Mark 12:28-34 The Two Great Commandments (see also Matthew 22:34-40)
It is still “Tuesday” of the last week of Jesus’s life, three days before the Passover and His death. A scribe (or a Pharisee, according to Matthew 22:35) approaches Jesus and asks, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (verse 28; this was a matter of academic debate among the scribes, elders, and rabbis):
- What was Jesus’s answer in verses 29-30? (He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5.)
- What did Jesus additionally offer, even though the question was not asked? (verse 31; here He cited Leviticus 19:18.)
- Jesus said that the second great commandment is “like” the first (Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39). In what ways do you think these two great commandments are like each other? Can we truly obey one without obeying the other?
- What do you think it means that “on these two commandments hang all the law and the [teachings of the] prophets”? (Matthew 22:40).
- What was the response to Jesus’s answers? (Mark 12:32-33). What did the Savior then say to him? (verse 34).
Mark 12:41-44 The Widow’s Mite (see also Luke 21:1-4)
On the temple grounds, Jesus spoke of the hypocritical behavior of the scribes, saying that it would lead them to “damnation” (verses 38-40). Then this happened:
- Verse 41 Jesus sees “many that were rich” who were putting “much” into the temple treasury (a place where people could donate funds toward the temple ministry and upkeep).
- Verse 42 Then came “a certain poor widow” who contributed two mites—each worth about 1/64 of a day’s wage for a common laborer.
- Verses 43-44 What did Jesus then say to His disciples?
- According to verse 44, how was the widow’s contribution more (in God’s eyes) than “all they which have cast into the treasury”?
- Does the Lord need our money? What does He want of us, in terms of our contributions to His work?
Joseph Smith—Matthew 1 The Discourse on the Mount of Olives (see also Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21)
It is still three days before the crucifixion. Jesus leaves the temple and crosses the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives, less than a mile away. As He and the apostles walked, Jesus began teaching them what has come to be known as “the Olivet Discourse.” In the New Testament, this discourse is recorded in Matthew 24-25, with smaller portions in Mark 13 and Luke 21.
However, most significantly, the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 24, with more JST changes than any other chapter in the New Testament, is canonized in our Pearl of Great Price as Joseph Smith—Matthew. Additionally, in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16-33, 35-59, the Lord revealed more of this discourse. For our study, we will focus on Joseph Smith—Matthew:
- Note that in Joseph Smith—Matthew, the ordering of verses is different from Matthew 24.
- Also, Joseph Smith—Matthew has over 400 additional words, as compared to Matthew 24.
- It is helpful to use the chapter heading for Joseph Smith—Matthew and divide it is follows:
- “Jesus foretells the impending destruction of Jerusalem” (found in verses 2-21).
- “He also discourses on the Second Coming of the Son of Man, and the destruction of the wicked” (found in verses 1, 21-55; beginning with the second part of verse 21).
Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:2-21 The Destruction of Jerusalem
The disciples/apostles had a specific request of Jesus: “Master, show us concerning the buildings of the temple, as thou hast said—They shall be thrown down, and left unto you desolate” (verse 2):
- What answer did Jesus give, in verse 3? (This prophecy was fulfilled during the Roman invasion and destruction of Jerusalem and much of the land of Israel and its people, in 70 AD.)
- Then Jesus left and went to the Mount of Olives, His disciples following (verse 4). As Jesus and the apostles sit on the Mount of Olives, they have a clear view of the nearby temple.
- In verse 4, the disciples ask two additional questions: “When shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews?” (Mark 13:3 says it was Peter, James, John, and Andrew who asked.) As cited above, the timing of “these things” was to be 70 AD (about 35 years later), but Jesus’s full answer, containing several additional prophecies, is given in subsequent verses.
- The second question in verse 4 is: “What is the sign of thy [second] coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus answers this question in verses 21-55. (Again, the Matthew 24 version does not provide this clear organization of verses.)
- Find in verses 5-10 the three occurrences of the word deceive. This is what Satan does (see also verses 22, 37). Find in verses 5-10 the other things Jesus prophesied that would happen to His followers and others as the Great Apostasy would begin to unfold.
- What is the disciples’ protection through all this, according to verse 11? How do you define “steadfast” for Jesus’s followers in the last days?
- The “abomination of desolation” in verse 12 is defined in the LDS Bible Dictionary as the “conditions of desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, [which] were to occur twice in fulfillment of Daniel’s words [see Daniel 9:27; 11:31 12:11]. The first was to be when the Roman legions under Titus, in AD 70, laid siege to Jerusalem. [Then,] speaking of the last days … Jerusalem again will be under siege [and there will be] latter-day judgments to be poured out upon the wicked wherever they may be.”
- In addition to JS—M 1:11, the Lord declares in verse 12 more regarding the safety of His disciples. What does it mean to you to “stand in the holy place”?
- After speaking of the need to “flee” in verses 13-17, the Lord prophesied in verses 18-19 of “great tribulation” upon the Jews and Jerusalem (see also 1 Nephi 19:13-14; 2 Nephi 6:10; 10:3-6).
- In verse 20 Jesus identifies even more of what can constitute the spiritual and temporal safety of His disciples. What does it mean to you to be among “the elect … according to the covenant”? Read D&C 29:7.
- See also Jesus’s additional counsel in this discourse, as found in Matthew 24:6, 13, 42; Mark 13:33; Luke 21:9, 19, 28, 34, 36; and D&C 45:32, 35, 39, 57.
Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1, 21-37 Prophecies and Signs of the Last Days and of His Coming
Now we move to Jesus’s words relating to the last days:
- Read verses 21-23, 28-30, 32-33 and make a list of the prophesied conditions and events related to our day.
- Which of these things do you feel have already happened, or are beginning to happen? Which are yet to be fulfilled?
- According to verses 25-26, why should we not believe those who say that Jesus has already come? (Note also that verse 36 tells us that all will see His coming; some, presumably, just before their destruction.)
- According to verse 31, a most important prophecy must be fulfilled before the Second Coming (note also the use of the word all in verses 31, 34-35). How are our current prophets leading out in the fulfillment of verse 31? What is your role?
- What is a significant key for us, given in the first part of verse 37? (See also 1 Nephi 15:24; Helaman 15:7-8.)
Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38-55 “Be Ye Also Ready”
Make a list of things in verses 38-55 that can help you be prepared for the Lord’s second coming:
- In your list, what stands out most for you, and why?
- In verses 39-40 we are told that if we are among the elect, we may not know the exact “day and hour” of His coming, but we can “know that he is near.”
- What does it mean to you to “watch” (verse 46).
- Because verse 48 tells us to be “ready,” we may take it to mean that in our readiness, we will not be surprised or caught unawares, as were the people in Noah’s day (see verses 42-43) and in the parable in verse 53. Read also 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6; D&C 68:11; D&C 106:4-5.
Matthew 25:1-30 Parables of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents
Matthew 25 is a continuation of Jesus’s Tuesday discourse. Read verses 1-4:
- In verse 1, we can consider the bridegroom in this parable to be Christ; and the virgins are members of His true church (see Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2004 general conference).
- The virgins are in anticipation of their marriage to the Bridegroom, which will be in the evening hours. They need lamps and oil, but five of them were “foolish” and took no oil with them.
- President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 256; this explains why the wise virgins could not share their oil).
- Read verses 5-13. The Lord’s tarrying and His midnight arrival represent His second coming (again, see Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2004 general conference).
- What is the Savior’s closing exhortation, in verse 13? In what ways can you better increase your personal accumulation of “oil” as you prepare to greet Him? What other lessons do you learn from this parable?
The parable of the talents in verses 14-30 teaches us, as God’s stewards, to use all we have in a responsible way. In Jesus’s day, a “talent” was a coin of great value, but it is also reasonable to consider that the “talents” can represent our abilities, along with any other resource, gift, or blessing we may have. Read verses 14-23 and consider ways to liken these verses to us.
Matthew 25:31-46 The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
When it comes to our judgment before God, what do you think are some of the things He will focus on most?
- Read verses 31-34. It is the nature of sheep to follow and obey; while goats tend more toward scatteri ng; thus, the Lord rewards His sheep and calls them “blessed of my Father.”
- Read in verses 35-40 the Savior’s explanation regarding the “sheep’s” worthiness to enter His kingdom. In this parable, this is at least part of His criteria for being on His right hand. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “Ignoring the needs of others is a serious sin” (October 1989 general conference).
- How would you explain verse 40 in your own words? (see also Mosiah 2:17).
- What kinds of people today are considered by some to be “the least” among mankind? In your study of the Gospels, what have you seen in the Savior’s attention to and treatment of such people?