Easter is later this year and will be observed on Sunday, April 21st. With millions of other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have been studying the last week of Jesus Christ’s life as part of the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum. Members of other religions are preparing for Easter in their own way.
The scriptures teach that Jesus spent His last week in the following ways. On Sunday He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey that His disciples had borrowed for the event. Many people recognized Him as the Son of David who was to come.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. (Matthew 21: 8-11).
Jesus went to the temple and claimed it as His own by clearing out all those who were desecrating the sacred building. He cast out the men who bought and sold and turned over the tables of the moneychangers. “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
People who were blind and lame came to Him there in the temple, and He healed them. The chief priests and scribes watched as He cleared the temple and blessed the people. They heard the children crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” (verse 15) and they were not happy about all that they saw and heard. They asked Jesus if He heard what the children were saying, and He answered, “Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfect praise?" (Verse 16). Jesus then left Jerusalem and spent the night with friends in Bethany.
The next morning Jesus and His disciples returned to Jerusalem. As they walked along, He became hungry and looked around for something to eat. He saw a fig tree along the way with beautiful leaves on it and assumed that there would be fruit on it. There was not. Because it was pretending to be something that it was not – a hypocrite – He condemned it. The disciples marveled at how quickly the fig tree withered away.
When the group arrived at the temple, the chief priests and scribes were waiting for Jesus. They wanted to know by what authority He had cleansed the temple and who gave Him that authority. He replied that He would answer their question if they would answer His question: “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” They realized that they would be condemned by whatever answer they gave, so they said, “We cannot tell.” He answered, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (verse 27). He taught the parable of the man with two sons and the parable of householder with a vineyard. The chief priests and Pharisees understood that the parables were about them and “sought to lay hands on him” (verse 46). They did not out of fear of the multitude who accepted Jesus as a prophet.
Jesus told them another parable about a king who prepared a wedding supper for his son. The king sent his servants out to invite people to the feast but none would come. He sent His servants to invite the poor people to the feast, and they came. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The Pharisees recognized themselves as those who would not come to the feast, and they took counsel on how they might entangle Jesus in His words.
Meanwhile, the Herodians attempted to trip Jesus by asking Him about paying tribute to Caesar. Upon His request someone pulled out a coin. He asked whose image was on the tribute money, and they replied that it was Caesar. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (verse 21). The Herodians marveled at His insight and left.
The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, decided to try their luck and presented a case where a woman was married to seven brothers in the Levite type of marriage. (If a man dies, his brother marries the widow and has children for his brother.) Their question had to do with which brother would the women be married in the resurrection. “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (verses 29-30). Jesus did not say that there would be no marriages in heaven, but He did say that there would be no marriages “in the resurrection.” All eternal marriages are performed on this earth by proper authority.
The Pharisees decided to try their luck with Jesus. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Verse 36).
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy 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 (Verses 37-40).
Jesus started asking questions of the Pharisees, but they could not answer them. From that time forward no one dared to ask Him any questions. Jesus turned to the multitude and called the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, and scribes “hypocrites” in a long series of offenses.
Jesus and His apostles left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives. There the apostles started asking questions. Their first question had to do with the destruction of the temple, and the second question had to do with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 24 it is difficult to tell where the answer to the first question ends and the answer to the second question starts.
We know that the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., about 40 years after the death of Jesus Christ. The Jews have never rebuilt the temple to this day, but I understand that they are making preparations to do so.
Joseph Smith made a translation of Matthew 24, known as Joseph Smith – Mathew, where there is a clearer separation of the two answers. Verse 21 seems to be the place of division.
Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not (Joseph Smith – Mathew 24: 21; emphasis added).
Jesus warns us against following false Christs and false prophets. We do not need to seek him in the desert or wilderness because we will all see Him when He comes again. He says that His coming will be like the sun. “For as the light of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (verse 26).
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ will be preceded by many signs. Like the leaves of the fig tree that were supposed to be a sign of fruit, the signs of His coming will alert the faithful who are watching that it is close. Jesus lists several definite signs: wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, great iniquity on earth, “the love of men shall wax cold,” (verse 30) and the gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached in all the nations of the world in an effort to call all mankind to repentance. Then great destruction will take place that Daniel the prophet called “the abomination of desolation” (verse 32).
And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken….
And, as I said before, after the tribulation of those days, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory (verses 33, 36).
Jesus continues by saying that those who treasure up His word will not be deceived. When His elect “shall see all these things, they shall know that he is near, even at the doors; But of that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only” (verses 39-40). He says that people in our day will act about the same way that the people acted in the days of Noah.
But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be (verses 41-43).
We are fortunate to live in a day when there is a living prophet of God on earth. He “sees” things that we cannot see, and he stands as a “watchman on a tower” to keep us safe.
President Russell M. Nelson is the Lord’s prophet on earth today, and he spoke to the world less than two weeks ago. To the general membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said the following.
My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents and be with those we love. He invites us to “come, follow me.”
Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.
I felt urgency in the words of President Nelson and the other speakers in the conference. I believe President Nelson when he says that we need to repent because “time is running out.” I believe that we are in the very last part of the last days before the wicked are destroyed off the face of the earth. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually so that we will be among the elect who are watching for and paying attention to the signs of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
This is the material that I have been studying for the past four days. The next four days will be about the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I look forward to gaining more knowledge about the Savior of the world and His Atonement in behalf of all mankind.