I highly recommend my previous blog posts on the New Testament, regarding these chapters. Especially interesting is my discussion on how the synagogues performed their Sabbath rites. Jesus declaring his Messiahship in the synagogue, quoting Isaiah, becomes a very bold event.
Jesus is Tempted in the Wilderness
There is a pattern set by Jesus in preparing for his mission:
- Receiving the ordinance of baptism
- Receiving the Holy Ghost
- Preparing himself spiritually with prayer and fasting
- Facing his devils early, so he can move forward with confidence in God
As I noted in previous Come Follow Me lessons on Jesus' baptism, we are establishing the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 11). In these two chapters of the Book of Mormon, Nephi and Jesus give us a pattern to the gospel and success in all spiritual and temporal things.
- God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are "One God." While this sounds very Trinitarian, it actually establishes the social relationship between the three separate and distinct deity. We can determine this, because humans are then called upon by Nephi and Jesus to become one with each other and one with the Godhead by following an important pattern.
- This pattern is: Faith in Christ, Repentance, Baptism/Outward ordinances, Receiving the Holy Ghost, Enduring to the End. As with washing one's hair, we must rinse and repeat this pattern.
People in much of the world work their lives, not to care for their families needs, but to get gain and power over all those around them. Convenience matters over substance, as children are now aborted full term, employers pay the lowest wages possible to employees, and the bigger the house the more God must have blessed us (regardless of what we had to do or not do to obtain it). Meanwhile, the poor, sick and afflicted are not our problem. Today, we leave the government to do the dirty work of relieving the sick, the widow, and the poor - so we don't have to do so.
Jesus' time in the wilderness was a time of sanctification for him. He received the Holy Ghost at baptism, and immediately went into the wilderness. Fasting and prayer infused the Holy Ghost within him, making him more spiritually powerful than before. He was able to withstand Satan's snares by using the power of quoted scripture. Such points tell me that Jesus was not just a carpenter's son, but one who had intensely studied Torah and the Prophets all of his days. The scriptures he needed were instantly there for him to use. He didn't need a time out to search his Gospel Library app for a good response to Satan (who also tried using scripture). He prepared. Jesus was a gospel scholar as he began his mission. It is unlikely Joseph and Mary could have taught him so well alone. Clearly, Jesus spend much time in synagogue learning, asking questions, and memorizing scripture - similar to his experience at the temple when he was 12. If Jesus was focused enough to fast for 40 days, clearly he used that same effort to learn the gospel and his place in the work of God.
Christians are very poor at learning the gospel. Perhaps because Latter-day Saints have more scripture, they tend to be somewhat better well versed. Still, there is a difference between being acquainted with scripture and being a gospel scholar. While Satan may not ever directly question us in such a manner, what happens when a friend, family member, teenage child, asks a tough question?
A Prophet Is Not Honored in his Own Country
In preaching and healing in the area around Capernaum, Jesus seems to have had much success in gaining followers. However, when preaching in his own town of Nazareth, the people ask if this is not "Joseph's son?" When Jesus declares himself the Messiah, the town folk insist on seeing proof, miracles as he had done in Capernaum. Because of their disbelief, he notes that prophets are not honored in their own country.
We live in a time of tough questions. The world questions the divinity of Jesus. The world attacks Joseph Smith as a "sincere fraud" at best, and a "false prophet" at worst. Commandments are inconvenient, often because they go against the convenience of modern lifestyles. The Proclamation on the Family pushes against many of those lifestyles today. Revelation is often questioned as whether it really is from God, or just the personal value system of a bunch of old, white men in a stifling patriarchy.
Such things were also brought against Jesus. His revelations, teachings, and even miracles would be questioned. How dare he heal on the Sabbath!!! Prove you are the Messiah by performing a miracle!
Today's Pharisees and Sadducees are actively engaged in promoting their own philosophies. What was once considered right and good, is now condemned as evil. For ancient Israel, a child was alive at the "quickening" (when the baby would kick). How is it that we are debating such things today, with many people celebrating abortion as a great thing? God has established eternal roles for man and woman, and yet the world celebrates inventing new genders, turning children of God into something else. And the prophets are not honored for their bold stance in honoring God and the eternal family.
Acceptable Year of the Lord
According to the Law of Moses, every 50th year was to be a year of Jubilee. This was a year when all debts were forgiven. Anyone sold into slavery during the previous 49 years was set free. It was a time of redemption, especially for the poor. Lands returned to their original owners, ensuring inheritances were not lost. Even the fields were left alone, unplowed, so that the earth could lay fallow and rest that year.
Sadly, Israel had not celebrated a Jubilee in centuries. Isaiah mourned that the princes and wealthy were stealing lands from the poor and grinding widows' faces, with no Jubilee to restore what was rightfully theirs.
Christ was come to bring about a spiritual Jubilee. Through healing the sick, he restored health. By feeding the masses, he restored health. By preaching the gospel of repentance, he opened the door to heaven that the Pharisees had shut tight. As Jesus cleansed lepers, by preparing the atonement, all sinners could be forgiven and become clean again. In providing a universal resurrection, Jesus redeemed all from the grave.