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, March 28, 2015

Preparing for Easter

                We have eight days until Easter.  As that sacred day approaches I find myself seeking ways to draw nearer to the Lord and to feel more deeply the miracle of the Resurrection of our Savior, even Jesus Christ.  I feel a definite need to prepare myself.  I decided to go to the scriptures to study again the final week of the life of Jesus Christ and to share my study with you.

                On Saturday eight days before the first Easter morning, Jesus Christ and His disciples arrived at the home of His friends, Mary and Martha in Bethany.  They had come to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.  His friends prepared dinner, and Jesus sat at the table with Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. Mary used a pound of a very expensive ointment to anoint Jesus’s feet; then she wiped His feet with her hair.  Judas Iscariot criticized her for using the expensive ointment on the Savior’s feet instead of selling it and using the money to help the poor.  Jesus said, “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 12:1-8).

                On Sunday the Savior and His group walked from Bethany to Jerusalem.  The Savior sent two of His disciples to get an ass and her colt and bring them to Him.  The disciples brought the animals to Jesus and put their clothes on them and sat Jesus thereon.  There was “a very great multitude” crying before Him, “Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”  Christ went into the temple and cast all the money changers and animals out.  “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”  He healed the blind and lame who came to Him in the temple.  The priests were angry with Him.  He and His group went back to Bethany for the night (Matthew 21:1-17).

                On Monday Jesus returned to Jerusalem hungry.  He saw a fig tree with leaves; when He found no figs on the tree, He cursed the tree for pretending to have fruit.  He went into the temple and started to teach the people.  The chief priests and the elders of the people questioned Him, “By what authority doest thou these things?  And who gave thee this authority?”  He told them that He would answer their questions if they would first answer His.  He asked them about the baptism of John, was it “from heaven, or of men.”  They immediately realized that they could not answer His question “for fear of the people” and answered, “We cannot tell.”  He told them, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”  He then began to teach them by parables, and they realized He was talking about them.  They “sought to lay hands on him” but “feared the multitude” (Matthew 21:18-47).  The Sadducees came to question Him about the next life, and He confounded them (Matthew 22:23).  The Pharisees saw how the Sadducees had been silenced and decided to try their luck by asking Him about the “great commandments in the law.  He told them the two great commandments – love God and love our neighbors – and then asked, “What think ye of Christ?  Whose son is he?” and “no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” (Matthew 22:34-46).

                On Tuesday Jesus again taught the people in the temple and on nearby Mount of Olives.  The chief priests, scribes and elders plot how to kill Jesus but did not want it to happen on the “feast day” (Matthew 26:1-5).  Jesus told His disciples that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:1-5).  Jesus returned to Bethany.

                Sometime while in Bethany (Tuesday evening through Wednesday) Jesus was at the home of Simon the leper for dinner.  A woman poured “very precious ointment” out of an “alabaster box” upon His head.  Again the disciples murmured that the ointment could have been sold and used to help the poor.  Again, the Savior said to leave the woman alone because they would always have the poor among them.  “… she hath wrought a good work upon me…. For in that she hath poured this ointment on mu body, she did it for my burial” (Matthew 26:6-13). Also during this time Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and plotted with them how to betray Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins (Matthew 26:14-16).

                On Thursday the disciples of Christ prepared for the Passover meal.  Sometime during the meal Jesus told them that one of them would betray Him.  Judas Iscariot went out.  Jesus gave His disciples the sacrament for the first time to help them remember Him.  After dinner the group sang some hymns, and then Jesus and His Apostles went out to the Garden of Gethsemane.  There He asked Peter, James, and John to accompany Him as He went further into the garden.  He told them to wait for Him and He went even further and prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:  nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).  There He suffered greatly and took upon himself the sins for all mankind.  He described His suffering to be so great that He “tremble[d] because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit….” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).  Judas and soldiers with swords came, and Judas betrayed Christ into their hands.   Most of the disciples ran away in fear, but Peter followed at a distance (Matthew 26:47-58).

                Late Thursday night or early Friday morning Jesus was taken to the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas, where the scribes and elders were gathered.  They questioned Jesus.  In answer to their question, are you “the Christ, the Son of God,” He answered, “Thou hast said:  nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:63-64).  They accused Him of blasphemy and sentenced Him to death.  Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus.

                At sunrise Friday morning the priests delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, who sent Him to King Herod, who sent Him back to Pilate.  Pilate’s wife had a dream, and she delivered the warning to Pilate to have nothing to do with Jesus.  He released Barabbas and sentenced Jesus to death.  Pilate washed His hands of the mess.  Judas hanged himself.

                Jesus was mocked and spit upon; He was stripped and forced to wear a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns.  He was scourged, and crucified.  When He knew He had completed the Atonement, He died.  His body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb of a rich man named Joseph Arimathaea.  His disciples, His mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene visited the tomb (Mathew 27:1-61).

                On Saturday, the body of Jesus lay in the tomb.  The chief priests and Pharisees were concerned that the followers of Jesus would take His body and claim He was resurrected.  Pilate sent soldiers to stand outside the tomb and to make sure no one went inside.  They sealed the entrance to the tomb with a large stone.  (Matthew 27:62-66).

                On Easter Sunday, two angels descended from heaven and rolled away the stone.  Jesus was resurrected.  He was first seen by Mary Magdalene, then by all the Apostles, and later by more than 500 hundred other people.  Jesus told His disciples to teach His gospel to others and to baptize them.  He promised to always be with His followers (Mathew 28).

                I always feel closer to God after spending time in the scriptures.  I am grateful to have a written record of the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ.  I am truly grateful to know that He atoned for my sins and for the sins of all mankind who believes in Him.  I am grateful to know that the Savior lives and that we may live after death because He overcame death that we might live with Him and our Heavenly Father for all eternity.

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