Sunday, March 20, 2016
The Savior gave us the perfect pattern. His last week of mortal life was filled with examples of what to do and what to say. His last week also tells us a lot about who He was and what was important to Him.
Where did He spend His time? During the day He spent most of His time at the temple. At night He would return to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany and spent quiet hours there with those He loved. Spiritual connection and time with family and friends was paramount to Him.
During His last week of life He also gave us some of the greatest council He had. The parable of the 10 Virgins reminds us we have a responsibility to be personally ready to see Him. The parable of the 10 Talents reminds us to use what we have been given for good.
But do we also realize He gave us the wonderful parable of the Goats and Sheep?
I’ve owned goats and I’ve owned sheep and, personally, I would rather own the goats--so why do the goats wind up on the left and the sheep on the right? If you research it, anciently goats and sheep were very equal. They both gave meat and milk and leather. Goat hair was used to cover the tabernacle. Sheep wool was used to weave cloth. They also both played important roles in the law of sacrifice. So why the difference?
Maybe, as a rancher pointed out to me, it’s because sheep are willing to listen to and be led by a shepherd. Goats are too independent. They are always exploring places they shouldn’t and getting into trouble. The right hand of the Savior is the right hand of power…priesthood power and leadership responsibilities. If you aren’t willing to follow the Savior then how can He use you to lead others?
During his last week of life, Christ also gave us the parable of the two sons. Their father asked them for help in his vineyard. One said ‘no way’ and left, then later had a change of heart and came back. The other son said, ‘sure, I’ll do it’ and then never did. Which of the two did the will of his father? The DO-er. In his last week of life, Christ was reminding us He wants DO-ers of the word. It is not enough to say you profess Christ. You must be willing to DO as He has asked—keep His commandments and follow His example. He is also telling us a change of heart is never too late if it helps us return and DO our Father’s will.
Christ taught about the apostasy and restoration on several occasions during His last week. One time was with the parable of the wicked husbandman who killed, beat and stoned the servants of the lord of the vineyard. So the lord of the vineyard sent his son, saying the husbandman would reverence him. Yet the son was captured and killed. Then Christ asked, “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do?....He will...destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season” (Matthew 21:40-41). He was testifying that the vineyard, the Gospel, would be taken from the Jews and give to another. Through the restoration of the Gospel, that prophecy has been fulfilled.
And the parable of the Wedding of the King’s Son, given His last week, is also powerful in its testimony of an apostasy and a restoration with the wedding being a metaphor for the Gospel. When the King invited his people to the wedding of his Son “they would not come….and they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise” (Matthew 22:5). They got too caught up in worldly pursuits--they were too busy to attend to frivolous things like weddings and religion.
“And some took the King’s servants and entreated them spitefully and slew them so He destroyed the murderers and burned up their city and sent out new servants to gather together all, as many as they found” (Matthew 22:6-7, 9-10). And these came to the feast and were properly dressed and ready.
The Gospel is for "all" as Christ testified. The problem, Christ taught, was when an intruder was found. Either this intruder did not enter with authority of the King or he disrespected that authority and chose not to prepare properly. God’s kingdom is based on keeping commandments and His authority and all who do not make the effort to enter by the strait gate will not be permitted. It was after this parable that Christ announced, “For many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
In his final days, Christ also taught us to keep the law of the land; He spoke on eternal marriage, forgiveness, repentance and the resurrection. He answered which was the greatest commandment of the law. “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Anyone preaching hate does not understand this powerful truth...on the commandment of loving God AND our neighbors hang all the law and the prophets!
Christ taught service “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in….Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25: 35, 37 and 40).
Christ also expressed his view on poverty and his love and respect for the poor. He intentionally called over his disciples to tell them of the widow’s mite and teach them and us, “For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:44). He knows how difficult it is for the poor. That is one reason He cleansed the temple during His final week and specifically overthrew “the seats of them that sold doves” (Matt. 21:12). From the beginning of the Mosaic Law the Lord had made provisions for the poor to offer sacrifices of doves when they could afford nothing more. His own earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, had brought doves to the temple when Christ was born. He understood poverty…He lived poverty...and He understood that there were many who would “devour widows’ houses” and in His temple He would not let that take place. There would be no profit made off the selling of doves to the poor. The poor would have access to the temple as they should, so he cleansed the temple and then, with love and tenderness, watched the results. It was after he cleansed the temple that the widow woman offered her two mites.
Christ also taught us, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
He promised peace…”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 14:27).
Of course, the Savior offered the great Intercessory Prayer. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). To know the Father AND the Son, both, is life eternal.
It was during His final hours we learn of Christ’s plea and His commitment to His Father in Heaven, no matter how difficult it was for Christ personally. “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). Do we truly have that attitude? Or do we place limits on following Him?
And, during this prayer came one of the most touching verses in all scripture: “And he said, Abba, Father…” . In English the closest thing we have to this tender term, Abba, is “Daddy”.
During His last week of life, Christ reminded Peter of the Savior's earlier charge to “his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ” (Matthew 16:20). He knew bold, courageous Peter would willingly die with the Savior rather than deny Him. During His final night in mortality, the Savior lovingly told Peter “thou shalt deny me”. It wasn't a prophecy of Peter's weakness...it was a command for Peter to follow! Christ needed Peter to stay away that night and stay alive to lead the flock forward.
Peter--the disciple brave enough to climb over the edge of a ship and step onto water for the Savior.
Peter--the disciple bold enough to draw his sword and strike out to protect the Savior in face of 1,000 soldiers.
Peter--the committed disciple did as the Savior instructed and wept bitterly----for keeping his word to the Savior on that dark night was the hardest thing he had ever done. But Peter did as the Savior asked and we are blessed for it.
On His last night on earth Christ also washed the feet of all His disciples, He called Judas “Friend”. He told his disciples to put away their swords then He healed the ear of Malchus, the servant of Caiaphus—the Jew leading the charges against the Savior. Christ loved His enemies, served His enemies, helped heal His enemies. He reached out with love to those who would wound Him.
He allowed the crowd to exchange His divine life for that of Barabbas. And you know He felt no ill toward Barabbas.
Christ plead for the forgiveness of the soldiers.
Christ taught Pilate.
Christ gave hope to a criminal on the cross.
He ensured his mother was cared for.
He commended His spirit to His Father, trusting His Father’s will completely.
Despite the physical, spiritual and emotional anguish...He completed His work.
When He died the veil of the temple was rent in grief, the sun darkened in sorrow and the earth quaked in agony. All of nature knew who had died in that moment and gave the world their testimonies.
And the next morning Heavenly angels gave a new testimony. “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
I add my testimony to that…Christ is who He says He is: He is the Son of God. He has broken the bands of death and is resurrected. Because of Christ, Eternal Life is possible for everyone, our sins can be forgiven, and families can be together forever.
Image from Google Images. Jesus Christ, The Son of God. The "Learn of Me" video series from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at LDS.org.