Monday, April 30, 2012

The Power of Imagination

In speaking to some people in Zarahemla (Alma 5) who have strayed from the gospel, Alma encourages them to use the three powers of the mind that create faith. One of these powers of the mind we don’t talk about much, and yet it can be so powerful in helping us live what we believe; that is the power we have to imagine. 

Alma encourages the people to imagine themselves standing before God and asks them to imagine how they will feel and what they will do. Will they try to lie to God and claim they are innocent? Or will they stand before Him confident in their righteousness? 

As I imagine myself in that position, I feel a determination to do better. It makes what I have been taught seem more real. It then gives me a memory instead of just a few words that I can recall anytime I need strength. But there are other ways we can use imagination to help us. One is to think of situations and circumstances when we fall short or make mistakes and use our imagination to determine a better response the next time we find ourselves in that situation. We can plan new behavior to break old habits, and plan for new responses to people who “push our buttons.”

Imagination is a powerful tool that we have been given to help us grow closer to our Father in Heaven and Savior, a tool we don’t use nearly enough.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What? Be Perfect!

We are all too familiar with the scriptural injunction to be perfect. As the Savior instructed, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). But when He issured this same command in 3 Nephi 12:48 He changed it by saying, "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." The important question here is why the difference.

The key to understanding is in the definition of the word perfect. The first definition in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is, "being entirely without fault or defect." In otherwords flawless. (OUCH!!!)  But the second definition says, "satisfying all requirements." I'm thankful that's the definition intended in these scriptures! And how do we know?

Remember before His resurrection the Savior challenged us to be perfect like our Father in Heaven is perfect. But after His resurrection He includes Himself in the example and asks us to be perfect like our Father in Heaven and like He is. Jesus was at all times flawless, but he had not "satisfied all the requirements" until he was resurrected. Only then was He perfect (completed).

Being perfect in a gospel sense isn't about flawlessness. God knew we couldn't be flawless and so He provided a Savior for us. But He wants us to be completed in that we receive all the covenants, and we won't receive them all in this life. We, like our Savior, need to move on to the next life and be resurrected before we will be completed.

Now that certainly is GOOD NEWS! Forget about working to be completely flawless or feeling shame because you aren't flawless or trying to put on a frontso others will think you are flawless. Instead, relax and concentrate on being your wonderful, natural, flawed self that is working toward completion. There is so much peace and hope in that!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


In the first few chapters of the New Testament in the book of Acts Peter and John teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and are harassed, imprisoned, beaten, and encounter many other other problems. But despite the adversity they continue to teach anyone and everyone who will listen. At one point (Acts 4:19-20), Peter says to the Jewish leaders who have demanded that he stop teaching of Jesus Christ, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

This is interesting in light of what we have discussed about Living in Truth. Peter and John acknowledge the truth and declare boldly that they can only speak truth-the verity of what they have seen and heard. Being special witnesses of Jesus Christ they have seen and heard some marvelous things--things that you and I most probably will never see. But we have heard the testimony of those who have seen, and like the people gathered to hear Peter and John we have the opportunity to discern by the power of the Spirit what is truth and what is not. Therefore, we determine truth not only by what we have seen and heard, but by what we have felt from the Spirit.

Thus when Peter says to the lame man at the temple, "Silver and gold have I none' but such as I have give I thee," You and I can think of it as an apostle speaking directly to us. We, like the lame man, are needy, and apostles are in essence saying to us today, "I don't have money for you, but I have a special witness of Jesus Christ that I will share with you, and that can heal you."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Church Now and Then

Summer here at BYU is separated into two terms, the Spring Block and the Summer Block. What that means is that we teach a full semester in half the time so instead of teaching a class twice a week we teach it four times a week. I like the accelerated pace and how it keeps the students focused. I also like how it keeps me focused.

This semester I am teaching New Testament 212 which consists of Acts to Revelation. I love Peter and Paul and all the others we read about in the last half of the New Testament so I am excited about the semester. One of the most interesting things is to see how the early apostles established the Church in the meridian of time and how it parallels exactly the establishment of the Church in the latter-days. Acts to Revelation covers about 30 years of time and from 1830 to 1860 we see the same things happening in the modern Church. It is amazing, and a lot of fun to search out and take note of all the parallels! What a testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His Church.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Am Strong

One of the things that helps us Live in Truth is to recognize our strengths and dwell on them instead of thinking about our weaknesses. Often in a religious culture the meaning of humility is misunderstood. We think that to be humble we need to put ourselves down, but Jesus Christ is our best example of all principles of the gospel and He never once put himself down. He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the light” (John 14:6). That wasn’t a boast; it was a fact. (My favorite definition of humility is “Power under control.”)

By the same token, we should recognize our strengths and instead of debasing ourselves we should think about our strengths and encourage ourselves to use them whenever we can—never boasting, but always aware of and using our strengths. By doing this we crowd out thoughts of our weaknesses and generate feelings of happiness and joy that then feed and contribute to the growth of our strengths.

God has given each of us multiple talents and strengths. He’s told us so (D&C 46), and He cannot lie. For us to claim we have no strengths is to deny God.

So make a list of your strengths and then think about them daily. Drive away negative thoughts with thoughts of your strengths. Spend time enhancing and using your strengths, and then enjoy the happiness that flows into your life.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sabbath Scripture--Peace

These things I have spoken unto you,
that in me ye might have peace.
In the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer;
I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Saturday, April 21, 2012

So Long Bad Habits!

We've all set out to change a bad habit into a good habit and failed miserably at making the change. Usually we chalk it all up to not having enough will power to make ourselves do what we want to do. But recent research has shown that there are other things that get in our way and surprisingly (At least it was to me!) is that one of the things that derails our plans is too many choices.

For example, we set a goal to exercise in the morning, but when the alarm goes off we are suddenly faced with the choice of hitting the snooze button and getting just ten more minutes sleep. If we survive the next ring and actually get up we are faced with a decision of what to wear and where to walk and how long to walk. This may seem funny, but research has actually shown that lots of decisions wear away at our self-discipline. A myriad of decisions depletes our will power!

Therefore, one of the things that can help us develop the good habits we are trying to establish is to limit the decisions we make or make them beforehand so that at the time of action we only have to do what we have already decided to do.

For example when trying to get in the habit of exercising in the morning, the night before you lay out your clothes and map out exactly where you are going to go. You decide that you will not hit the snooze button and so when the alarm goes off you get up immediately before the brain starts to present other options, put on your clothes and get out the front door. By doing that you significantly increase your chance of success.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Growth and Adversity

I've thought a lot about Post-Traumatic Growth that I wrote about yesterday since I learned about it. During and after my experience with Grizelda and the brain surgery I experienced it. It is very interesting how the very worst of life experiences can still be very encouraging and uplifting if we have the right mind-set.

A very good friend of mine was blind and she used to say to me, I hate being blind, but I wouldn't go back to seeing if it meant I had to give up all I've learned from being blind."

That's how I feel about Grizelda. It would be nice to not have a huge scar in my scalp and a "divot" in the temple on my forehead. It would have been nice not to have to miss a semester of teaching. It would ahve been very nice to have escaped the pain and worry. But I learned so much about life and especially about myself through that experience that I wouldn't go back and change anything.

The trick in life is to remember that and to keep our spirits up and to remain encouraged at the beginning of those trying experiences instead of only when we look back on them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Post-Traumatic Growth

In our modern world of war and other atrocities the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has become so well known it goes by the acronym PTSD. It’s talked about on the news and whispered about in frightened groups of survivors. But what isn’t as well known or as talked about is Post-Traumatic Growth which is just as prevalent as PTSD, but because we live in a culture that enjoys perpetuating the negative and overlooking the positive it isn’t talked about. But it is real and more of us have experienced it than have experienced PTSD.

Instead of experiencing debilitating symptoms after a trauma many people discover that after the initial sorrow and sadness, they have actually grown in many positive ways. This is what is called Post-Traumatic Growth. Researchers have now shown that positive psychological growth such as increases in spirituality, compassion for others, feelings of confidence in one’s own abilities, appreciation for life, and even an increase in personal satisfaction with life have occurred after traumatic experiences.

The fact that the media and others talk mostly about PTSD is sad in that it gives the impression that PTSD is the only response for trauma. We need to talk more about Post-Traumatic Growth because the difference in the two is largely a difference in mind-set and so we help others now and in the future by helping them to see that there are other ways to experience trauma.

Each of us has power over our own mind-set and researchers have found that those who define themselves by the bad that happens to them will most likely experience PTSD, but those that have a mind-set that the trauma has something to teach them will experience Post-Traumatic Growth. The catch is that for best results we need to train ourselves to see life as a learning experience instead of a devastating experience before the trauma occurs.

So begin today by asking yourself what you are learning from the things that happen to you. Let's make PTG more well known!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happiness How To

Sonja Lyubormirsky, who is a leading researcher in the field of happiness, did a study that showed that people who complete five acts of kindness in a given day were happier than people who did not consciously try to perform acts of kindness that day. The most interesting thing, however, is that the group that did the five acts of kindness were happier not only that day, but the good feelings lasted for several days after the experiment was over.

To a good Christian this seems like a given.It's nice that research is substantiating what we already intuitively know. After all, doing acts of kindness is what the gospel is all about, but sometimes our lives get so busy and so scheduled that we need to remind ourselves of how important it is to look for ways and then minister kindnes. As we then renew our efforts to do good things for others we make them happy, but we also make ourselves happy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happiness and Work

Part of what I've been researching is happines,s and I've discovered some wonderful things. For example, for years it has been thought that success makes us happier. But research shows that the opposite is true; happiness makes us more successful. One study conducted on two groups of medical doctors showed that the group given a simple gift of candy before they were asked to make a medical evaluation made better and quicker evaluations than the group that was not given a gift.

I could relate many more such studies, but the thing that impressed me is that usually we think we can get our family members to work harder and faster if we promise them a reward at the end. But study after study showed that if we can make people feel happier before they start to work, they work better and faster than if promised rewards afterward. I wish I'd known that when I was raising my children. But then, maybe these results only work in business.

The research also details many things that make people happy like the small gift of candy the doctors were given or words of praise or quality time spent with the person or thinking about good things like blessings or playing music that makes them happy.

I don't have children at home any more, but I'd be interested to see how you find this works on children. If you try it, let me know!

Monday, April 16, 2012

I'm Back

I've missed you all and appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement. I haven't been this sick for years, but I am on my way back! I can now speak above a whisper and breath without it causing me to cough. And I'm more grateful that ever for modern technology especially antiobiotics. Every day gets better and now I just need to get my strength back.

I completely missed (slept through the whole day!) Easter and so I feel a little cheated since it is my favorite holiday, but I've decided everyday the rest of the month will be Easter for me so I can make it up to myself.

While recovering, I've also had some "down time" that has allowed me to do some studying and research that .I've wanted to do for awhile. In other words, being sick hasn't been wasted time; I've learned a lot that I'll be sharing here soon. It's like we've talked about "all things work together for good" (D&C 100:15). It was difficult to recognize at first, but there definately has been some good come out of this sickness.

Thanks again for the prayers, love, and encouraging words!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Morning

(I have been very sick and so I didn't get this posted Sunday morning, but the event is too important so here it is.)
While soldiers guarded the sepulcher in which the body of Jesus Christ lay, the earth violently shook, two angels descended from heaven, rolled away the stone, and sat upon it. Overcome with fear the soldiers fell to the ground as if dead.

"Holy Women Near the Tomb" by Maurice Denis
The next morning, as soon as day began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and other women hurried to the tomb bearing sweet spices to anoint the Savior’s body. Worried about how they would roll back the heavy stone, they were surprised to find it already rolled back, and two angels guarding the entrance. Sensing the women’s fear, the angels said, “Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here” (Mark 16:6). “Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee. Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:6-7).

At the invitation of the angels the women then looked inside the sepulcher and when they had seen that it was empty the angels instructed them to go tell Peter and the disciples that the Lord had risen. The women returned quickly and told all they had seen. But most of the men took it as idle talk and refused to believe the women.

However, Peter and John hurried to the sepulcher and when they arrived Peter stooped down to look inside and saw that the linen clothes were lying undisturbed, but the napkin which had been about Jesus’ head was folded in a place by itself. The sight must have startled him. If the body had been stolen the linen would have been taken with the body or at least strewn about the room in disarray, but instead it lay where it had been and the napkin neatly folded. What could it mean? Perplexed Peter and John returned to their homes.

Overcome with sorrow, Mary stayed in the garden, and still weeping, peered inside the tomb one more time. There she saw the two angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain. Seeing her sorrow, one said to her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” (John 20:13.

"Jesus Appears to Mary" by Gregg Olsen
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

As she spoke, she turned back and saw Jesus standing in the garden, but with tears filling her eyes she didn’t recognize Him. “Why weepest thou?” he asked her.

Thinking He was the gardener she begged of Him, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus responded, “Mary,” and at the sound of the familiar voice calling her name her grief turned instantly to joy and she cried, “My great Master.”

“Hold me not,” Jesus cautioned, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

Mary did as instructed and thus dawned the greatest day in the history of the world. Many mighty miracles followed as graves opened and the resurrected bodies of the saints came forth to minister to believers. 

Jesus also appeared to many other people and the world rejoiced in the fact that the great enemies of life, spiritual and physical death, had been defeated. Because He loved us so much, Jesus Christ saved us.

He is risen!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Crucifixion and Last Words of Jesus

Crucifixion was designed to cause death but to do so at the slowest, most torturous pace. The agony was intense as wounds tore and bled, and muscles and joints pulled from tendons and sockets. But that is not what caused death. The strain of hanging by the arms eventually caused asphyxiation as the person lost the ability to breathe.

That day on Calvary two others were executed alongside Jesus. One of them joined the Jewish leaders in deriding Jesus and cried out, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23:39). But the other rebuked the first saying, “Dost not thou fear God. . . .We receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”

Then to Jesus he said, “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

Many of the women who had followed Jesus were sorrowing at the cross including Jesus’ mother. When Jesus saw her there he said,, “Woman, behold thy son!” Then to John he said, “Behold thy mother!”

At noon darkness fell over the land, and for the next three hours the sun was hid. Finally after three hours of suffering, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

John tells us that then, knowing all things were now accomplished, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

In response someone dipped a sponge into a pot of vinegar, put the sponge on a hyssop reed, which would have been about three or four feet long, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. After He had sucked from it Jesus said, “It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then bowing his head, as the Greek text says, Jesus breathed out his last breath and delivered up His spirit.

Meanwhile at the temple the new course of Levites were performing the sacrificial rituals and at this same moment the trumpets announced that the ritual service was one-third over. Inside the Holy Place the veil separating it from the Most Holy Place ripped in two. The symbolism of this incident is beautiful. Before only the High Priest, representing Jehovah, could enter the Most Holy Place which contained the throne of God, and he was only allowed in once a year on the day of Atonement. With the veil rent, the way back to God was now open for all mankind. But there is something more. Josephus tells us that according to the Rabbis, the veil was a handbreadth thick. It was woven of 72 twisted plaits, each consisting of 24 threads (24 ply yarn!). Josephus, who tends to exaggeration, also informs us that the veil was so large it required 300 priests to lift it into place. But at the moment of Christ’s death it miraculously ripped in two from top to bottom.

Wanting the ordeal to be over before the Sabbath began, the Jewish leaders implored Pilate to expedite the crucifixion. Under orders, then, the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves so that they could no long push themselves up by the small platform at their feet and would suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He was already dead. Seeing this one of the soldiers thrust his spear into the Savior’s side and blood and water gushed out. This is significant in that it indicates that instead of dying by asphyxiation, Jesus’ heart literally ruptured making the cause of death a broken heart.

After the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathaea asked Pilate for the body and he and Nicodemus lovingly anointed Jesus with myrrh and aloes, wrapped Him in linen burial clothes and spices, and placed him in a never before used sepulcher over which was rolled a stone.

On Saturday the Jewish leaders, remembering that Jesus had said that after three days He would rise again, asked Pilate to place a guard at the sepulcher for they feared someone would steal His body and then claim Jesus had risen. Pilate consented, saying, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can” (Matthew 27:65). Given permission, the Jewish leaders sealed the stone door and set soldiers to guard the tomb.

But soldiers would not be enough to secure this tomb.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

As Jesus awoke the sleeping disciples saying, “Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand” (Mark 14:42), Judas, leading a great multitude entered the garden. What we usually don’t realize is how great that multitude really was. The gospel writers tell us that the group consisted of the chief priests, scribes, elders, the captain and officers of the Jews temple police force, and a band of Roman soldiers armed with swords and staves and carrying torches and lanterns. Like all things in New Testament scholarship, how many men were in a band of soldiers is debated, but it is safe to assume there were at least 150 which shows how much the chief priest fear Jesus. In addition, it is Passover week and the city is crowded with people who hearing the commotion would have followed out of curiosity. One senses the irony as hundreds of angry men stomped through the night led by the light of their torches in order to capture the Light of the world! (See Isaiah 50:11.) As they approached Jesus, Judas cried out “Hail, master!” and kissed Jesus.

Jesus responded, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). Then turning to the crowd He asked, “Whom seek ye?” 

They responded “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus answered, “I am he” (John 18:6). But you will notice in your scriptures that the word he is italicized. This means that the word is not in the original Greek manuscripts but is a word the King James translators added to make things clearer. However, in this case it hides the meaning. What Jesus says to them is simply, “I am” which was considered to be the name of God. As Thomas Aquinas explained, the title I Am referred to the “being of all things.”

Something extraordinary happens as Jesus pronounces, “I am.” At those words the entire multitude stepped backward and fell to the ground which indicates to me that there must have been a power or spirit that accompanied those words as if to give the people one last chance to understand and repent. Instead they arrest Him, but as He surrenders His love is manifest as He asks that His disciples be set free.

At this point Peter drew his sword and lashing out cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest named Malcus. “Put up thy sword,” Jesus says to Peter. Then turning to Malcus he touched his ear and healed him. But even that fails to soften the angry mob. Now, turning Himself over to the mob Jesus said, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).

After His arrest Jesus was taken to the palace of the chief priest Caiaphas, and his father-in-law Annas, and tried for the crime of blasphemy. The fact that they were trying a man during the night and many other details of the proceedings were illegal under their own laws, but that did not stop them. A unanimous decision was reached (also illegal) and the crowd began to spit on Jesus and make a game of covering His face, striking him, and then crying out, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?”

Outside as Peter waited, a maid who also sat with him at the fire suddenly proclaimed, “This man was also with him.”

But Peter answered, “Woman, I know him not.” Two more times people recognized Peter as a follower and both times Peter again denied knowing Jesus. After the third denial the cock crew and Peter remembered that the night before Jesus had told him, “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” At the realization of what he had done, Peter went out and wept bitterly.

As the day began to dawn, Jesus was taken to Pilate because the chief priests wanted Him executed under Roman law. As they delivered Jesus up to Pilate in the Praetorium, the official residence of the Roman governor, they refused to enter the judgment hall themselves lest they be defiled. Curious about this man he had heard so much about, Pilate began the examination by asking, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33).

Jesus replied, “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
Sarcastically Pilate replied, “Am I a Jew?” and explained that it is the chief priests that have told him these things. As the trial goes on Pilate persisted, “Art thou a king then?”

Jesus finally answered, “For this cause came I into the world. . . . Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

At this Pilate asked, “What is truth?” But without waiting for an answer sent Jesus to be judged of Herod.

Herod is equally as curious to see Jesus and questioned Him intensely, but Jesus refused to answer Herod. So Herod and his men mock “the King” by arraying him in a gorgeous royal robe and send Him back to Pilate.

Pilate can see that Jesus has committed no crime and is reluctant to pass judgment, but the Jewish leaders incite the crowd and insist on Jesus’ death. In a last attempt to free Jesus, Pilate offers the people a choice. There is to be a prisoner released to celebrate the Passover. Do they want Barabbas who is accused of murder and sedition set free or Jesus? The name Barabbas in Hebrew means “son of the father” and an early Christian scholar named Origen claimed that Barabbas’ given name was Yeshua, which in Greek is Jesus. Whether that is true or not the irony remains. The Jewish leaders chose to free the guilty “son of the father” who had destroyed lives, and condemn the innocent “Son of the Father” who would give them life.

Pilate, still unconvinced of the Savior’s guilt pleaded with the crowd, but fearing rioting from the crowd that refuses to relent, Pilate washes his hands as a symbolic gesture that he does not agree with this verdict, but proclaims Jesus as guilty and condemns Him to be crucified with the words, “Shall I crucify your King?” and the people shout back, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).
Once again the soldiers mock and torture the Savior as they carry him to prison. Clothed in the purple royal robe, they now place a crown of thorns upon his head and salute him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” as they smite and spit upon Him.

Tired from being awake all night, fatigued from the atoning agony, and wounded from the scourging He had received Jesus began the walk to Calvery with the beam of the cross upon His back, but He had no strength left for the task and so a man, Simon a Cyrenian, was pulled from the crowd and forced to carry the cross. Once on the hill, Jesus was nailed to the cross beam, it was lifted into place on the permanently installed post, His feet were nailed to the post and He was crucified with a placard placed atop the cross that read in three languages, “This is the King of the Jews.” The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to change the placard to read, “He said, I am King of the Jews.” But Pilate refused to change it saying, “What I have written I have written.”

As the soldiers jeered and reviled while carrying out their duties, Jesus looked down upon them and said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Totally clueless as to the eternally significant event taking place at the top of the cross, the soldiers at the bottom of the cross made four piles of His clothing, but instead of ripping the royal coat into four pieces they cast lots to see who would win it. Thus they went home that day rejoicing over their spoils unaware of the great gift of life that had been given them.

The crowd continued to jeer and mock. “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross.” And the chief priests cried out, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.”

(To be continued tomorrow)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Last Thursday of the Savior's Life

As the days of the last week of His life go by, the Savior’s love for His disciples and for us becomes even more evident. On what has become known as Maundy Thursday He sends His disciples to prepare a room where they can celebrate the Passover meal together. At the appointed time Jesus begins the meal by saying, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The Greek translated as desire has more intensity than the King James translators give it. The Greek work indicates an eagerness and would have been better translated, “With great desire.” 

It is difficult to determine the exact time line of what next occurs. John is the only writer to report the washing of the apostles’ feet, but He tells us that it was before the feast. If that is so, then the evening begins with Jesus removing his outer coat and girding himself with a towel, in other words He clothes himself as a servant would be clothed, and taking a basin of water He washes the feet of His disciples and wipes them with the towel. 
When He is finished He asks, “Know ye what I have done to you?” and then answers His own question, “Ye call me Master and Lord, for so am I. If I then have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

After this Jesus takes the cup of wine, gives thanks and the last legitimate Passover meal begins and during its course is transformed into the first Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But then Jesus grows troubled in spirit and says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” One can imagine the emotions that then afflicted the disciples. Those that loved Him were grieved and bewildered, and asked, “Is it I?” And the one who did not love Him, filled with guilt and fear that he was about to be denounced, tried to play the part of the loving and hypocritically imitated their concern, “Master, is it I?”

Jesus responded, “That thou doesn’t, do quickly.”

At these words Judas left. John reports this by saying, Judas “went immediately out: and it was night.”At least it was for Judas; he had left the Light of the world and entered darkness.

With Judas gone, Jesus proceeds to teach His disciples. Under the law of Moses the command has been to love others as you love yourself. But Jesus now says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).

Foreboding feelings must have permeated the evening and caused uneasiness among the participants, but Jesus always aware of what is needed, comforts them by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). In other words, 
Don’t worry. Trust me. I will always take care of you.

Jesus goes on to teach them the things that will guide and comfort them after He is gone; the same things that will bring us peace and comfort. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Then He explains that he is going to send another Comforter, the Holy Ghost, and assures them as the KJV reports, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). But the Greek manuscripts say, “I will not leave you orphaned.” 

With love so deep and sincere that these thousands of years later one can still feel the emotion as if it were being spoken directly to the reader the Savior then says, “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, netiher let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

The time in the Upper Room ends by singing a hymn which was most likely the Hallel. Then they left and walked north-eastward, passing the Temple Mount, crossing down the Kidron valley, and finally ascending the Mount of Olives until they reached the Garden of Gethsemane. But His teachings do not end. As they walk, He continues to exhort them. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can ye, except ye abide in me . . . for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). And again, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “When the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). And finally, to prepare them for what is about to happen He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

After this Jesus lifts up his eyes to heaven and prays a marvelous prayer for the disciples and for you and me. It has become known as the Intercessory Prayer or the Great High Priestly Prayer. I cannot do this justice by condensing it. Read John 17 as the Savior of the world prays to the Father for you and ends with these words, 
“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

Finally the Savior and His followers arrive at Gethsemane, which means oil press. Jesus instructs most of the disciples to sit while He takes Peter, James and John further into the garden. At this point Jesus begins to be “sore amazed” as Mark reports, but again the Greek here is much more intense. The Greek words mean “terrified surprise or astonishment.” You and I know the consequences of sin. We’ve felt the guilt, the heavy darkness, the anguish, and the depression that are brought on by sin, but Jesus Christ had never before felt such feelings. This was new to Him—astonishing in its intensity and darkness. Thus as the sins of the world press upon Him in this place called “Oil Press” he cries out, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

But the agony continues until the anguish and pressure is so intense that blood presses through His flesh and great drops fall to the ground. 

He had instructed His disciples to pray, but instead they have slept. Three times during this ordeal He returned to them and instructed them, but the first two times, though they try, they fall asleep again. Thus the third time when He returns He says, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Mark 14:41).

Like all days, this first Maundy Thursday came and went. But unlike any other day, this Thursday contained more love, concern, guidance, and admonition than any Thursday before or since. In it Jesus Christ commands us to love, but more than that He shows us love as He bears our sins so that 
"With his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

The entire day can be summed up in four words that you should repeat often this day and always: 
Jesus Christ loves me.

(The full account can be found in Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; and John 13-17)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More About Easter Week

Wednesday is the only day of Easter week that is not reported on by the gospel writers. But there are a few other things I’d like to point out today. First of all, in all the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), one-sixth of the text is used to describe the twenty-four hours beginning with the last supper and ending with the burial of Jesus. This means that if every day in the life of Jesus were this complete we would have 180 volumes as large as our whole Bible (Vincent 1:433). Oh, how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wanted us to understand the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

There are also many things I left out that happened on Tuesday. One I can’t neglect and that is the story of the Widow’s mite. We are told that Jesus was in the treasury which was a hall in the temple where gifts were deposited in thirteen receptacles shaped like trumpets. Jesus watched as one by one rich men paraded through the hall and cast their gifts into the trumpets, but then a poor widow cast in two meager mites. Not wanting this to go unnoticed by his disciples, Jesus made a point of it. “Of a truth,” He told them, “This poor widow has cast in more than all of the others. For they gave a little from their abundance, but she has given all she has.”

In contrast to this story we find another account concerning money. It was also on Tuesday that Judas set into motion the plot to kill Jesus. There is much irony in the very name Judas, for it means “he shall be praised.” We are told that Judas had become offended because of the Savior’s words (JST Mark 14:10) and so he went to the chief priests and asked, “What will ye give me if I deliver Jesus unto you?” And they agreed on a price of 30 pieces of silver.

Scholars and others have purported many estimates of what those 30 pieces of silver are worth in today’s money. I’ve found reports of anywhere between $7.20 to $40,000. This tells us that no one really knows for sure, but the fact that the chief priests later use the money to buy a plot of ground to be used as a cemetery tells us that it was a substantial amount of money. What is more important is that the 30 pieces of silver is fulfillment of a prophecy made in Zechariah 11:12 in which we are told, “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver,” which in those days was the price that under the law of Moses a man must pay to a neighbor if the man’s animal caused the death of the neighbor’s slave. In other words, 30 pieces of silver was considered the monetary worth to replace a slave.

The symbolism of this slave metaphor is profound and in many Bible stories this symbolism foreshadows the “selling” of Jesus. For example, it was Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, who proposed and sold his brother Joseph as a slave, and now it is Judas who proposes and sells his brother Jesus for the price of a slave.

After the crucifixion, Judas regrets what he has done and returns the money to the chief priests saying, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). But the chief priests refuse (you can almost hear them laughing in derision) to accept the money for the temple treasury because it is “blood money” and would profane and desecrate the temple. The irony here is mind boggling. They are too pious to accept “tainted ” money, but have no qualms about murdering Jesus.

When they refuse the money, Judas throws down the silver, leaves the temple, and hangs himself. So the chief priests are left with the money and since they won’t put blood money in the treasury, they buy the potter’s field. Of this part of the story Zechariah prophesies, “Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them” (Zechariah 11:13).

Pondering these stories leads all of us to the question,
“What is Jesus worth to us?”
Discovering the answer to that question is what Easter week is all about.