‘Come and see’: Finding the long-promised Messiah in our study of the New Testament

Two millennia later, we too are invited to know Christ, to see the fulfillment of ancient and modern prophecy, as we study the New Testament

“Come and see,” an opening narrative in the Gospel of John declares. Philip bids Nathanael to follow “him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth” (John 1:45-46). Nathanael accepts the invitation and finds “the Son of God ... the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Two millennia later, we too are invited to come and see the Christ, the fulfillment of ancient and modern prophecy, as we study the New Testament.

What will we come and see this year in our study of the mortal ministry of the Son of God?

In the Gospel of Matthew, readers will see the long-promised Messiah, “the hopes and fears of all the years” (“O Little Town of Bethlehem”) fulfilled in the life and ministry of the Holy One of Israel. “That it might be fulfilled” (Matthew 1:22; 2:15; 2:23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:35), the Evangelist repeatedly notes, as he stresses that Jesus is indeed “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1), “Emmanuel ... God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

From Mark, we see a God of action, the Great I Am, boldly going forth among men, healing the sick, raising the dead and calming the sea. We sense the urgency of following the Master, as disciplines “straightway” forsake their nets to follow Him when He preached and acted “with authority” (see Mark 1:18-22, 27).

Christ appears on the road to Emmaus, as depicted in Bible Videos. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In Luke’s account, we witness the mortality of the Savior of the world. He condescends as a babe lying in a lowly manger. His ministry, atoning sacrifice and Resurrection reveal that salvation extends to the poor, the outcast and the marginalized. Masterful teachings like the parables of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son extend God’s reach to the distressed, as does His resurrected ministry to two downtrodden disciples walking the lonely road to Emmaus. There, as now, He opens scripture, demonstrates its fulfillment and helps His followers see Him (see Luke 24:31-32).

In the Gospel of John, we find the Word made flesh, the Light of the World, the Door, the Way, the Truth, the Life. In a book of compelling contrasts, Christ is the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the true vine. Like the woman of Samaria to whom the Lord offers living water, we are invited to “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). To the faithful of his day, and ours, John writes his Gospel “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

Peter and John heal a man crippled since birth, as depicted in Bible VIdeos.
Peter and John heal a man crippled since birth, as depicted in Bible VIdeos. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In the Acts of the Apostles and throughout the epistles, we see faithful men and women take up their crosses to boldly declare their witness of the resurrected Lord. “Silver and gold have I none,” Peter emphatically exclaims to the lame man asking alms at the gate of the temple, “but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Paul is “not disobedient unto [his] heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), but, instead, traverses the eastern and northern Mediterranean region, testifying that he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). To Christ’s followers and to us, he and his fellow authors repeatedly pen “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2:2), our “high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11), our “advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1).

Power from our study of the New Testament

While all scripture, like all created things, are “made to bear record of [Christ],” (Moses 6:63), the New Testament “is the centerpiece of scriptural history, just as the Savior Himself should be the centerpiece of our lives,” Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed. “We must commit ourselves to study it and treasure it!” (“The Sabbath and the Sacrament,” April 2011 general conference). As we do so, our lives will be transformed. We will become more like Him of whom every page bears witness.

President David O. McKay (1873-1970), ninth President of the Church, described the transformation that occurs in the lives of those who study about and follow Jesus. “The highest of all ideals are the teachings and particularly the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and that man is most truly great who is most Christlike. What you sincerely in your heart think of Christ will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be.”

President McKay continued: “No person can study this divine personality, can accept His teachings without becoming conscious of an uplifting and refining influence within himself. In fact, every individual may experience the operation of the most potent force that can affect humanity” (April 1951 general conference). That potent force affected Peter and Paul, Martha and Mary in the pages of the New Testament, and it will affect us too as we study Him this year.

President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City during the morning session of the LDS Church’s 187th Annual General Conference on Saturday, April 1, 2017. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In our day, President Russell M. Nelson has made similar promises regarding our study of Jesus Christ. “The more we know about the Savior’s ministry and mission — the more we understand His doctrine and what He did for us — the more we know that He can provide the power that we need for our lives.” President Nelson extended a challenge he had acted upon himself “to consecrate a portion of ... time each week to study everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the standard works.” President Nelson taught, “As we invest time in learning about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, we are drawn to participate in another key element to accessing His power: We choose to have faith in Him and follow Him” (“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” April 2017 general conference).

As our Prophet has taught us, a study of Jesus Christ in the pages of the New Testament this year will invite His power in our lives. At times this study will take work, but it will provide precious blessings. “There is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples,” President Nelson cautioned. “Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee.”

In our lives individually and collectively, we need the power that comes from choosing to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “In a world of some discouragement, sorrow and overmuch sin,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified, “in times when fear and despair seem to prevail, when humanity is feverish with no worldly physicians in sight, I too say, ‘Trust Jesus.’ Let Him still the tempest and ride upon the storm. Believe that He can lift mankind from its bed of affliction, in time and in eternity” (“Look to God and Live,” October 1993 general conference).

As we reach for the Lord’s divine hand through dedicated study of His word, we will be touched by His power. President Nelson promised: “When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him — when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life — you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do. When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you” (“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” April 2017 general conference).

As we “seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written ... the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost ... [will] be and abide in [us] forever” (Ether 12:41). Our witness will echo those who testify of Him. “He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”).

— Scott Esplin is the Brigham Young University dean of religious education.

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