Yesterday, we all ate way too much Easter candy and colored eggs. Here are our respective favorites.
Too many kids around here are getting too old and jaded to hunt for eggs, so we invited some of the neighbor kids over to add to the fun.
Today, we all went to church. It was wonderful to sing Easter hymns. I sang in the choir, not because I am really that great of a singer, but because with lots of practice, I can make a contribution and because I really love to sing in church. My girls looked adorable, but I forgot to get a picture before everyone changed after church, so the guys have to provide all the beauty this week. I think they do a pretty good job looking good, my two handsome men!
Stan and Michael came home after sacrament meeting because Michael was sniffing and coming down with a cold. I dropped them off at home, took their picture quick and headed back to church.
I gave one of the talks this morning. I enjoyed learning more about the Savior. I thought it was pretty funny that my dad and I both spoke on the same topic this week, so I mentioned it and then the brother who spoke after me mentioned that his daughter was also speaking in her congregation in Mapleton, UT today. I thought that was even funnier. Maybe I'm easily amused :)
Anyway, here is my talk. Happy Easter!
My dad and I are both speaking in our respective wards this Easter on the same topic, the last week of the Savior’s life. I tried to get him to write my talk and he said, “I was going to try to get you to write MY talk.”
The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles says, speaking of the Savior, “His life…is central to all human history…”
The last week of the Savior’s mortal life was THE most central. This was the time that prophets had been looking forward to since Adam, the time pointed to by the sacrifices of the law of Moses, foreshadowed by Jonah’s three days in the belly of the whale and described in Isaiah, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
John says of all the things that Jesus Christ did, “…if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written…” and of all the Savior’s mortal life, this last week was also the MOST eventful. We can’t read every parable He taught that week, or cover all His steps, but we can consider the highlights of Jesus’ last week. It started in Bethany. He spent the Sabbath having dinner with his friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, who had recently been miraculously raised from the dead. During the meal, Mary anointed the Savior’ feet with costly ointment, and wiped them with her hair, which to me seems so tender and gentle, preparatory to His death and burial.
The next morning, Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, clothed in white, riding on a donkey, as prophesied. In ancient Israel, kings rode donkeys as a symbol of kingship and of peace. Horses were considered animals of war. The Savior is the Prince of Peace.
A huge multitude met Him and recognized Him as the Messiah. They laid their clothes down to cover His path, as befitting a King. They waved palm fronds to welcome Him to the Holy City and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” Son of David is a sacred title reserved for the Messiah. This was a joyful, exciting event, where the Savior was recognized by those gathered as the long awaited Savior. It was so impressive, the whole city wondered who Jesus was. The Pharisees looking on were upset by the glory given to Jesus and they told Him to rebuke His disciples. He answered, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” This triumphal entry was a symbol of His Second Coming, when He will come as conqueror, King of King and Lord of Lords. He was willing to submit to all things, but the beginning of the week before His death is a reminder that He is the anointed One and that all will submit to Him.
As rightful King, Jesus proceeded to the temple and cleansed it. It is interesting to note that three years earlier, when He cleansed the temple, He accused the money changers of defiling His Father’s house. This time, as the openly declared Messiah, He said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Always compassionate, He healed the blind and the lame assembled there.
He spent evenings in Bethany, returning to Jerusalem during the next few days. On one of the mornings, as He traveled back into Jerusalem, he was hungry and saw a fig tree with leaves on it. The way figs grow in Palestine, fig trees have fruit when they have leaves. Even the unripe fruit is good to eat, so by having leaves, the fig tree was saying to the world, I am fulfilling my purpose, but it really wasn’t. It was hypocritical and unfruitful. The Savior cursed the tree, saying, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever.” The Savior usually used His power to heal rather than to destroy. What did the fig tree do to be the recipient of the Savior’s destructive power? It appeared to be fruitful when it wasn’t.
Jesus continued on to Jerusalem and taught in the temple. Various groups came and questioned Him during this time and He confounded them all and taught many wonderful lessons, including the parables of the two sons, the wicked husbandmen, the wedding of the king’s son, and the widow’s mite. At this time, He also taught, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
After the temple, the Savior went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives. There they asked Him to explain His prophesies about Jerusalem and the end of the world. He foretold both the destruction of Jerusalem and the calamities that will precede the Second Coming. While foretelling difficulties ahead, He reassured His disciples that He will indeed return with power and great glory. He also told them, and us, how to prepare for His coming with the parables of the ten virgins, the talents and the separation of the sheep and the goats.
During this last week, we have seen that many of the Savior roles were emphasized, that of King, Teacher, Judge, and Ruler, but as we near the end of the week, His role as the Lamb of God, who would suffer and die for our sins became first and foremost.
Thursday, the day before Jesus was crucified, Judas plotted with the chief priests and Pharisees to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. That same day, Jesus gave His disciples instructions about where they would eat the Passover meal together.
During the Passover meal eaten with His disciples, Jesus revealed that it would be Judas who would betray Him and He instituted the sacrament, the ordinance we take part in each week to remember His great sacrifice for us. He said farewell to His disciples, teaching them to care for one another, giving them a new commandment to love one another as He had loved them. He also set a truly meaningful example of that love and service as He washed His disciples’ feet. He reminded them that He would not leave them comfortless, but would send the Holy Ghost to be with them. Jesus also taught His disciples what they needed to do to avoid being unfruitful, like the hypocritical fig tree He cursed earlier in the week. He said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
At the conclusion of Last Supper, the Savior prayed these beautiful words, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
The Savior then went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed and agonized for each of us. He offered Himself as our advocate, our Savior. He suffered so intensely that great drops of blood fell like sweat.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive, the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane. …“We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.”
He rose from His prayer and woke His disciples. As He spoke to them, Judas approached with armed men and officers. Jesus asked them, “Whom seek ye?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He answered, “I am He,” and they fell backward. Jesus was not running or hiding. He was in control and He was allowing Himself to be taken. Trying to defend Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of one of the men. The Savior’s response was, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” He went to His death willingly.
First He was taken before Caiaphus and charged with sedition, or promoting rebellion, but the charge was elevated to blasphemy, the most serious charge under Jewish law, when Jesus answered that He indeed was the Son of God. This charge carried a punishment of death, but since the power to punish someone with death was not granted to the Jewish leaders under Roman rule, they delivered Him to Pilate for trial. The charge was now high treason, the most serious crime under Roman law. He was falsely accused of forbidding people to give tribute to Caesar and of making Himself a king. Pilate, not finding Him guilty was about to release Him when he was told that Jesus was from Galilee. Pilate decided to send Jesus to Herod for trial, as Herod was the ruler of that province. Jesus, refusing to answer any of Herod’s questions was mocked by Herod and his men, arrayed in a purple robe and sent back to Pilate. Pilate tried to have Jesus scourged and released, but the multitude would not allow that and demanded that He be crucified.
The Roman soldiers then scourged him, dressed Him as a king with a crown of thorns, spit on him, smote and mocked Him. He truly did descend below all things and with His stripes we are healed.
After this abuse, He was led to Golgotha to be crucified. At about 9 am, Jesus was nailed to the cross under a sign that Pilate had had written on the title, “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS”
Despite all He had suffered at their hands, the Savior pled for the Father’s forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified Him. Even in His pain, He was concerned with His mother’s care. There was a great earthquake and the veil of the temple was rent. Darkness covered the earth. And about three in the afternoon, after hanging on the cross for about six hours, the Savior said, “I thirst,” and was given vinegar to drink. He also uttered the heartbreaking words, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” He had been left by His disciples, denied by Pater and finally, even His Father’s comfort was gone.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “That the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.”
Jesus, realizing He had completed the work He was offered Himself for, was able to say, “It is finished,” and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
The soldiers, finding Him dead, pierced His side. Jesus was quickly buried as the Sabbath sundown was approaching in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.
While His family and followers mourned on that next Sabbath Saturday, Jesus taught the spirits in prison. He did not appear to the Nephites until He was resurrected, but during the three days of darkness in the Americas, before He rose again, He did speak to them saying, “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.”
And then, the beautiful Sunday morning, that we are celebrating today, came and Jesus rose again.
Matthew records, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen…”
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.