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

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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 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.

Joy and Thanksgiving: Allegory – The True Vine

Today’s assignment was all about the Allegory of the vine. I really love studying allegories in the scriptures. They are like parables, but still a little different. A parable always stays a story. An allegory seems to slip back and forth between story and application. Or, an allegory is like a souped-up parable.

In this case, it feels woven – sometimes it is an analogy, and other times it is direct guidance.

“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.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” – John 15:1-11

So…a few things…

  • We should strive to be branches that bring forth good fruit. We spent some time studying fruit already and know the blessing that fruit is. Now, we learn that if we bring forth good fruit then we will be purged. What does purging have to do with happiness? – It helps us to bring forth even more good fruit. I wonder, also, if purging helps to increase the quality of the fruit. In any case, purging, or pruning, helps us to be more fruitful -which means that, at some point, we’ll experience more happiness.
  • Purging sounds like it hurts a lot. There are other words that are used in the scriptures to describe the same process: pruning, refining, purifying. None of them sound comfortable because they aren’t. But they will make us into better people. It is good to remember this. I love this quote from Elder Packer,

    “We live in a day when the adversary stresses on every hand the philosophy of instant gratification. We seem to demand instant everything, including instant solutions to our problems. …

    It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal.

    Teach our members that if they have a good, miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them. Things will straighten out.

    There is great purose in our struggle in life.” – Boyd K. Packer

    So, this process of purging is challenging. It may even result in a bit of pain and misery. The pain and misery may last several days or maybe even weeks. But this pain and misery will ultimately give way to the production of good fruit – which is happiness.

  • The only way that we can bear good fruit is by abiding in Christ. As I think about this, I think of the relationship between good works and faith. Many people seem to think that good works are unnecessary. However, I feel like we learn from this verse that good works come out of faith. If we have faith in Christ, we are abiding in Him, then we are producing good fruit. And if we aren’t, then we’ll be cut off and burned.
  • It’s not enough to not bear bad fruit. We need to bear good fruit. If we are bearing no fruit, then we will be taken from the branch and burned just as quickly as a branch producing bad fruit. The non-producing branch weighs too heavily on the rest of the plant for it to survive. We need to be potent and prolific – in bringing forth good fruit if we don’t want to be gathered and destroyed. Here, Christ teaches that good works are necessary if we want to abide in Christ and inherit His joy.
  • Abiding in Christ = continuing in the Love of Christ. He will offer us life. He will nurture us. He will stabilize us. He will do all for us that a vine, the true vine, does for the rest of the plant. We can depend on Him, and as we do, then we are able to bear good fruit. I am amazed at how simple the gospel can be. It’s not that it is easy (purging is hard!), but it isn’t complicated. We have faith in Christ, and He nourishes us so that we can bring forth good fruit – or do good works.
  • We glorify God with our good fruit. I love the fact that God is glorified by our good works. When we love and serve others, we glorify God. When we are happy, we glorify God. I love that he glories in our good works! He is such a selfless God. He loves to see us do our best.

    Going to Pre-school. I think I'm even happier than she is.


    I feel like I can relate to this. I have four children. They each bring me so much joy. And when they do something good – when they excel in life, my joy is so overwhelming, I feel like my heart will explode. When the holidays come, I have more fun than they do – I love seeing them happy, I love seeing them excited. I think that Heavenly Father probably feels the same way as we do. He doesn’t want us to bring forth good fruit because he is some kind of greedy god. He wants us to bring forth good fruit because it will make us happy, and when we’re happy, he’s even happier. We have such a loving God.
  • Christ was the pattern for us to follow. He kept the commandments and was able to abide in the Love of the father. When we keep the commandments, then we’re able to abide in the love of Christ. I can’t imagine a better place to abide.
  • Christ teaches us this allegory so that his joy might remain in us, and our joy might be full. That’s the whole gospel – to have joy. To be happy. The allegory of the vine teaches us that we receive this joy only when we abide in Christ, as a branch can remain alive only when it abides in the true vine.

Don’t you love allegories and other elements of the scriptures? They make everything so much easier to understand!

***
For tomorrow’s assignment, click 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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