Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Is Risen!

                    I am thrilled that Easter is here once again.  I love the colors of Easter and the promise of new life that this season brings.  I am especially grateful for the Easter message and feel the need to write something about it.   The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Easter.  His atoning sacrifice in our behalf is the reason why we love Him and want to be with Him.  He loved us enough to suffer greatly that we might live with Him and Heavenly Father once again and for eternity.

                    The week before the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, He met in an upper room with His twelve Apostles for a final meeting with them.  This meeting is known as the Last Supper.  After the meal was over, Christ instituted the first sacrament.  Each time we partake of the sacrament we are reminded of Christ and His sacrifice in our behalf.  As we partake of the bread and then the water, we also renew our covenants with God.

                    "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
                    "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
                    "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28).
                    Jesus Christ then washed and dried the feet of the Apostles to show that great leaders serve their followers rather than being served by them.
                    "He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
                    "After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John 13:4-5, 14-15).

                    Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn together and then went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  There in the Garden, Christ asked the disciples to wait while He took Peter, James and John further into the Garden.  He then asked the three men to wait for Him and watch while He went further to pray.  
                    "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder
                    "And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy [began to be distressed and troubled].
                    "Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful [deeply grieved], even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me [stay awake].
                    "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:  nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
                    "And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
                    "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation:  the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
                    "He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
                    "And he came and found them asleep again:  for their eyes were heavy.
                    "And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
                    "Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest:  behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Matthew 26:36-45).

                    Judas came with a multitude people sent by the chief priests and Jewish elders.  He greeted Jesus and kissed him.  For his betrayal of Christ, Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver - the going price for an adult slave.

                    "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
                    "And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?  And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
"And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him" (Matthew 26:14-16).

Christ's experience in the Garden of Gethsemane was so excruciating that He sweat drops of blood.  He described His experience in modern-day scripture:  "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).

After this horrible experience in the Garden, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was taken before Caiaphas and then before Pontius Pilate to be judged.  He spent the entire night going from one place to another and enduring an illegal trial.  Pilate realized that the people were adamant that Christ needed to die.  Pilate had the opportunity to save the life of Christ, but he was too weak to do so.  In his weakness, Pilate actually aided Christ to complete His atoning sacrifice.  Christ was turned over to the soldiers who beat Him and mocked Him.  This must have been a very embarrassing as well as painful experience for the Son of God.  He had been up all night long.  His clothes were taken away from him.  He was flogged - beaten - and then forced to wear a crown of thorns and endure mocking.  When they were finished, they gave His clothing back to Him.   I know what it is like to be embarrassed in front of a group of people.  I own a crown of thorns and have felt the thorns poke into my head as I gently placed the crown on my head.  I have never been beaten, but I have experienced painful cuts and bruises.   What I have experienced is very small compared to what the Savior endured, but I have a better idea of His suffering.

"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
"And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe [purple robe - Joseph Smith Translation Matthew 27:30].
"And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!" (Matthew 27:28-30).

After being up all night long and being beaten, Christ is then forced to carry the cross upon which He would be crucified.  It is little wonder that He fell under the weight of the cross, requiring someone to help him!

When the procession reached a placed called Golgotha - meaning a place of a skull - Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was nailed to a cross and endured more mocking as He also endured the pain of crucifixion. 

"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.  And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
"And the people stood beholding.  And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
"And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
"And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
"And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Luke 23:34-38).

                    Jesus did not have to die.  As the Son of God, He had the power to live forever.  As the son of Mary, he had the capacity to die.  As the Savior of all mankind, He chose to give up His life that we might live again after we die.

                    "And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
                    "And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
                    "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:44-46).

                    The body of Jesus Christ was taken down from the cross by some of His friends who wrapped Him in a clean, linen cloth (see Matthew 27:59) and laid Him in a borrowed tomb.  A great stone was rolled in front of the tomb to protect the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:60).  Guards were stationed at the door of the tomb to keep people from taking the body of Christ (Matthew 27:62-66).

                    The Savior's body lay in the tomb through the Sabbath, but early the next morning it was gone.  The tomb was empty when several women brought spices to anoint His body, and an angel told the women that Christ had risen.

                    "And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
                    "And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted:  Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified:  he is risen; he is not here:  behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:5-6).

                    The Apostles and disciples had no idea where the body of Jesus was, and they were very concerned.  They discussed this problem as they met together.

                    "And as they [the Apostles] thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
                    "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself:  handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:36, 39).

                    Besides the eleven remaining Apostles, many other people have seen the resurrected Savior.  Some of those people are Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb; Cleopas on the road to Emmaus; Stephen just before he died from stoning; a group of 500 men; Paul the Apostle; a group of 2500 men, women and children on the American continent; the Prophet Joseph Smith, and  
Sidney Rigdon.  The testimony of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon is found in Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24.

                    "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him:  That he lives!
                    "For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father -
                    "That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."

                    The living prophet, even President Thomas S. Monson, also testified that Christ is risen from the dead.  The following statements can be found in the April 2012 issue of Ensign, pp. 4-5.

                    "I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.
                    "At the last moment, He could have turned back.  But He did not.  He passed beneath all things that He might save all things.  In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence.  He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.
                    "To the depths of my very soul, I am grateful to Him.  He taught us how to live.  He taught us how to die.  He secured our salvation."

                    "We laugh, we cry, we work, we play, we love, we live.  And then we die….
                    "And dead we would remain but for one Man and His mission, even Jesus of Nazareth….
                    "With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live.  Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.  He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father.  He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins.  He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection.  Because He died, al shall live again."

                    "I declare my personal witness that death has been conquered, victory over the tomb has been won….  He is risen."

                    More testimonies of the resurrected Jesus Christ can be found here.  

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