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Some Reflections Upon the Completion of Studying the Four Gospels

Christmas day is five days away. I have just completed Unit 16 in the LDS Study Guide for Home Study Students. At the end of studying the four gospels of the New Testament over a 16 week period, before continuing into the history of the early church, the last question to answer in your study journal is this:

 

‘Of all that was written in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, what story, event, or teaching from the Savior’s mortal ministry has helped you to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Why?’

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A Story, An Event

 

The story and event that has lingered with me and drawn me closer to my Savior is the of time when Jesus learned the news of the death his cousin, John. John He loved. He said of him:

 

And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.

10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John at this time was in prison and he had sent his own disciples so they might learn who Jesus was, was he the Messiah or should they look for another. Jesus reported to them and they returned to John. Not long after John was brutally murdered, beheaded as a gift from Herod to a girl who had danced before him at a party. When Jesus was brought the news His immediate desire was to be alone. We read the following from St. Matthew’s gospel:

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13 ¶When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

15 ¶And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18 He said, Bring them hither to me.

19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

22 ¶And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

 

Simply stated, He put aside His grief, went to work ministering unto a multitude by healing the sick, feeding them and teaching them before at last, as night fell, He could be alone.

 

This bare simple account of Matthew’s hides the feelings and the pathos that would have stirred in His breast. By knowing how Jesus felt about John from His previous declaration of him, this news must have brought such sorrow and maybe some anger too, if He were only human.

When in His final hours Jesus was arrayed in front of Herod not one word would He answer him. Any normal human soul would have longed to viciously assault this feeble excuse of a man, this man who could not swallow a little pride in front of his party guests but ordered the despicable deed to be done. But Jesus simply stood in silence. Perhaps silence was a far greater insult than any words that could have been uttered or screamed.

 

This story reminds me that we are constantly about the Father’s business. When there are those seeking our help, whatever our circumstance, whatever the inconvenience of heart, mind or body, His work should come first. Our time can always wait. But it is a tough lesson to learn.

A Teaching

 

This example of Jesus' leads me into the teaching that has more than ever impressed me during this time of study. In St John’s gospel the reason for Jesus coming to Earth was to ‘do the will of His Father’. He, Jesus was the Word made flesh. Jesus was the mouthpiece of the Father, the one who throughout the Old Testament period was the voice of God to His prophets.

 

In chapter 5 of St John’s gospel Jesus says:

 

19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth:

30 I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

32 ¶There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

36 ¶But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

In the next chapter of John, after the miraculous feeding of thousands, He taught them of the bread that the Father sent from Heaven, even the bread of life, which was Himself.

 

John 6:32 ....my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst

 

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

We who have come to know Jesus Christ and have the hope of a glorious resurrection are given Him of the Father, because:

 

John 3:16  God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

 

Then later, when speaking of His relationship with His sheep he says:

 

John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

 

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30 I and my Father are one.

 

All Jesus did in His ministry was what Jesus saw His Father do and that was to save all who the Father gave Him, those who heard His voice and followed Him.

 

But there is one final thing I have learnt as I have finished this period of Gospel study. This last declaration, ‘I and my Father are one’ is the cause of both much confusion and enlightenment. I have come to appreciate more the Trinitarian view of God, though I still hold to the doctrine revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.

 

The ‘oneness of God’ is central to Christian belief but philosophy has complicated it. Because we sometimes have to find a formula of words to silence the irreverence of a few we are put into a corner and have to find a statement that unifies the faithful and separates those who diminish the God we love. So it was back in 325AD when Arius reduced Jesus Christ from God to little more than an angel. Whilst Christ in His humility did put Himself beneath the Father, as He said above, 'my Father is greater than all' nevertheless the Father did not put His son beneath Himself. They are equal; they were and are, ONE. But are they consubstantial? Here I am out of my depth, but the words that came to me while pondering the oneness of the Trinity, was this:

 

GOD is ONE VOICE.

 

I do not elaborate; I leave it to you who have been willing to read my weak and simple lines to ponder it in your hearts and minds.

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For further reading I recommend Elder Jeffrey R Holland's magestic 2003 talk:

The Grandeur of God