makes within the gospel. We know it was him who wrote the book because of modern revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants. We assume he was the same one who was a disciple of John the Baptist before Christ began his ministry. Here is the closing statement about John from the Bible Dictionary.

John is mentioned frequently in latter-day revelation, as in 1 Ne. 14:18–273 Ne. 28:6Ether 4:16D&C 727:1261:147788:141. These passages serve to confirm and to clarify the biblical record of John and also give us a hint as to his greatness and the importance of the work the Lord has given him to do on the earth, not only in the time of the New Testament, but also in the last days. We especially have a clarification of John 21:20–23, ascertaining that John did not die but has been allowed to remain on the earth as a ministering servant until the time of the Lord’s Second Coming (3 Ne. 28:6D&C 7).

Day 1

As you read and ponder John 1, record the impressions you receive. What messages do you find that will be of most value to you and your family? What could you share in your Church classes?

John 1:1-5 – Jesus Christ was “in the beginning with God.”

Let’s take a look at these verses with the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) next to them.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.
The same was in the beginning with God.The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men;
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.And the light shineth in the world, and the world perceiveth it not.

Verse 1 says the gospel was preached “through the Son.” This verse tells us that the gospel was given by God to the Son, and Jesus preached it to us. Christ, himself, wasn’t the gospel (the word), but the gospel was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and Jesus was the Son of God. Does this paint for you a picture of a very closely knit relationship between Father and Son? This concept is either painfully obvious or will require some thinking and mental gymnastics to wrap your head around it. Sometimes I read this and have to work my way through it step by step, but other times I immediately see the whole picture. I have no idea what makes the difference.

Verses 2 and 3 are identical with the JST version. They tell us that Christ is the creator of all things in the universe, and that there is nothing here that he didn’t make himself.

Verse 4 has an important difference from the King James Version (KJV). The life that comes from Christ comes through the gospel given him from the Father. The gospel is the light of men. And in verse 5 John says that the light of the gospel Christ brings us shines in the world, but the world is blind to it. It is important for us to remember that scripture talk is often figurative. Light refers to truth and knowledge, as well as life itself. Darkness refers to ignorance and spiritual death in one form or another. Now go back and plug those definitions into verses 4 and 5 and see if it gives you any insights that weren’t there before.

The life the gospel brings us is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. The light of the gospel, the truth it gives us, acts as a guide, like a shining beacon, that lights or directs our path through mortality. All spiritual knowledge must be revealed to us, since the mortal mind cannot comprehend spiritual things. For this reason, even though the light of the gospel shines in the world, those of the world cannot perceive it. This light is only perceivable to those who are humbly seeking for it. The Holy Ghost is the revealer of all truth to those who seek it.

Day 2

As you read and ponder John 1, record the impressions you receive. What messages do you find that will be of most value to you and your family? What could you share in your Church classes?

John 1:1-18 – Jesus Christ is the “true Light,” the Son of God.

This is a review of what we looked at in yesterday’s lesson. The focus here is that Jesus has been at this calling of his, as our Redeemer and Messiah, since before the world was even made. We sometimes refer to Jesus as the Word, because the KJV directly gives Jesus the title of the Word. And this is fine, since we receive the word of God through Christ. Remember that the purpose of the Messiah is to represent and do for us what the Father would do for us if He were able to. It is our Father who gave us a Savior to enable us to return home to Him. And God, Himself has told us that there is no other way to come home, but through Christ.

Verses 6-9 are John’s careful declarations that he, John, was sent to declare the coming of Christ. It is Christ who is the light of the world, and through whom salvation and life come. John was just the messenger to prepare the way (the Elias) for the Messiah who was to come. There are lots of pronouns in these verses, but no clearly marked references as to whom they refer to. Sometimes it can leave the reader confused as to whether the “he” mentioned was John, Christ, or someone else.

In verse 11 John uses an interesting phrase.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Who qualifies as “his own?” Who is John referring to? Jesus has always been the God of this world, because he created it. He was known to his people as Jehovah in the Old Testament. It was Jesus who made the covenant with Abraham, and the house of Israel. So the remaining Jews in Jerusalem were his covenant people. They were also his physical relatives in mortality. Through Mary he was related to all the tribes of Israel in the flesh. Hence the Jews were “his own” in both senses of the phrase.

Day 3

As you read and ponder John 1, record the impressions you receive. What messages do you find that will be of most value to you and your family? What could you share in your Church classes?

John 1:11-13 – Jesus Christ gives us “power to become” the sons and daughters of God.

The manual gives several sets of verses that refer to us becoming sons and daughters of God. For all this to make sense, you really need to go read them for yourself. Interestingly none of these scriptures mention the word baptism, though that is the only way to make a covenant with God and to repent of our sins. It is through baptism that we make the covenant with God to represent Christ in all places and at all times that qualifies us to become adopted sons and daughters of God. All of us are currently estranged from God, unless we have made this covenant of baptism. Baptism is how we are adopted into Christ’s family to become heirs to his kingdom, just as he is the heir of our Father’s kingdom.

The key here is Christ’s atonement. When we place our faith in Christ and his ability to change us for the better, we are forgiven of our sins. The fewer sins we have the more like Christ we become. We are his by adoption through the administration of covenants, baptism being the first.

Day 4

As you read and ponder John 1, record the impressions you receive. What messages do you find that will be of most value to you and your family? What could you share in your Church classes?

John 1:18 – The Father bears record of His Son.

Why do you think the Father takes the time to bear record of His Son so many times in the scriptures? Consider that the plan for our salvation and exaltation is our Father in Heaven’s plan. He has personally declared that the only way for that plan to save us is by us going through Jesus Christ to return home, and His reason for doing all that He (our Father) does is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

We also need to figure in the law of witnesses that was given to us by God, Himself. He requires a minimum of two witnesses for everything we will be held accountable for. No one can testify of themself as part of this law. Someone else must do the testifying. When Christ comes initially, he is introduced by the Father, and confirmed by the Spirit. Jesus may tell us who he is, but that doesn’t fulfill the law of witnesses, so someone other than Christ must also bear witness of him. We don’t often think of the things our Father has personally spoken to us while we are in mortality. But if you search the scriptures for the phrase “beloved Son” you might be surprised at the number of times He has born witness of His Son and told us to listen to him. Note: in the case of John the Baptist hearing the voice of the Father at Christ’s baptism, that was a personal revelation to John, and the Father just bore record of His Son without the added commandment to “hear him.” The people that might have been around when John baptized Jesus wouldn’t have seen and heard what John and Jesus did.

FHE/Personal Study

This week I want to say something about two entries from the manual.

John 1:35-46 – Behold the Lamb of God.

I have never before considered the words of today’s lesson title. Jesus just IS the Lamb of God. I have always heard it that way, and don’t really think about it in any way, shape, or form. To declare Jesus as the lamb of God is a title, like calling him the Redeemer is a title.

To those raised under the auspices of the Mosaic law, the sacrificial lamb they took to the temple represented the Lamb of God, or the Messiah we know as Jesus. (Remember that the words Messiah and Christ mean the same thing, but are translated from two different languages. The first is translated from Hebrew, the second from Greek. So they are totally interchangeable with each other. The two forms are used because even though the people mainly spoke Hebrew at the time of Jesus, by the time the New Testament accounts were written years later they were recorded in Greek. Hence the introduction of some Greek words into the gospel narrative.)

Anyway, back to my point – the phrase “Lamb of God” was about as clearly a description of the looked for Messiah as you could get. Everyone knew that the sacrificial lamb represented the Messiah God would send them. What I never thought of before is that this same phrase also represents our Father’s contribution to our salvation. He gave us His only begotten Son in the flesh to represent Him in all things. The Father and the Son are so close with each other, that this is God’s sacrifice for us. He gave us His Lamb for our salvation, just as the Jews gave their lambs in remembrance of the salvation the looked for Messiah would bring. This makes me love my Father all the more.

John 1:45-51 – Nathanael

What does Christ always say? He says over and over again “Come, follow me.” But what does that mean? Here is a point of view as expressed through the life of Nathanael.

When two of the followers of John the Baptist heard him exclaim, referring to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!” they followed after Jesus. We assume that one of them was John the Beloved, but he is not mentioned by name in his own account. The second to follow Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Peter. The next day Jesus calls for Philip to follow him. Philip is from the same city as Andrew and Peter. Philip goes and finds his friend Nathanael and tells him he has found the Messiah the scriptures promised would come. Isn’t this process interesting? One of them found the gospel, who took it to his family and then friends to share the good news. Things haven’t changed since then. This is still how people share the gospel message.

So Nathanael is interested, but is honest in his question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Did you notice that Jesus did not fault Nathanael for this comment? That was, after all, the prevailing sentiment of their day. Jesus states plainly that Nathanael is without guile, meaning he is honest and trustworthy, a man of integrity. So even though Nathanael questioned the premise that the Messiah had just been found coming from Nazareth, he willingly followed him.

The key challenge is the “come and see.” That is what we do when the Savior invites us to follow him or to come unto him. He wants us to come, questions and all, to prove him in all things. Jesus has always told us to prove him by honestly praying for things so he can answer our prayers. Jesus wants to prove himself to us so we will have greater confidence in his promises to us. You don’t exercise faith in something you distrust. Nathanael was honest enough to seek for answers, even though he still had questions.

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NT04-2023 – We Have Found the Messiah

Week 04