Easter Scripture Study

I can’t believe that it is already March…and that Easter is upon us.

I love this time of year. The weather is perfect, soon the Orange trees will be blossoming. Best of all, I love thinking about the Savior – His life and His atonement.

Easter Scripture Study

Easter Scripture Study

So…to help you get in the spirit of Easter, I’ve created an Easter Scripture Study Series. (This is the same scripture study series I created last year, with some corrections).

You can download it here – Easter Scripture Study Series

This Easter Scripture Study Series follows some of the key events (though not exactly in chronological order) of the Jesus Christ’s final week in His mortal ministry, then His death, and Resurrection.

There are 10 assignments that will probably take you anywhere between 10-20 days to complete. The assignments include:

  • The Anointing at Bethany
  • The Triumphal Entry
  • The Cleansing of the Temple/Cursing of the Fig Tree
  • Teachings in the Temple
  • The Olivet Discourse
  • The Last Supper
  • Gethsemane
  • Betrayal, Judgment, Denial, and Abuse
  • The Death of the Lamb of God
  • The Empty Tomb/Risen Lord

So…check out the scripture study series, and learn more about the Savior this Easter time. Let me know how your studies go. I will also be posting my own thoughts of each assignment throughout the month, too.

Thanks! I hope you enjoy!

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Easter Scripture Study – The Empty Tomb: Christ is Risen

Empty Tomb of Christ, by James Emery (click image for source)

Find the entire Easter Scripture Study here.

Today is a good day. After ten days of studying the events of the last week of Christ’s life – where each event seemed to get progressively worse for Him, we are finally to the event of His Resurrection. This is what it is all about.

Finding the Empty Tomb
Knowledge of the resurrected Lord begins when a group women — including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary — went to the garden tomb to anoint the Savior’s body. It was the first day of the week, and the arrived at the rising of the sun. (See Mark 16:2.)

When they arrived at the sepulchre, the stone had been rolled away, and the body of Jesus was gone. The women were confused. They saw two angels who asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?

I think that it is important to ask this question to myself. When I think about my Savior, do I remember that He is living, or do I seek Him among the dead? Do I remember that he is accessible now. One of the ways that I seek Him is through the scriptures. That is important, but it is only a part of it. In fact, if I go to the scriptures without having the Spirit, then I am seeking for Christ among the dead. To find Christ, I should read the scriptures – with a prayer in my heart. I should pray. I should serve others. Can you think of a better way to infuse our lives with the Savior – than by doing the things that He did: study the gospel, pray, and serve others?

It is easy to forget that we believe in a living God. In every way Christ is life.

  • Anciently, this lesson was taught when Elijah challenged the priests of Baal. No matter what they did, their God could not save them. In hindsight, we can see why. Their God was their own creation. Baal was like an imaginary friend – perhaps a comfort at time, and easy to confuse with reality. But, in the end – He was imaginary Baal couldn’t save them because Baal didn’t exist. He was dead, and belief in Baal resulted in death. Elijah, however, called on the Lord – in the most improbable of circumstances, and the Lord came. His fire consumed everything. The people responded:

    “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.” – 1 Kings 18:39

  • Christ, because He is living, can offer us life.

    “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

    And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;” – 2 Nephi 2:27-28

    Christ is the living water, the bread of Life, the beginning and the end, the life, the resurrection. He is the I AM. Throughout the scriptures, we are taught that He is living. The angels gently remind the women in the tomb:

    “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

    Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” – Luke 24:6-7

    The Spirit began to speak to their souls, and they remembered the words of the Savior. Even if they didn’t fully understand what this meant – that the Lord was Resurrected and Perfected, that He had overcome death and sin – they began to remember, and they ran to tell the apostles that Jesus’s body was gone.

    Mary Sees the Resurrected Lord
    This is probably my favorite story in all of the scriptures.

    Mary and the Resurrected Christ

    You may be familiar with the story: Mary is at the tomb, weeping. She double checks the sepulchre. It is empty. He is not there. As she weeps, Jesus comes. She doesn’t know that it is Him. She assumes that he is the gardner, and asks to know where the body of Christ had been moved to. Jesus answers:

    “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.” – John 20:16

    I hope that I can be like Mary. I hope that one day, when Jesus calls me, I know Him.

    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – John 10:27

    I hope to be like Mary: that the Savior knows me by name, and when He calls me, I fall at His feet, saying Master.

    This Easter, I hope to remember that I believe in a living God, that He can be found as I seek Him with the Spirit. I hope to remember not only the pain He suffered, but the Hope He offers. I hope to be like Mary, a humble servant of Christ, who knows her master.

    ***
    I’m grateful for this time of year, and I want to add my testimony of the Savior.

    While I haven’t had very extravagant or dramatic experiences with the Lord, I have had experiences with Him that speak to my soul personally. I know that He loves me. I have felt His guidance, love, and support throughout my life.

    As I have sought Him – through scripture study, prayer, and covenant keeping, I have found Him. I wish that I was good at having His Spirit to be with me all of the time, but I know that it is because of my own shortcomings that I lose that contact from time to time.

    I write this knowing that there are probably some people who may doubt the existence of a God, a living God, and I can’t sit and persuade anyone that He exists. I can only bear my testimony: that I have felt His love for me. I have seen miracles occur in my life. That, as I have studied the gospel, His Spirit has enlightened my mind and uplifted my heart.

    I know that He came to the earth, lived, died, and lived again – for each of us. He loves us. He wants to be able to call each of us by name as He did Mary. I know that He delights in blessing each of us with His best blessings.

    I know that He loves us enough to make it possible for us to covenant with Him. He blesses us with His Spirit and Power. I know that He wants us to be happy. All of what He did in His life, though laced with so much pain, was done so that we could be happy.

    This Easter, I want to add my own testimony to so many others that have been given: I know that Christ lives. I know He loves me.

    ***
    Happy Easter! Please share your testimony of the Savior! If you are searching, find out more about the Savior here.

    ***
    Download the entire Easter Scripture Study Series here

Easter Scripture Study – The Death of the Lamb of God

The Crucifixion of the Savior

For the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here

This is a pretty sad point. I mean, it seems like the entire last week of Christ gets progressively more depressing. You start with the high of the triumphal entry, but then the rest of the week kind of goes downhill. There are good parts (Christ’s healing the blind at the temple, the Widow’s Mite, Mary washing Christ’s feet, and the Last Supper), but it feels like the events get heavier as we get closer to the point we’re at today: The Death of the Lamb of God.

Okay…in general, this concept is too huge to put into one blog post. As usual! But there are three things.

One
Watch this video…

I love the Bible Videos that the LDS Church has put out. They are really good. I feel like they aid in understanding the scriptures because they help to bring us to the event. Yet they are tastefully done. So, check it out.

Two
I’m struck by Simon the Cyrenian. He was passing through and happened to be along the path where Christ was carrying His cross. Simon was compelled by the soldiers to carry the cross of the Savior.

I don’t know much about Simon. I’m not a Bible Scholar. I am just touched by this because I can only imagine bearing the cross of the Savior. Since He was only a passer-by, it seems like he wasn’t there to mock or judge the Savior. He just happened to be there at that time.

Can you imagine helping anyone bear their cross? Then…imagine if you found out that you helped to carry the cross of the Savior?

I have been baptized, and I have covenanted to be willing to “…bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;…”Mosiah 18:9 For Simon, the Cyrenian, he helped to lighten the Savior’s burden.

Obviously, there isn’t much I can do to physically lift the load of the Savior, but I think that I can be like Simon when I help to lift other’s “crosses.” Elder Maxwell put it best:

“Part of discipleship should be to become high-yield, low-maintenance members of the Church,” – Neal A. Maxwell

Three
I am struck by what I consider to be the most difficult part of Christ’s atonement: being Forsaken of God. Of course, I know that Gethsemane was difficult for Christ. He asked that His cup be taken away. This suffering made Him bleed at every pore. I know that He needed to go through it, so that we could repent and return to Heavenly Father.

Then, there was the mockery, the scourging, and the crucifixion itself. I can only imagine that it was horrible. He went through this for us, too. And somehow, the knowledge that the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane and on the Cross helps to comfort me when I suffer.

But, the hardest event seems like it was when God forsook Christ. All along, Christ had the help of Heavenly Beings and companionship with His Father. But, while He hung on the Cross at Calvary, He was left alone.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland teaches:

“Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” 16

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”? 17

With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, 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.” – Jeffrey R. Holland

I’m grateful, also, that Christ submitted to this loneliness. I have felt it. As Elder Holland explains, we have all sinned. We have all felt the loss of the Spirit. And, as mortals, we are all separated from God. We can only be united with Him through Christ. The Savior had to be “forsaken” to understand our plight, and because He descended below all, He is able to ascend above all. Because He has experienced this – He can empathize with us perfectly, and He can save us.

And, as I write this, the other idea comes over my mind: He chose this.

Nephi explains Christ – and everything He did – so well:

“He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.” – 2 Nephi 26:24

Everything Christ did was for our benefit. It was for your benefit, my benefit. As depressing as things went for Him in the last week of His life, He did it for us, and we can rejoice.

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Easter Scripture Study – Gethsemane (A Scripture Chain)

For today’s scripture study assignment, I thought that it would be nice to do something a little different. Instead of studying only the scriptures recounting Christ’s experience at Gethsemane, I thought it would also be cool to read a few other scriptures of the prophecies and testimonies of Christ’s time in Gethsemane. It really helps us to understand the magnitude and mercy of this event.

The Garden of Gethsemane (from lds.org)

Find the Easter Scripture Study Series here.

Scripture One – Mark 14:32-39

“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.” – Mark 14:32-39

Here, the Lord begins His work at Gethsemane. He takes Peter, James, and John. It seems like everyone is feeling a little bit heavy and depressed. Some of the apostles are doubting Christ’s Messiahship. I can understand why…they probably thought he was going to save them physically – not in the way that He did. Even though we have the advantage of seeing the Atonement from hindsight – with all of the teachings of the prophets – it is still really hard to comprehend.

Jesus is burdened by the pains of our sins, sicknesses, weaknesses, and infirmities. He was downtrodden by the mortal experience while in the Garden. I can’t imagine it. While Christ suffers, He asks that His cup be taken away from Him – that He wouldn’t have to continue on suffering and going through with the atonement.
Two things: 1. The difficulty of this event was so horrible that even Christ, the Literal Son of God didn’t want to do it.
2. It is okay to ask to be relieved from our trials. Christ asked. Of course, he added the caveat: nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt. So – He had faith to go through with what the Father’s will was. I like this because it is important to know that it is okay for me to pray to be relieved from difficulty and trial. Even the Savior did.

Scripture Two – Luke 22:41-46

“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,

And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” – Luke 22:41-46

Again, a record of the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane. In this account, we also learned that Christ was suffering so much that His sweat was like drops of blood…horrible. Yet, as we know, He sought help. The Savior, the Son of God, the One who could control the elements, The Creator of This earth prayed. When completing the atonement, Christ didn’t walk on water or turn water into wine. He simply prayed. His prayer enabled Him to finish this work. Oh, How praying rests the weary!I usually underestimate the power of prayer.

Scripture Three – Mosiah 3:7

And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.” – Mosiah 3:7

The Lord is acquainted with our temptations, pain, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. In some ways, this is the most comforting knowledge that I have about the Savior. What kind of Savior would He be if He didn’t understand what it was like to be tempted, hurt, or hungry? I can’t imagine trusting a Lord that didn’t know what it was like to be tired.

As sad as it is to see the Savior suffer in this way, I’m so grateful that He did.
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Scripture Four – Doctrine and Covenants 19:18

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:18

This is just such a good scripture. It is Christ recounting what His experience was like. This scripture is one of the reasons I always feel inspired to repent – even when repentance is hard, I know that it is nothing in compared to suffering for a committed sin.

Scripture Five – Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5

Instead of writing something, I encourage you to listen to this:

Scripture Six – Alma 7:11-12

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” – Alma 7:11-12

This is one of my favorite scriptures about the Savior, His suffering in Gethsemane, and the way we benefit from It.

We see what he went through, and then Alma teaches us why: “…that He may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Succor = to run to support.

I have experienced this support from my Savior. Even if I haven’t been relieved of some of the pains that I have had to experience, I have been comforted by Christ. And He is able to succor us perfectly because he understands us perfectly. I know that Jesus Christ loves each of us. It is difficult for me to imagine the atonement. It hurts my brain. For me, thinking about the power of the atonement is not unlike thinking about space…I’m overwhelmed by how amazing it is and how small I am. Yet I know that Jesus Christ truly suffered for me and all of us. I don’t understand how, but I know that He did it. I know that He loves me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me. If you do not know that God loves you and the the Savior loves you, I encourage you to seek Him and open your eyes to His love.

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Easter Study – The Last Supper

Click here for the Easter Scripture Study Series.

The Last Supper, by Carl Bloch. (Click Image for Source)

The Last Supper – there are so many amazing lessons to learn from it. You could study it for weeks. There is the symbolism of the Passover. Christ fits into it as He is the lamb that was slain for all of us. Then, there is the actual Last Supper that Christ eats – as He institutes a new ordinance: the sacrament. The Lord is the sacrifice to end all blood sacrifice, so He teaches the apostles to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of the sacrifice that Christ will make. There is Judas, who will lift his heel against the Lord. Christ washed the apostles feet and taught them to love and serve one another. Christ prayed for them…The Last Supper – can you imagine having been there? Watch this video…It will help you to imagine it.

There is too much to say, of course…so I want to bring up one thing that I’ve been thinking about concerning the Last Supper. John records several chapters worth of teachings that the Lord gave to the apostles that evening. He is trying to prepare them for the coming events – when He will be crucified. Even though He will be resurrected, He will not spend much more time with them. The apostles will soon be given the work to do, while Christ reigns in Heaven with His Father. The apostles seem a little anxious at the prospect of Christ leaving them.

I think that I would be anxious, too. I don’t know what it is like, to spend time, physically, in the presence of the Savior. I can only imagine that it was nice! It would have been hard to be an apostle in this situation: The Last Supper was so intimate. He had lovingly washed their feet. They were worshipping together, and He is now teaching them that He will be leaving them. I can’t imagine it, but I think that I would have been a little worried, too.

The Lord senses their concern, and He reassures them: even though He won’t be with them anymore, they won’t be alone.

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” – John 14:16-18

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:26-27

The Lord will be giving the apostles the gift of the Holy Ghost. He teaches them about the power of the Comforter. Even though the Savior is not with them, they are not alone. The Lord perceives that they are a little troubled and afraid, and He comforts them with His words. Soon, His Spirit will also comfort them – which is the true source of peace and comfort. The Holy Ghost is such a powerful gift and blessing in our lives.

We cannot have this gift without a little qualifying work. In John 15:1-11, Jesus teaches the allegory of the vine. If we want to have His spirit with us, then we need to abide in Him. We need to love Him and keep His commandments. Then, we qualify for the Spirit; then, we can feel the peace and comfort that we seek.

In John 17, the Lord gives the intercessory prayer. As I think about it, I find this to be so incredibly humbling. Christ put so much energy into us – into you and me. It is because of His love for us that we could have the gift of the Spirit. We aren’t even qualified to receive it from God without Christ. It is when we take on His name through baptism that we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Then, the comforter can be our constant companion. We need the Lord. I love that we have a record of His prayer for us. We have a record of how humbly He approaches Heavenly Father. I’m amazed and humbled by Christ’s gentle kindness, humility, and complete selflessness. It is through these chapters that I feel His love for me.

Even though the Last Supper would have been a pretty sad time – the suffering and death of Christ was at the door, there is so much beauty: in Christ’s service, His teachings, and His prayers.

As Easter approaches, I hope to do more to abide in Christ, serve and love others, and qualify for the Spirit of the Lord. I hope to be more reverent at Church each week when I partake of the Sacrament – commemorating the Lord’s Last Supper and the covenant I’ve made with Him.

I’m grateful that I have been blessed to covenant with the Lord and receive blessings that help me through my life. I hope to remember and truly internalize Christ’s comforting words:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

What is something you find especially striking about the Lord’s Last Supper? What do you do to keep the lessons taught from this event fresh in your heart and life?

***

Easter Study – The Olivet Discourse

For the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here.

After Jesus teaches the Pharisees at the temple, He goes with His apostles to the Mount of Olives. They are wondering what He means by the destruction of the temple, the destruction of the Jews, His coming, and the end of the world.

Olivet Discourse

I’m not a bible scholar, so I don’t understand everything that the apostles know or understand, but it seems to me that they are still having a hard time grasping the fact that He will be dying a few days later; that His life with them was His coming to the earth where He would overcome sin and death through the atonement and resurrection, but that it wouldn’t be the end of the world or righteousness. That would happen later.

I have a feeling that they were aware of some of the prophecies, but it is important to remember that Christ – dying and then being resurrected – was unprecedented. I can’t see why they would understand it perfectly.

Signs of Christ’s Coming
Throughout Matthew 24 (or Joseph Smith—Matthew) the Lord gives various signs of what the world will be like before and when He comes.

One of them sticks out to me. He talks a lot about being deceived:

“…Take heed that no man deceive you;” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5

“For many shall come in my name, saying—I am Christ—and shall deceive many;” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:6

“And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many;” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:9

“For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22

The part of the warning that really stands out to me is the idea of being deceived. Have you ever been lied to? I have. Sometimes the lies are little – no big deal. Other times, they are big and I end up believing…There are lies that I’ve believed for years. So, when I see this warning: not to be deceived, I feel a little puzzled at first. How?

Jesus tells us the answer:

“And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived,…” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37

We need to treasure the word of God. Not only that, but we need to be sure that when we do treasure up His word, we let it infuse our lives with the Spirit. It is through the Holy Ghost that we will know truth. We can also rest assured that the Holy Ghost will not testify to something meant to deceive us because the Holy Ghost cannot bear false witness. So…in order to have the Holy Ghost in our lives, we need to treasure the word of God: learn it, know it, and live it.

Jesus reiterates the nature of His second coming by relating the parables of the fig tree, the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats.

I’m not going to reiterate these parables here, but I will say that you should check out this post about the ten virgins.

In parables of the virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats, there are examples of people who were prepared for the coming of the Lord and those who weren’t prepared for it. None of the people knew when their master would return. They just knew that one day the bridegroom would come, there would be a reckoning of talents, or the sheep would be divided from the goats. Those who were prepared for the coming of the Lord had done work in one way or another. They were wise. They may not have had as much fun, but they were ready when it mattered. None of them were deceived.

As Easter nears, I hope to do a better job remembering that not only did Christ live, die, and then live again for me, but that He will return. The time before His return will be trying. Many people will try to deceive (and may even accomplish this) the very elect. I don’t want to be deceived. I want to keep my eye on the Savior – the Word, and let His Spirit infuse my life, so that I will understand, recognize, and rejoice in truth and be ready when He comes again.

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Easter Study – Teachings in the Temple

I don’t have much time or energy to post this right now, but I wanted to write a little something about today’s scripture… (for the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here.)

Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over Tribute Money, by Gustav Dore

Click here for source.

While in the temple, the Lord directed some of His teachings to the Pharisees after they asked the Savior what the source of His authority was. Interesting, really, when you think of it. They claimed to have authority because they were leaders of the Jews, and where did they get their authority? From Jehovah? Christ was Jehovah. they proclaimed to be members of the House of Israel, awaiting the Messiah, their God. And when Jesus came, not only did they not recognize Him, but they hated him. It is a horrible paradox. There is too much I don’t understand about the Pharisees, so I can only guess. But we don’t need to know much about them – we can still learn from them.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” – Matthew 23:27-28

The Pharisees look great on the outside, yet within they are horribly disgusting. They have no integrity, are not honest, and are judgmental. In some ways it seems like their sins are worse than someone who is at least honest about his sinning (not sure if this is making sense).

I think that the reason why the rebuking of the Pharisees really hits home to me is because it is easy to be like a Pharisee. It is easy to become proud of supposed righteousness. We begin to get so caught up with our own “goodness” that we begin to judge others, make assumptions, strain at gnats, and swallow camels. I know that I have a tendency to do this.

The Pharisees were completely void of Charity. They were absolutely un-Christlike. Even though proclaimed to know that gospel, hung out at the temple, wore broad phylacteries, they didn’t have the gospel written on their hearts. The Pharisees sacrificed their time and paid tithes, but they forgot the weightier matters of the law. Those weightier matters are the ones that matter!

The Pharisees were like the wicked husbandmen, corrupt and bent on usurping power from the Lord of the vineyard. The Lord tells the Pharisees the parable:

“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” – Matthew 21:33-39

This is just the saddest parable! It is mostly sad because it directly reflects what happened with the Lord’s kingdom and some of the wicked Jews and People of Ancient Israel. They killed the prophets, and they crucified the Lord – their God.

So…I don’t want to be like that. I know that I have the gospel, and consider myself to be a member of the House of Israel now. How do I ensure that I don’t fall into the same trap as the Pharisees? I have to work hard to keep my inner vessel clean. I have to repent and pray daily. I need to be willing to look inside of myself and identify my sins and do all I can to repent and be forgiven.

I have to admit, I don’t know the hearts and thoughts of the ancient Pharisees. Perhaps they misunderstood and truly thought that Christ was an impostor. Maybe they meant well in their vehement hatred of Him. This idea is also problematic for me, though. How do you go about worshipping a God, then unable to recognize Him when He comes?

Again, it goes back to keeping our inner vessels clean. If we stay close to the Lord, keep our hearts pure and full of purpose, then we can have the Spirit to be with us. Then we will not be deceived. We will receive witness of Christ. When we have the Spirit, we will receive gentle correction as needed, we will be able to have our hearts full of God’s love, and we will not be like the Pharisees.

So…this Easter, I’m going to try to remember the teachings that Christ gave at the temple to the Pharisees. I’m going to do what I can not to be like them, but to keep my covenants with inward integrity and devotion.

What do you do to keep yourself from being like a Pharisee? What did you learn from the teachings that Christ gave in the temple?

***

Easter Study – The Cleansing of the Temple and The Cursing of the Fig Tree

While the Triumphal entry was a really high point during the last week of Christ’s life, it doesn’t take long to get back to reality.

Before approaching Jerusalem, the Lord laments.

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42

His people were wicked. They didn’t recognize Him. Israel refused to know their Lord and see Him – even though He was physically before their eyes. This experience provides an interesting backdrop for what happens next.

(The accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ a little bit as to the chronology of events. So, I’m going to look at this following Mark’s chronology…I find his especially interesting).

The Cursing of the Fig Tree
When Christ approaches the fig tree and finds it barren, he curses it.

At first glance, it can seem like the Lord was being impatient or maybe in a bad mood. But I don’t think that this is the case. The fig tree hadn’t filled the measure of its creation. I feel like this is symbolic. The House of Israel – and the Jews especially had been a chosen people. They had been carefully planted and tended, yet they refused to bring forth good fruit.

In the allegory of the vine, the Lord explains:

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…” – John 15:2

We know that we shouldn’t bring forth bad fruit, but that isn’t enough. We can’t simply “abide in Christ” and bring forth no fruit. We can’t be like the fig tree, without fruit. It isn’t enough to be a member of the House of Israel. We need to bear good fruit. We need to do good work.

Cleansing the Temple
When the Lord gets to the temple, he sees so many people there doing wicked things. The temple, He explains, is to be a house of Prayer. But the people have made it a “den of theives.” Christ takes this treatment of the temple very personally. And for good reason: It is His Fathers house: His House.

Jesus Cleansing the Temple

I like thinking about this in relationship with the cursed fig tree. Both the temple and the fig tree have specific purposes, and neither one was being met. In the case of the Fig Tree, it was cursed because it didn’t bring forth fruit. In the case of the temple, it needed to be cleansed and made Holy again.

Cleaning the temple wasn’t the only thing that the Savior did at the temple. There were some people at the temple who weren’t mistreating it.

“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.” – Matthew 21:14

They understood the true reason for the temple – that through the temple, they could go and be with the Lord, partake of His goodness, learn of Him, and be made whole.

We are blessed to have temples now. Temples are the house of the Lord, and when we go there, we learn more of the Savior, feel His peace, and enable the healing powers of the atonement to infuse our lives.

“I hope you use the temple constantly because you will gain the blessings that are there that you cannot gain anywhere else on the face of the whole earth. The temple stands as a monument for all to see. It stands as a statement that we as a people believe in the immortality of the human soul. Everything that occurs in the temple is of an uplifting and ennobling kind, and it speaks of life here and of life beyond the grave. It speaks of the importance of the individual as a child of God. It speaks of the importance of the family as the creation of the Almighty. It speaks of the eternity of the marriage relationship. It speaks of going on to a greater glory. It is a place of light, a place of peace, a place of love where we deal with the things of eternity.” – Gordon B. Hinkcley

I truly love the temple. I know that through repeated temple attendance and worship, I have grown closer to the Savior. It is a holy and sacred place. The Lord cannot tolerate sin or wickedness to usurp His power found in the temple. This is why Christ needed to cleanse His temple anciently, and it is why we need to go reverently to the temple now.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree, continued
In the Account given by Mark, after the temple was cleansed, the apostles notice that the fig tree had been dried up and withered – all on account of Christ’s cursing it. The apostles are somewhat amazed by the withered fig tree.

Jesus responds simply to their amazement:

“…Have faith in God.” – Mark 11:22

That’s what it is all about – the cursed fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, healing in the temple, everything. It is all about having faith in God; Having faith in our Savior. We need to have faith in the power of God and Christ. He is the Master, the Creator, the Redeemer. He is our King, the Father of our redemption. If we have faith in Him, not only could we make a fig tree wither, or a mountain move, but through faith in Him and His infinite power, we can be healed – from pain, trials, and ultimately death and Sin.

What do you do to remember the Lord, to fulfill the measure of your creation, and to exercise faith?

***

Easter Study – The Triumphal Entry

The Triumphal Entry

The triumphal entry is a really nice part of the story of the Savior’s last week. It is actually a highlight of His entire life and ministry. There are a few things that I noticed while studying this event.

Christ – Giver and Fulfiller of Prophecy
Before entering into Jerusalem, the Lord instructs His disciples to get a colt.

“And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” – Matthew 21:1-5

Christ understands all of the prophecies. Well, it is actually more than that. Christ, Jehovah, gave these prophecies to His prophets centuries and millennia before He came to the earth. Of course He knew the prophecies.

And, when He came to the earth, He was sure to complete everything according to the signs He had given. In the Old Testament, we read:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” – Zechariah 9:9

I guess, the thing is, knowing the Savior doesn’t have to be some difficult mystery. He doesn’t want it to be so. He has given us signs, types, and prophecies pointing us toward Him. Not only that, but he has fulfilled each sign, type, and prophecy with exactness. We can know Him if we look to the information that He has given us.

Christ the King
Again, we learn in this event that Jesus Christ is the King. There is the symbolism of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the palm fronds, and the timing of the event that point to Christ being king of Israel. (Not to mention the fact that He was a literal descendant of David, so the rightful heir to the throne). But Christ’s kingship is more than of physical Israel. He is the King of kings.

Many of the people recognize this and rejoice and praise Him as he humbly entered into Jerusalem.

“And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;

Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” – Luke 19:36-38

The people praised Him for all of the Mighty works that they had seen.

That makes me think about my own life: do I praise God? What mighty works have I experienced?

I feel like I have experienced many miracles. In fact, most days, I’m astounded by the miracles I’ve seen. I have been protected, saved, and forgiven. I have been healed and strengthened.

Yesterday, I was unpacking boxes, I came across three pictures that I keep in my room.

Me and My Dad


This is me and my dad. He is and has been a miracle in my life. He adopted me and raised me. Through the consistent way he has loved me and my siblings, he has taught me to love my children. I have experienced a very good life, I have learned to laugh, and I have learned to love because of my dad.

My dad is not my natural father. Yet, the Lord found a way for him to be in my life. I consider him a miracle.

My Bishop, Me, and Homey

This picture is of My Bishop, Me, and Homey. They are also miracles in my life. My Bishop was an example of loving service. In one of the hardest times in my life, I was able to feel the love of my Savior through my good Bishop’s service. Thanks to His wise counsel, I was able to find, meet, and marry Homey! Every day, I’m flabbergasted by the love the Lord has had for me in being able to marry Homey. I know that there are so many people who do not enjoy a good marriage in their mortal lives. I know that I’m blessed.

Me and Jack

Finally, the last picture I have in my room is this – of me and Jack. He is my biological father. For so many years I never knew who he was. Although I was blessed with an amazing father, there was a gap in my life – in my identity. Two years ago, the Lord blessed me with the miracle of finding Jack. The miracles have continued to flow for me.

These three pictures represent three ways that I have seen the Lord’s mighty works. There are so many more – too many for a blog post.

I can see why the people rejoiced in the Savior, their King. Can you imagine, being there, rejoicing there? It reminds me of His birth and the host of angels that sang as they announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds.

Even though I couldn’t be there when Christ rode in, triumphantly, to Jerusalem, I know that I can still rejoice. I can rejoice through testimony, prayer, and living a life that would bring Christ happiness.

How have you seen His mighty works? How do you rejoice?

***
For the rest of the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here.

Easter Study – The Anointing at Bethany

Mary Anoints the Savior's Feet

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” – John 12:3

I love this story. What a way to start of the Easter Study Series – with the account of Mary’s tender love of the Savior.

What strikes me the most about Mary’s service to the Savior is the reverent nature of it. It is intimate and loving. Above all, it impresses to me that she had an understanding that Jesus Christ was the anointed one. She knew that He was the Priest, Prophet, and King.

Christ the Priest
The Bible Dictionary teaches us about Priests:

“The essential idea of a Hebrew priest was that of a mediator between his people and God by representing them officially in worship and sacrifice. By virtue of his office he was able to draw nigh to God, while they, because of their sins and infirmities, must needs stand afar off. The priest exercised his office mainly at the altar by offering the sacrifices and above all the incense but also by teaching the people the law, by communicating to them the divine will, and by blessing them in the name of the Lord.

The priest does not take his office upon himself but is chosen of God. In an especial sense he belongs to God and is holy to him. – Priests, Bible Dictionary

So, we can See that Christ was The Priest of priests.

  • He is the mediator between us and God. I love this scripture that shows the way that the ancient priest typifies the Savior:

    “…and the priest shall make an atonement for his [the person who has sinned and is bringing the offering] sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” – Leviticus 4:35

    Obviously the priest didn’t literally make the atonement for the person who brought the offering. However, the priest was necessary. The person who wanted to be forgiven couldn’t offer the sacrifice without the priest. The priest was necessary to be a mediator between the sinner and God. Today, we don’t rely on priests in this function, just as we don’t offer burnt offerings. This is because Christ is the priest. He has atoned for our sins. Christ was the priest and the offering. It is because of Christ we can approach God – for forgiveness. We cannot go to God without Christ as our advocate and mediator.

  • Because Christ is the anointed one, the Son of God, He is able to “draw nigh unto God” while we must stand afar off. We are separated by our nature and sin. While Christ’s perfect nature allows Him to reason with God on our behalf.
  • Christ offered the ultimate sacrifice – of His own life, and we will continue to study this fact throughout the next ten days.
  • The incense symbolized prayers that went up to God. The priests offered/maintained the incense at the temple. When we think of the connection between Christ and prayers, his role as priest is again reiterated. We cannot pray without Christ. Each prayer uttered is in His name. Christ enables us to communicate with God.
  • Christ teaches us His law and communicates with us His will through the Holy Ghost, through prophets, and through His word.
  • Finally, Christ didn’t take this office upon Himself – the office as anointed one, Redeemer, Savior. Instead, He was chosen by God. Christ truly does belong to God and is Holy.

We can see that Christ is The Priest of priests. The reverence that Mary showed him is appropriate when we understand his role as Priest.

Of course, it doesn’t Stop there…
Christ the Prophet
We learn a few things from The Bible Dictionary

  • A prophet acted as God’s messenger and made known God’s will.
  • He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past.
  • A prophet denounced sin and foretold its punishment.
  • The prophet had to try to restore faith and remove false views about the character of God.
  • Sometimes, the prophet predicted future events.
  • Finally, a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.

Christ was a prophet in every sense. He did all of these things. He was The Prophet of prophets.

When I think about the prophets that I have “grown up” with – even though I haven’t met them in person, I’m very aware of the love that they have for each of us. They dedicate so much time and energy – for much of their lives – for us. I know that the love and devotion that they have are only a fraction of the love that the Savior has. He is the Prophet that our prophets are trying to point us to. And if we listen to the council and testimony of the Savior, our Prophet, then we will understand more of God’s will for us, our faith will be restored, and we will gain a testimony of Jesus’s Divine role as Redeemer.

Christ the King

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:…” – Isaiah 66:1

Jesus Christ is our King. It seems that Mary really understood this. Spikenard was very expensive, and she was criticized by Judas for using this. We get insight from the account of John as to why Judas was so critical.

“Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” – John 12:4-6

So…Judas is a big jerk. Jesus then gently rebukes Judas:

“Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” – John 12:7-8

I’ve thought about this whole exchange. In the accounts of this event recorded in Matthew and Mark the fact that Judas was a thief and was interested in the money for his own selfish reasons was not mentioned. I’m not sure that it completely matters in this instance (follow me for a second!)…Regardless of Judas’s intentions, the fact was the Savior wouldn’t be with them much longer. There would not be many more chances to serve him directly. In this instance, we see that the following about Mary again is true.

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

And I wonder, did Mary really understand what was about to happen to Jesus? Is this why she served him, or was she following a prompting of the Spirit? He explains that she was anointing Him for His coming death. Maybe she understood…maybe she didn’t. I don’t really know. But the fact is, she anointed him, and days later, he was slain.

This makes me think of how important timing is in regards to service. There is so much that we don’t know. Maybe we have an idea of something happening. I mean, in the instance of The Savior – the Jews had been trying to kill him for a while. I’m sure that everyone was expecting that he’d be killed at any point. But Mary’s timing was right, and I think that is what I want to learn from her. I know in my life, the way to get the timing right in anything is to follow the Spirit. It seems like when we are open to the Spirit, then we are able to offer service that is necessary and sanctifying – both to those whom we serve and to ourselves.

And one last thing that I love about this story. Jesus tells Judas:

“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” – Matthew 26:13

This is exactly what has happened. We know who Mary was – tender and loving. She prioritized the Lord. She followed the Spirit and understood the needful thing – choosing that good part.

What did you learn, what struck you, what inspired you as you read through Christ’s anointing at Bethany? Please comment and share!

***
Find the rest of the Easter Scripture Study Series here.

  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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