Monday, March 24, 2014

The Savior's Suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane

A few Sundays ago, Sister Beard gave the most wonderful lesson in Relief Society about the Sacrament!  Her inspired message was just what I needed to hear.  Ever since she gave her lesson, I have been pondering over the Sacrament and the Atonement of the Savior.  I chose to do my scripture study focusing on the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane to help me have a better understanding about these topics.

These are the words and phrases that I found that described the Savior’s suffering in the scriptures and in the Institute manual: 
·       Sorrowful & very heavy
·       “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” 
·       “let this cup pass from me”
·       He prayed that, if it were possible, let the hour pass from Him.
·       “take away this cup from me”
·       “remove this cup from me”
·       He shall suffer temptations, pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
·       His anguish will be so great that he will bleed from every pore.
·       He shall suffer pains, afflictions, and temptations of every kind.
·       He will take upon Him death.
·       He will take upon Him the infirmities and the sins of everyone. 
·       He suffered both body and spirit.
·       Profound grief
·       Indescribable anguish
·       Overpowering torture
·       “He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of all the sins of men…”
·       “He had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there, placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in His agony the blood oozed from His pores.” 
·       “It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore, but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing.” 
·       “In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all of the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict.  The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil.” 
·       “In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world.” 

It is an interesting parallel that the name “Gethsemane” means “oil-press.”  Just as olives are squeezed so that oil can be taken from them, the Savior was also mentally, physically, and in every other way squeezed to the point that drops of blood came out of every pore of his body.  If olives were living beings, they would undergo intense suffering and pain when oil was extracted from them, just as Jesus suffered there in the Garden of Gethsemane.
While the Savior was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciples were sleeping.  The Savior then taught His apostles that they need to watch and pray always because the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.  This example of the Savior to go to Heavenly Father in prayer teaches me that I also should do what it says in Doctrine and Covenants Section 10 Verse 5: “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.”
            The Savior was motivated to “drink the bitter cup” because His will was swallowed up in Heavenly Father’s will.  In other words, the Savior was willing to do whatever it was that Heavenly Father wanted Him to.  That is such a good example to me!  Sometimes I have a hard time accepting what it is that Heavenly Father wants me to do. 
            Even though the Savior initially asked for the bitter cup to be taken from Him, He still submits to His suffering by saying that He will do whatever it is that Heavenly Father asks Him to.  In order to submit one’s will to the Father in this way, no matter how painful or difficult the outcome might be, it would take immense faith and trust in Heavenly Father and in the fact that this period of time here on earth is a small moment in comparison to the eternities. 
            A few months ago, I went through a very hard trial that I asked to be taken from me.  I was told that it would not pass from me, because I needed it to help me be the person that Heavenly Father wanted me to become.  While I have had extremely difficult days as I have gone through this trial, especially knowing that it is a trial that will follow me throughout all my life, I have also felt closer to the Lord because of it. 
            When the Savior’s agony became more intense, His prayer became more earnest.  I definitely feel more like praying when I am suffering than when I am not, because that is when I feel that I need my Heavenly Father’s help the most.  Sometimes, unfortunately, that is why we go through trials – so that we are compelled to be humble and to seek God instead of forgetting to pray consistently.  When I turn to the Lord earnestly in prayer, especially when I am suffering, I almost always feel immediate peace; as though a burden has been lifted from off of me.  I am so grateful for the wonderful blessing of prayer! 

            I think the thing that I can learn from my study about Jesus’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane is that I need to always submit my will to Heavenly Father’s will and that I need to make sure that I am consistently saying my prayers.  By doing those things, I know that I will feel less burdens upon my back and I will also be living a life that is more pleasing to my Heavenly Father.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leadership and Service

As I was studying John Chapter 13, I pondered over service and leadership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  The people of leadership in our church are NOT paid, yet they spend an endless amount of time serving, caring for, and watching over all of us.  They do it not for recognition or for any selfish reason; they serve us because they love us.  While some leaders in the world feel that their only duty is to lead others, the leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints understand that in order to most effectively lead someone, they need to also render service to them.  By doing service to those whom you lead, you show them that you love them.  When someone loves you, it makes it that much easier to love them.
A really good example of this in the scriptures is King Benjamin.  In Mosiah Chapter 2 Verses 10 to 17 (a part of The Book of Mormon), King Benjamin addresses his people by first humbly telling them that he is nothing more than a mortal man.  He then goes on to say that he was chosen to be a ruler over the people so that he may serve them.  He served them not to boast, but because he knew that by serving them, he was also in the service of God. 

I am very grateful to all of the leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!  As General Conference is right around the corner (which is an event that happens every 6 months when we are blessed to hear from the Lord’s prophet and His apostles., I can’t help but be full of gratitude for these leaders for all of the time, love, and service that they give to each and every one of us.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior

Last Thursday, my friend Heather and I had the blessing of being able to go to the temple.  It had been a really long time since I have been to the temple, and the timing could not have been more perfect.  Last week was very difficult for me and going to the temple gave me the peace and assurance that I was in desperate need of.
As we were in the car for the long 2 hour journey to the temple, part of what we talked about was concerning the Second Coming of the Savior.  I shamefully do not know as much about this as I would like to, so I decided to focus my studies over the past few days about it and how I can be better prepared for it. 
One of the things that I need to watch for in order to be prepared to meet the Lord is people that will try to deceive me.  I also need to be paying attention for signs and continue to be prayerful.  I find it interesting that the scriptures say that no one knows when the Second Coming will be.  That really makes it vital that I strive to be my very best each day so that I can hopefully be prepared to meet Him when He comes!

Digging further into the scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants Section 45 Verse 57 talks about the importance of having the Holy Spirit be my guide.  I am grateful for that reminded that I need to strive to listen and obey the promptings that I am given by the Holy Ghost.  I also think that it is very important that I continually strive to do the daily things that we are commanded to do, such as reading my scriptures and praying faithfully.  I also feel that it is important to continue to strengthen my testimony of the Gospel and to share it with all those who will listen.  When I attended the temple on Thursday, I felt the Spirit burn so strongly inside of me; more than I ever have before.  I have a very strong testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church, and it is my hope and prayer that I can do the very best that I can so that I can be in the Lord’s presence once again.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Last Week of the Savior's Life

When I was attending BYU-Idaho, one of the weekly devotional speakers talked about the last week of the Savior’s life, and I have always wanted to study it more in depth.  For that reason and more, my scripture study focus for this week was about the events that occurred during the Savior’s last 7 days of life and on the day of His resurrection.  Below is the commentary from the Institute manual about what happened on each day.  

First Day

Jesus arrived at Jerusalem. He secured a donkey and a colt, and rode through the city gates into Jerusalem. A “very great multitude” who knew him to be “the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” placed palm branches in his way and greeted him with a hosanna shout: “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matthew 21:9.)

He went directly to the temple, and according to Mark, took note of what he saw and retired to Bethany for the night (Mark 11:11).

Second Day

Early the next morning Jesus went again to the temple and made a decisive thrust calculated to challenge the Jewish religious leadership. He drove from the outer court area of the temple those who were trading and making money exchange from foreign currency. The money exchange was apparently sanctioned by the Jewish leaders; and by preventing the merchandizing, Jesus was in effect challenging their leadership. The issue was clear: Was the temple to be a place of worship of God or of pursuit of gain? As he cleared the temple courts, he said, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13.)

Again that evening Jesus returned to Bethany.

Third Day

Jesus’ wrath in the temple raised the issue of authority, and the priests were not about to let the incident pass. As Jesus came to the temple the next day, the priests challenged him: “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” (Matthew 21:23.) Jesus responded by relating a series of parables that offended the religious leaders of the Jews. The scribes and Pharisees challenged him again; Jesus openly denounced them and condemned them as hypocrites.

From this point on, Jesus did not teach the public, but only the Twelve.

Perceiving that Jesus had gained the upper hand in their confrontations, the Jewish leaders consulted again how they might bring about Jesus’ death. They would have to move quickly before the Passover to avoid a riot, however, since Jesus had become very popular with the Jewish people. How to bring about an arrest without provoking crowd reaction was the problem. An unexpected turn of events that took place abetted their plot. One of Jesus’ own disciples offered to betray him.

Fourth Day

Jesus well knew of the plot. The fourth day was spent outside the city, perhaps at Bethany. The record of the gospel writers is silent on the proceedings of this day.

Fifth Day

Jesus had arranged to commemorate the Passover meal in a home privately reserved for him and the Twelve. Following the Passover meal, Jesus introduced a new ordinance, the sacrament, which presaged his atoning sacrifice. He then prophesied of his death and indicated who would betray him.

After some instructions, Jesus offered his great intercessory prayer. Then, with the eleven (Judas had left), Jesus led them outside the walls to a familiar spot—Gethsemane. Then taking Peter, James, and John with him, he went further into the Garden where he then left those three and went off by himself to pray. (See Matthew 26:36–39.) There he pled with his Heavenly Father to “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39.) The cup did not pass and Jesus suffered “the pain of all men” (D&C 18:11), an agony so excruciating that it caused him to bleed at every pore (D&C 19:18).

Some time later he rejoined his apostles and indicated that his betrayer was at hand. While he spoke, an armed band led by Judas approached Jesus to seize him. Without resistance Jesus submitted. Jesus was brought to an illegal trial that night.

Sixth Day

The Jewish leaders now faced another problem. They were not content that Jesus should be put to death; they also wanted to discredit him before his own people. To do this, the leaders arranged to have Jesus charged with two crimes. The first was blasphemy, a capital offense under Jewish law. He was unanimously convicted of this charge solely on the evidence that he had said that he was the Son of God. (See Matthew 26:57–66.) Such a conviction would discredit Jesus before the Jews, but the rulers knew well that they could not carry out the death penalty; only the Roman governor could pronounce this. Therefore, they had to find political indictment against Jesus. The surest means of securing this was the charge of sedition against the state, for he had claimed to be a “king of the Jews.” Though Pilate’s examination found Jesus guiltless of the charge, the Jewish leaders had incited the crowd to “destroy Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20.) Fearing a demonstration, Pilate gave in to the clamor to crucify Jesus, and the death sentence was pronounced.

And so Jesus was executed by the brutal Roman practice of crucifixion. Later that afternoon he voluntarily gave up his spirit. The next day, which began at sundown, was the Passover, and the Jewish leaders abhorred the idea that a man should remain on a cross on the Sabbath, particularly the paschal Sabbath. Before nightfall, Jesus’ body was removed from the cross and buried in a sealed tomb by two revering disciples.

Seventh Day

This was the Jewish Sabbath. Jesus’ body remained in the tomb, but in spirit he ministered in the realm of departed spirits. (See 1 Peter 3:18–20.)

Day of the Resurrection

Had the gospel ended with Jesus’ burial, there would be no gospel story, no “good news.” The great message of these testators is that Jesus was risen and was seen again by many witnesses. On the first day of the week, the most memorable Sunday in history, Jesus Christ emerged alive from the tomb, and appeared before Mary. The testimony of these witnesses constitutes the gospel story, the “good news.”

“These are written, 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.)