Day 20: He Suffered and Died for You

Luke 22:

39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
47 ¶ And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

54 ¶ Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.

Matthew 27:

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 ¶ And when they had plaited 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!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:

22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

Luke 23:

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
50 ¶ Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

John 19:

38 ¶ And after this Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Matthew 27:

60 … and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

Today I have posted just a few verses for a glimpse of the agony our Savior went through on that first Good Friday. His anguish began with the distress of the atonement in Gethsemane, followed by a painful betrayal at a friend’s hands, an unfair secret trial, the demand for His death by His own people, mockery and torment by soldiers who knew nothing of His mission or who He was, and finally a horrific death upon a cross. I would highly encourage you to read these chapters in each of the Gospels for your own personal understanding and insight of these events. (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19)

It is hard for me to put into words my feelings about these torturous last hours of my Redeemer’s earthly life.  As I read talks, listened to music and watched videos to prepare myself for this post I found myself weeping with compassion for my Savior, remorse for my own part in His suffering, and gratitude for what He was willing to go through for each of us.  His love-driven willpower is incomprehensible to me.  As much as I know His Grace is an offering free of my earning it, it does make me want to prove my gratitude through my actions.  I want to show my love to Him by using my time wisely and serving Him and those around me well. I think one of the other important ways for us to show our appreciation to Him for all He did for us is to accept the gift He has offered.  We must allow His atonement to be applied to us and not just believe in its effectiveness for other people, but to really believe we personally can be cleansed, sanctified and empowered by it.

When I was younger and tried to picture the atonement made in our behalf, I would imagine Christ suffering for culminations of individual sins, for instance, first He would suffer for all the lies that were ever told, then for all the murders that were ever committed, then for all the impure thoughts that were ever considered, and so forth.  A combination of study and spiritual growth over the years has given me a better understanding of the reason for what our Savior went through. He was willing to suffer for us because He loves us wholly and completely.  He loves us individually and wanted to understand us each perfectly so that He could succor us in the exact way we need to be attended to.  I believe the atonement was much more personal than suffering for clumps of similar sins.  I believe He suffered individually for each of us.  I believe He knows every moment of my life, my joys, my sorrows, my strengths, my weaknesses, my sins, my sicknesses, and every burden I will ever carry.  I do not know by what miracle this is possible, but I believe He is the God of the individual and this is the only way He could truly know me well enough to care for me in every way I need Him to.  And I believe He did the same thing for each of you.  It is a personal atonement.  An atonement made one by one.  And I believe He would have been willing to do it even if you were the only one.

Song:

Lay Down My Life

Song:

Peace in Christ

Talk:

Gift of Grace

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-gift-of-grace?lang=eng

Talk:

Pattern For All

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/10/a-pattern-for-all?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

How can you allow the atonement to work in your life? Is their something specific you need to repent of? Is there something you’ve repented of you need to forgive yourself for?

Day 19: Love Much and Do What You Can Do

Luke 7:

36 ¶ And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

This story is precious to me for a many different reasons, I will share three. I am amazed at the courage displayed by this woman to enter a home knowing how she was defined by those in her community because of her past mistakes. But she didn’t care. She cared much more about what Jesus thought of her than what anyone else did. I have carried my own heavy burdens of sin and I remember a particular time thinking, “What if people find out?” A few moments later I was led by the Spirit to a scripture that in essence said, “If you can stand before God at the last day with clean hands and a pure heart, what else matters?” This woman had learned that lesson and her story teaches us the same thing.

It is so obvious that she loved Jesus with her whole heart and truly understood His mission. She had faith in who He was and in what was necessary for Him to do to fulfill His purpose. She did more than just profess her belief vocally, but also acted on it by giving of her substance, love, and humility in a way that could be recognized by the Savior, by everyone else watching, and by those who would read her story for thousands of years.

Another reason why I love this story is how clearly it shows the tenderness of the Savior towards one who is remorseful and repentant. He knew what the other people in the room were thinking of her and He told them to leave her alone. He told them that He was well aware of her sins but that her love had more than made up for them. She was forgiven because she loved much! I see her example and I feel hope. Loving well is something each of us can do. We can love our Savior and care more about what He thinks of us than anyone else. We can show our love for Him by loving others and showing mercy to them. And honestly, I believe that is all God expects of us, to do our best and to love much. Because of this story, that has been my motto for many years now… Love much and do what you can do. I believe there is great mercy in that objective.

Song: Loving My Jesus

Talk:

He Means Me

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1979/04/he-means-me?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question: What can you do to show your love for the Savior and an understanding of His mission? How can you better show your love for Him?

Day 7: He Runs to Us

Luke 15:

3 ¶ And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

11 ¶ And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

There are a few different perspectives that can be studied in this beautiful parable.  The one I want to focus on today is that of the prodigal son.  Each of us can relate to this son in the fact that we have all made mistakes and have turned away from God from time to time by not making Him a priority in our lives.  This may have led to sizeable sins or slightly measurable ones, but in either case, without the atonement of our Redeemer, these mistakes would bar us from ever being able to be in the presence of God again.

I for one have felt the guilt and shame of mistakes in my life.  I have felt the heavy burden of wondering whether or not I would ever feel loved by God or worthy of that love again.  Because of those feelings of despair I can completely relate to the squandering son who desired only to be a servant to his father, to be under his roof and protection once again, even if he could not partake fully of the abundance.

To my surprise, I learned that an acknowledgement of our mistakes and repentance of them, even of severe ones , does bring our Father running to us.  Regardless of our foolishness, He loves us and wants us to return to Him more than anything! He is waiting and watching for us to choose this course, and as soon as our heart is turned back towards Him it allows Him to run to us, to comfort us, to teach us, and to heal us. He will never cross the barriers of our agency, but when we act in such a way to invite Him back into our lives, He joyfully responds to the invitation.

Maybe you have never made sizeable mistakes that left you feeling this deep desperation, but even the smallest of sins saddens the heart of our loving Father because it keeps Him from being able to be fully in our lives.  We make choices every day that either bring us closer to Him or push Him farther away.  With each of these choices we bring Him joy or sadness. I am so grateful for a compassionate Savior and Redeemer who loves us so much He was willing to innocently suffer for and atone for our sins.  Through this great and infinite act He gives us each the key to repent and unlock the ability to return.  The most miraculous thing to me is that it does not have a limited amount of uses.  Any time, every time we come to our senses and realize we have distanced ourselves from God, we can use this gift to turn again and start on a path back to a Father who will run to us!

Song:

He Ran to Me

Talk:

Redeemer of Israel

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/redeemer-of-israel?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question: What is one area in your life you can turn back to God today?

40 Days with the Savior by Connie Sokol

My favorite find for this week comes from my friend Connie Sokol’s book 40 Days with Christ.

DAY 8: HE SACRIFICED FOR OTHERS

Luke 22:42, 44 [He said], Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

In a way incomprehensible to us, the Savior suffered the sins of everyone who has ever lived. But even more amazing, He could have chosen to vicariously feel our pains from a distance and remain only a kind friend or compassionate neighbor. Instead, He actually felt our same feelings, experienced our same pains, and walked our same path. This perfectly pure and clean Son of God chose to completely get down on our level. Why? So he could best know how to succor us. So He could know fully and completely know how to take away the pain. The Savior sacrificed everything—His personal desires, His comforts, even His will—so that we might have ultimate happiness. He gave us the possibility of a clean slate after each mistake, to let it go and be better next time. He loves us fully and completely, no matter our spiritual state, and only wants us to be happy and to be like Him. Jesus teaches us a core principle: sacrifice is a gift of joy. He suffered so that we don’t have to. When we’re sad, angry, or overwhelmed with the wrongness of our choices, we don’t have to stay that way. He already bore those burdens. And because of this, we can be happier. As we meet others, we can pay it forward and follow His example by sacrificing our time and abilities to share others’ burdens and lighten their load. How can you sacrifice for someone today?

Seeking the One

This picture is called “Seeking the One”and it was created by Liz Lemon Swindle. My son and I put together a big puzzle of it and until we sold our house recently it hung above the stairs in our home. I looked at it every day. And every day I felt deep gratitude for the Man who would leave the ninety and nine to find the one, because I have been that sheep, the one He seeks.

I honestly don’t know where I would be without my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I can’t imagine having to live out my life with the shame and regret of my mistakes and bad choices! I am so grateful for His love for me and willingness to sacrifice on my behalf so that I can shed the pain of my past and try again.

He loves each of us like that! He reaches out to us one by one and desires for us to come. He wants to heal us, help us, and walk us home.

Jesus Christ suffered in the garden, died on the cross, and rose again on the third day. Because of His willingness to do these things we have the opportunity to recognize our wrongs, repent and move forward becoming a little bit better day by day.