Saturday, June 29, 2019

Come Follow Me - The Resurrection - Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20–21

Come Follow Me - Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20–21


“...there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.
The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (.Alma 40:21-23)

With the Fall of Adam, all people physically die. With the Fall, we are all driven out of God's presence. Only the Infinite Sacrifice, Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ could reverse this tragedy. As the world began in chaos, only to be organized by the power of Christ, so the Fall brought chaos back into the world. Only the greatest sacrificial offering could restore order from the chaos of death and hell.
Resurrection, the reuniting of body and soul, leads to the final Judgment, where we are judged on our works.  This determines the Restoration of all things, not just restoring the body, but also the soul.  This restoration also is a restoring of eternal relationships, with God and family.  

In believing and repenting, we are restored back into God’s presence, even if at a distance as Alma experienced in his conversion (Alma 36).  This is where Justification comes in, where we are washed clean in the blood of Christ.  We are guiltless, sinless, without spot.  We are able to enter into the kingdom of God, or in modern LDS terminology, the kingdoms of God. We are returned to the presence of the Godhead.

In the judgment, however, we are also judged according to our works.  Our seeking to be holy is part of the sanctification process, sealed by the Holy Ghost.  This determines the level of reward we receive in the heavens.

For those who never believe in Christ and refuse to repent, they are given a kingdom without glory or light.  They have chosen to be vessels of wrath, eternal enemies of God and Christ.  They will return to Outer Darkness,

“But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup” (Alma 40:26).

Only those who refuse to ever repent are unclean.  They are left with what they have become - evil.  There is only the dregs of a bitter cup for them to drink, because they have forever refused to accept the cup of Christ’s blood.

The Disciples

For the disciples, with many Jews of the time, resurrection was something they believed in. However, the general belief was that all righteous would rise at the last day, at the same time. In other words, they did believe Jesus would resurrect some day, just not three days later on the first day of the week!

Why didn't the apostles believe the women, when they returned with the angelic news that "he is risen?" Because the end had not happened and people still were mortals, not ready for a resurrection. No wonder Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus at first. He wasn't expected to come back to life so suddenly.

You will notice that there are differences in the gospels regarding the resurrection story. Different women gather around the tomb. In one scene, an angel sitting on the rolled stone speaks to them. In another, two angels speak with them from within the tomb. In John, the angel only appears to Mary Magdalene, after the others have left, and only moments before Jesus appears to her. 

In the synoptic gospels, the disciples are told to go to Galilee, where they'll see the Savior. In John, they see him in Jerusalem, and celebrate in the temple because of their joy of the resurrection.

The gospels were written decades after the resurrection. Obviously memories of events changed over time, allowing for the differences. We often see differences in the histories that occur anciently and even more modern. Just as the First Vision stories differ somewhat, the key points remain. The key point is they (the disciples and Joseph Smith) saw the resurrected Jesus Christ.

From Fishers to Shepherds
An interesting event occurs with Peter and several of the Eleven in John 21. According to John, the disciples saw Jesus twice in Jerusalem, and spent several days rejoicing in the temple. Several then go to Galilee. Why? Well, the resurrection has happened, Jesus lives, and the disciples have already offered sacrifice, probably a Thanksgiving Offering. There was nothing left to do, but return back to their previous profession: fishing.

In fishing all night, they caught nothing. In the early morning, Jesus appeared on shore and called to them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Upon doing this, their nets quickly filled up. John recognized the Savior from this action. Why? Because at the beginning of Jesus' mission, he performed the exact same miracle.

As Jesus fed the apostles, he turned to Peter and asked him three times, if he loved him. Peter answered yes, all three times. This clearly ties into the three times Peter denied Jesus, now ensuring Peter is all in.

Jesus' response to Peter's love? Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs.  Peter was not to return to being a fisherman. Nor was he to be a fisher of men, as Jesus called them at the beginning of his ministry. Now, Peter and his fellow apostles would be shepherds, even as Christ is the Great Shepherd. They wouldn't just catch people, baptize them and go on their way. Instead, they would care for them, nurture them, and protect them from harm. Such is the difference between a fisher of men and a shepherd of lambs.

Justification and Sanctification
Plan of Restoration

Alma explains more regarding the restoration, which includes the resurrection.  All mankind will resurrect, because that is part of the plan of God.  

“the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order” (Alma 41:2).

God’s justice could not come to pass without the restoration of all things.  This connects to the ancient belief that in the Creation, God brought forth order out of chaos.  Physical and spiritual death have disrupted the order in the universe. The law of entropy requires that all things lose energy and eventually fall into a state of chaos.  This is the natural order of the universe, but does not square with the God’s justice.  God is just, and his plan is one of restoring all things to a place of order. Resurrection deals with the physical death of all things, bringing order to the chaos of entropy.  The atonement brings order forth from spiritual death’s chaos.

Yet, some will refuse the order and justice of God.  Instead, they will insist upon the natural order to come upon them, and will dwell in chaos and entropy, with no chance for eternal progression or growth, no happiness because there is only the misery of chaos.

“The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.
And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness
These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil” (vv 5-7).

Justice requires all things to be restored to a proper order, happiness to happiness, misery to misery.  Light to light and darkness to darkness.  Justification means Christ’s atonement makes us sinless, and worthy to enter into the kingdom of God.  It is where our desires are centered.  If we desire to be rescued, we will be through faith on Christ. Those who go to Spirit Prison, the “endless night of darkness” and choose to repent, will be rescued according to their desire and belief.

“And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.
And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame” (vv 3-4).

Sanctification through the purifying power of the Holy Ghost makes us holy enough to dwell in a higher level of God’s kingdom.  For this, we are judged by our works, which are an outward image of what we are inside.  We must not only desire righteous and holy things, but we must become righteous  and be holy in order for our works to show us as being holy.

“Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (vv 14-15).

Our works will be restored to us, whether good or evil.  If we wish to receive mercy, then we need to first be merciful.  That which we sow, we shall reap, for such is the law of the harvest and restoration.

 Previous thoughts from my blog 

Ancient Jewish days started at sundown, not at midnight as we now practice it. Jesus was crucified on Friday, but the next official Jewish day and the holy day of Passover would begin at dusk (about 6pm) on Friday. Jewish law forbade executions to occur on Passover, and so the death of Jesus and the two thieves had to be expedited. The Roman soldiers crushed the legs of the two thieves, causing intense pain and the weight of the body to be no more supported on the legs, but only on the arms, causing suffocation to occur.

But Jesus had already died. To ensure he was dead, a soldier pierced his side with a spear, stabbing directly into his heart. On dying, the fluids in the heart and blood stream begin to separate, and so both blood and water burst from the wound. It was necessary for Jesus to die without having his legs broken. The Paschal lamb was required to be perfect, without blemish and no broken bones.

The wealthy Joseph of Arimathea requested his body and quickly prepared the body to be laid in his own stately tomb. Jesus was not buried a full three days, but only parts of the first and third day. Truly we see:

“7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
“8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
“9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53).

Three Days Dead and Alive

While his body slept, his spirit had things to accomplish. In LDS teaching, President Joseph Fielding Smith (nephew of Joseph Smith) received a vision (D&C 128) in regards to what Jesus did during his three days:

“6 I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:
7 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
9 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3:18–20.)
10 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:6.)

In the vision, he saw the Spirit World, a place in between earth and heaven, wherein the spirits of men and women await the Resurrection and prepare for the Final Judgment. The Spirit World is divided into two sections: Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison/hell. The believing thief next to Christ was told he would be with Jesus that very day in Paradise. The disbelieving and mocking thief, on the other hand, would find himself suffering for his sins in hell.

Jesus’ purpose, according the Bible verses read by President Smith were to show that Jesus preached the gospel to the dead, including those who died at the Great Flood. President Smith pondered on how Jesus could preach the gospel to millions of the dead within such a short amount of time. As he pondered this, a vision of the Spirit World opened up to him. He first saw the righteous and the state of happiness and joy they were in. Then he saw those in Spirit Prison, and how Jesus was able to preach to them.
18 While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;
19 And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.
20 But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised;
21 Neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face.
22 Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace;
29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

So the Lord preached to the repentant and righteous in Paradise, while the wicked remained in hell or Spirit Prison until they learned the gospel from missionaries sent from Paradise and repented of their sins.

Gospel of Nicodemus

Interestingly, an early Christian book also talks of the Spirit World where Christ went. The Gospel of Nicodemus begins with several people arising from the grave and entering into the towns. Two of these were the dead sons of the high priest Simeon. The Sanhedrin questioned these two and asked what occurred with them.

They were in prison, when their father Simeon came to them and told them to glorify Jesus, for he held Jesus when the Lord was but a babe, and Simeon an old man, and prophesied what would occur to the child and the world would be blessed.

Then they saw John the Baptist, Adam, Seth, and all the patriarchs and prophets. Each of these testified to the two young men concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In other words, the full gospel of Christ was preached to those who had not received it.

There is then a discussion between Satan and the angel over Hell. Satan told Hell to prepare to receive Jesus, as he had just slain the Lord.

“Hell answered and said: Thou hast told me that it is he that hath taken away dead men from me. For there be many which while they lived on the earth have taken dead men from me, yet not by their own power but by prayer to God, and their almighty God hath taken them from me. Who is this Jesus which by his own word without prayer hath drawn dead men from me? Perchance it is he which by the word of his command did restore to life Lazarus which was four days dead and stank and was corrupt, whom I held here dead. Satan the prince of death answered and said: It is that same Jesus. When Hell heard that he said unto him: I adjure thee by thy strength and mine own that thou bring him not unto me. For at that time I, when I heard the command of his word, did quake and was overwhelmed with fear, and all my ministries with me were troubled. Neither could we keep Lazarus, but he like an eagle shaking himself leaped forth with all agility and swiftness, and departed from us, and the earth also which held the dead body of Lazarus straightway gave him up alive. Wherefore now I know that that man which was able to do these things is a God strong in command and mighty in manhood, and that he is the saviour of mankind. And if thou bring him unto me he will set free all that are here shut up in the hard prison and bound in the chains of their sins that cannot be broken, and will bring them unto the life of his god head for ever.”

Jesus enters and breaks down the doors of hell, releasing the righteous. Jesus embraced the righteous.

“And the Lord stretching forth his hand, said: Come unto me, all ye my saints which bear mine image and my likeness. Ye that by the tree and the devil and death were condemned, behold now the devil and death condemned by the tree. And forthwith all the saints were gathered in one under the hand of the Lord. And the Lord holding the right hand of Adam, said unto him: Peace be unto thee with all thy children that are my righteous ones.“

Isaiah, Habbakuk, David, and many other prophets quoted their inspired prophecies of Jesus, as the saints all knelt and pledged their hearts to their true King.

“But the Lord holding the hand of Adam delivered him unto Michael the archangel, and all the saints followed Michael the archangel, and he brought them all into the glory and beauty (grace) of paradise.“

So the righteous were taken to paradise, a place of rest and peace. Meanwhile the wicked remained in Spirit Prison/hell. In LDS teaching, they would also be taught the gospel, even as the sons of Simeon were taught. Those who repented and believed would also be brought into paradise, where they could be at rest and await their glorious resurrection at the 2nd Coming.

The final witness of Christ in the Gospel of Nicodemus then came forth.

“And as Enoch and Elias (Elijah) spake thus with the saints, behold there came another man of vile habit, bearing upon his shoulders the sign of the cross; whom when they beheld, all the saints said unto him: Who art thou? for thine appearance is as of a robber; and wherefore is it that thou bearest a sign upon thy shoulders? And he answered them and said: Ye have rightly said: for I was a robber, doing all manner of evil upon the earth. And the Jews crucified me with Jesus, and I beheld the wonders in the creation which came to pass through the cross of Jesus when he was crucified, and I believed that he was the maker of all creatures and the almighty king, and I besought him, saying: Remember me, Lord, when thou comest into thy kingdom. And forthwith he received my prayer, and said unto me: Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise: and he gave me the sign of the cross, saying: Bear this and go unto paradise, and if the angel that keepeth paradise suffer thee not to enter in, show him the sign of the cross; and thou shalt say unto him: Jesus Christ the Son of God who now is crucified hath sent me. And when I had so done, I spake all these things unto the angel that keepeth paradise; and when he heard this of me, forthwith he opened the door and brought me in and set me at the right hand of paradise, saying: Lo now, tarry a little, and Adam the father of all mankind will enter in with all his children that are holy and righteous, after the triumph and glory of the ascending up of Christ the Lord that is crucified. When they heard all these words of the robber, all the holy patriarchs and prophets said with one voice: Blessed be the Lord Almighty, the Father of eternal good things, the Father of mercies, thou that hast given such grace unto thy sinners and hast brought them again into the beauty of paradise and into thy good pastures: for this is the most holy life of the spirit. Amen, Amen.”

So, even those who have led wicked lives can be saved from hell, if they but repent and believe on Christ (see Alma 36 for more).

Women witnesses

In the gospels, it is important to note that Jesus did not first appear to Peter and the other apostles, but to the women. Why would he go to them first?

First, it seems they expressed a greater faith at the time. While Peter denied Christ and the others fled, the women remained at the cross, and then carefully wrapped his body in the tomb. They were the first to his tomb that Sunday morning. It seems only natural that when Jesus was upon the cross he would ensure his mother would be cared for, and so he would also appear to those faithful women first.

Another possible reason comes to us from the ancient Gospel of Philip:

“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary....
“Mary Magdalene. [...] (Jesus?) loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples [...]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them,"Why do I not love you like her?“

It is possible that Jesus had a special relationship with his mother Mary, his aunt, and Mary Magdalene, his companion. This would be another way of suggesting that Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene. If that is the case, then it would make sense for him to first appear to his wife, and those women who raised him from a child.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Come Follow Me - Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

 Come Follow Me - Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

 The Crucifixion

The lesson discusses the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Each event is a tragic comedy of errors as the ensuing events represent not only Jesus being betrayed, but all things good.

First, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane in one of his most difficult times, he asked his disciples to pray with him. Yet they slept.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, which is a key symbol of love, devotion and trust.

Trial by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, was supposed to be done in the day time, as a public event. The importance of a fair trial was set in stone as part and parcel of the law set down by Moses. The accused was not to be mocked nor hit, nor was the high priest to rent or rip his clothing. No one asked Jesus if there were any witnesses for him. False witnesses were supposed to be rigorously questioned to ensure their charges were not drummed up.

Jesus, the literal Son of God, was found guilty of blasphemy. Since the Jews were not allowed by the Romans to pass the death sentence, they sent him to Pontius Pilate. In bringing Jesus to the Roman procurator, they changed the charge from blasphemy (not against Roman law) to treason. Yet Jesus had not been tried originally for treason.

Pilate ruled an unruly people. In normal times they were difficult to control with his small Roman contingency. This occurred in the middle of Passover, when perhaps a million or more people were in Jerusalem. His troops were already overwhelmed trying to keep the peace.

In questioning Jesus, he found that Jesus was not seeking to topple Caesar, but called himself the king of an other worldly realm: not a treasonous offense. To prevent the Jewish mobs from erupting into violence, he sent Jesus to his neighbor, King Herod Antipas.

Herod was not only Jewish, but also reigned over Galilee, where Jesus was from. Previously, Herod was responsible for John the Baptist’s death, even though Herod feared and believed John’s prophetic call. He had heard much concerning Jesus and his miracles, and now hoped to see a miracle performed. Rather than finding a bold and outspoken prophet like John, Herod found Jesus to be quiet, timid, and less than inspiring. Herod mocked him and returned him back to Pilate for trial.

Pilate tried to convince the mobs to release Jesus. Traditionally, the Roman procurator would release one prisoner to the people on Passover. He offered a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was on trial for treason. As a member of the Zealot sect, he sought to violently overthrow the Roman occupation using murder and mayhem as his weapons. Bar Abbas was a terrorist. It is possible he was viewed as a militant messiah, as many Jews believed the coming Messiah would free them from Roman bondage. Meanwhile, Jesus was the Prince of Peace, the true Messiah. Instead of leading uprisings and rebellions with murder, he healed the sick and preached love and repentance.

The name Barabbas can be read as Bar Abba, or "Son of Father" (God). So, Pilate offered the Jews a choice between the Son of God and the literal Son of God. The Jewish mobs chose the imitation Savior.

Jesus was led away to be brutally whipped, mocked and tortured by the Roman soldiers, prior to crucifixion. The soldiers beat him, placed a crown of skin-piercing thorns on Jesus’ head, and placed a purple robe of royalty upon him. They mockingly bowed before him, then slapped him many times. Little did they know that the day would come when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord.

In being crucified, the perfectly harmless and innocent Son of God was given the capitol punishment reserved for the most wicked and evil. Crucifixion was not the only form of death given by the Romans. It was the most severe and public, so as to show the people what happened to those who committed heinous crimes. Crucifixion was first invented by the Persians about 300-400 years before Christ. The Romans perfected it.

On the cross, a person slowly and painfully died of asphyxiation and organ failure, the heart and lungs failing as blood drained from the wounds and difficulty breathing failed to provide sufficient oxygen to the body. Those accused of robbery often had their arms tied to the cross, allowing them to struggle for several days. One nailed with his arms straight out, as was Jesus, would not be expected to live more than 24 hours. The legs were nailed to the sides of the cross, through the ankle bones, with the knees bent at a 45 degree angle. This forced the person to hang from his arms most of the time, intensifying the pain and increasing the difficulty of breathing.

While soldiers selfishly divided his clothes at his nailed feet, he focused his attentions elsewhere: “Mother, behold thy son”, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The two thieves on either side of Jesus seemed to magnify the disparity between good and evil occurring on that fateful day. One thief mocking him and demanding to be saved, not understanding that Jesus was virtually saving him as he cursed. The other thief recognizing his own sins and that through faith he would be saved. Even as with the young Alma, this thief had experienced hell, but through repentance and faith would escape torment and hell, being saved in Jesus Christ (Alma 36).

Finally, after hours of pain, thirst and suffering, Jesus would meet his most difficult moment. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had God’s strength and power with him. God pronounced his Son at Jesus’ baptism, and again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even while praying in agony at Gethsemane, God sent Jesus an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was always there for his apostles, and is always there for us, he would not be given the same in return.

His apostles having deserted him and his mother sent away, only the disbelieving Romans and the apostate Jews remained to watch him on the cross. Still, God remained with him up to the last moments.

But now, he would be absolutely alone. “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” A necessary step in bringing to pass the atonement was for Jesus to face the pains and sins of this world all alone, and without the spiritual guidance or strength of Heavenly Father. God fully withdrew his presence.

No longer protected by his Father’s love and strength, the utter most depths of hell roared up to meet Jesus. But for a few moments he needed to endure this. To rise above all, he first had to descend below all things. In order to save any of us from the blackest of eternal nights, he first had to go there. Alone.
Moments of agony passed. He endured and triumphed. Reaching the climax of his mission, he simply said, “Father, it is finished. Thy will be done.”

And he died.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Come Follow Me - Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18

Come Follow Me - Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18


We now go with Jesus to the place where the Lord began his atoning sacrifice, Gethsemane. Why did he go to Gethsemane to pray? He was in the city of Jerusalem, with a million people in attendance for Passover. The place should have been crowded, perhaps with individuals camping out on the hillsides. Gethsemane was a garden, or better said, an olive tree orchard. In the orchard is found at least one olive press. Gethsemane means “olive press”. This press is within a cave located in the middle of the orchard. Outside of harvest time it would have been used, especially during the major festivals, as a place for travelers to stay. It is quite likely that Christ entered the cave, asked his disciples to remain nearby while he prayed privately inside. This poetically ties Jesus’ birth in a cave/manger to his atoning sacrifice in cave/Gethsemane and ultimately to the cave where his body laid interred until his resurrection.

The cave would also symbolize a Holy of Holies, where the greatest offerings by the high priest were offered to God. Being in a Garden, we see a tie with the Garden of Eden, where mankind began in innocence and lost that innocence, introducing death and sin into the world.

The Beginning of the Atonement

For Catholics and some other Christians, Jesus’ great work was done solely on the cross. However, Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus’ atonement began in Gethsemane and culminated on the cross (to be discussed next lesson). Jesus had to overcome both physical and spiritual death. The physical death of the cross would be trumped by resurrection. The spiritual death, or mankind cast out from God’s presence, would be healed by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice that began in Gethsemane and continues to this day for each of us.

In Gethsemane, we know that “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11)

Or, as Nephi explained,
“And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21).

Of the connection between Adam and Christ, the apostle Paul noted, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). We will not only all resurrect, but we will all be made spiritually alive in Christ, brought back into the presence of God, upon the condition of faith and repentance.

We understand little of the spiritual atonement. We know that it was a dreadful experience, even for Jesus.

“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” (Luke 22).

He had begun the process of taking upon himself all the sins of the world. So spiritually painful was this that it caused the blood vessels around his sweat glands to dilate and burst. Then, as he sweat, it mixed with the blood, coming out of his pores in drops.

As noted, we do not really know how the spiritual atonement works. There are various theories available, some are indirectly noted by modern apostles of the Church. The theories include, Ransom, Substitution, Satisfaction, Punitive theories of atonement (see below for links).

LDS Christians have also provided other theories of atonement. My two favorites are Jacob Morgan’s Divine Infusion Theory (again, see below), and Blake Ostler’s Compassion Theory.

In Ostler’s theory, Christ is not punished nor ransomed directly for our sins. Instead, we have fallen from God’s presence and there is no way we can return by ourselves. When we exhibit faith and truly repent of our sins, the Savior embraces us in his love and forgiveness. As he accepts us into his compassionate embrace, we are filled with His love, compassion, and light. Yet, while he embraces us, Jesus takes into himself our pains and sorrows brought on not only by our sins, but by the hardships of life. In Gethsemane, he felt the pains and sorrows of all those who to that point had sinned or sorrowed, but then sought deliverance from God. Today, he continues feeling momentary pain as he embraces us in his love, engulfing our hurts within that love. So, in this theory, the atonement is ongoing. Every time a person reaches to Christ because of spiritual or physical pain, the person is healed through the atoning and loving embrace of our compassionate God and Savior.

As we ponder just how much pain each of us suffers, whether from sin, fear, mental anguish, or physical pain, we can truly “stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.”

Odds and Ends

In an interesting twist in the story in Mark 14:51-52, a young man in a linen cloth is caught by the Roman guards. The young man is able to slip away naked. Why add such an odd story?

Some scholars believe Mark was speaking of himself. It is possible that he was literally asleep when these events occurred. However, for LDS members, it is also possible that the cave was being used by the Christian-Jewish sect to perform temple ordinances. The cave may have been used as a makeshift temporary location to perform ordinances, such as initiatory and endowments.

In the initiatory, the person is washed and anointed with water and oil, as a symbolic cleansing prior to receiving the other ordinances of the temple. It could be possible that the young man was receiving this ordinance when the soldiers showed up.

This concept is strengthened by the controversial Secret Book of Mark. Scholar Morton Smith claimed to have found an old letter attached to the back of a medieval book. The letter was supposedly from Clement of Alexandria, who described a portion of a Secret Book of Mark, wherein a young man (Mark?) receives a secret ordinance at night from Jesus, while wearing nothing but a linen cloth.

There is lots of scholarly controversy surrounding this letter. Some claim Morton Smith created it to fool the scholarly community. Others think it might be a medieval forgery. Still there are some who think it to be authentic.

Christ Does Not "Make up the difference."

In a recent discussion I had with a friend, he mentioned how wonderful the atonement is, and that Jesus "made up the difference" for our failures and sins. In thinking about that statement, one I've heard many Latter-day Saints use, I realize how wrong the concept it suggests is.  For Christ to make up the difference, suggests we are doing the lion's share for our salvation.

But he is not the God of the gaps. Just like the resurrection provides immortality and resurrection for ALL people, regardless of their circumstances or choices, the atonement pays entirely for all of the events of mortality. He has already paid for all of the sins we do, and even the potential sins we could do. He isn't making up the difference. He IS the difference. My sins? Already paid for in full. Your sins? Already paid for in full. Salvation is free.

So what is our part in salvation, if salvation is free? It is to embrace Christ and the atonement. To the level and extent we embrace Jesus' act of love  and grace, we receive that level of  salvation. Why is it that even murderers (including Hitler) can obtain at least to the Telestial Kingdom (described in D&C 76 as a glorious place beyond description)? Because Hitler isn't paying for his sins. Christ has done it. Once Hitler begins to believe and repent, the atonement snatches him from spiritual death and plants him within the power of God's glory. As with Alma's conversion, while in a coma (Near Death Experience?), he was in complete darkness (Spirit Prison). There was nothing he could do to rescue himself. Only in thinking on Christ, and praying for salvation and forgiveness, was he rescued. And that in an instance. Note that he was in light and it was exceedingly joyful, and while in God's presence, he was afar off wishing he could be closer.

For Alma, he would get closer. Not because he was checking off check lists of commandments, but because he sought after Christ and became as Christ. He increased his ability to stand in God's presence, because he was more like God. He loved the light. He loved the commandments. He loved having the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels. He loved to talk to God in prayer. He loved to meditate on the things of God. Alma was totally saved by Christ, not of any works he did. Alma just had to embrace that free gift of grace.

As Christ loves us and seeks to approach us,and as we lovingly and eagerly approach Him, we are totally saved from death and hell through the eternal event that occurred in the Meridian of Time: the Atonement of Jesus Christ.


The olive press cave of Gethsemane:


Sweating blood, or hematohidrosis:

Ransom theory of atonement:

Satisfaction theory of atonement:

Substitutionary theory of atonement:

Punitive theory of atonement:

Jacob Morgan’s Divine Infusion theory of atonement:

Secret Book of Mark:

Friday, June 07, 2019

Come Follow Me - John 13-17

Come Follow Me - John 13-17

Jesus’ week in Jerusalem now comes near its close. The Passover feast was prepared and eaten on Thursday evening. This symbolized the preparations the children of Israel made before leaving Egypt’s flesh pots and following Moses into the wilderness towards the Promised Land.

During the Passover week, Jesus spent most days teaching in the temple, often in the women’s court, where both men and women could hear him preach repentance. He has preached forcefully against the Pharisees, Sadduccees and the scribes of the temple. He has openly declared himself to be the Messiah, the Angel of the Lord’s Presence, and explained his Messiah-ship in a way they considered blasphemous: he was the literal Son of God, a divine being from the Presence of the Father, worthy of worship himself.

With the Passover feast, Jesus created a new feast and what it represented. The Passover feast included the Paschal lamb, a lamb without blemish that was sacrificed and eaten in preparation for leaving Egypt. Its blood was spattered on the lintels to ensure the angel of death passed over those in the household.

Jesus now stepped in as the Paschal Lamb. The bread and wine represented his flesh and blood. His disciples were to partake and drink of Him, so that the angel of death would pass over them, as well. They were to depart spiritually from among the wicked, and allow God to guide them to the spiritual Promised Land.

“29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
“30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22).

The Promised Land promised them was the kingdom of heaven, where they would eat at Christ’s table in the royal household, and be rulers over Israel. Israel under Moses could never have imagined such a promise! They complained over the hardships they temporarily bore, wishing to return to Egypt. But had they focused forward with faith in God, they would have also received such promises as did the apostles.

Washing of Feet

The washing of feet was a very important lesson Jesus sought to teach his apostles. He was soon to die, and needed them to understand their true role. While most kings and self-declared Messiahs were worshiped, honored, and cared for; Jesus taught that he who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the servant of all.

In the Middle East, the body parts closest to the dirt are the worst. To wash one’s feet was to display utmost humility. It meant the servant was lower than the dust upon the other person’s feet. Jesus sought to show such service, so that his disciples would also serve in like manner after he was gone.

Interestingly, Simon Peter not only desired his feet to be washed, but his entire hands and head, as well. We do not see that Jesus rejected the request. The ritual of washing feet, hands and head is still a part of the temple ceremony. It symbolizes becoming clean from the wickedness in the world. Now was a moment when the apostles needed to be cleansed, for the world as they knew it was about to crash down upon them.

The Comforter
John 16

Jesus again prophesied of his death. Though the prediction caused his disciples to sorrow, it was necessary for a few reasons. First, their hearts had to be prepared for the tragedy. Second, Christ had to go in order to fulfill his mission and prepare a place in heaven for the repentant. Finally, if Christ did not leave, they could not have the Holy Ghost as a Comforter for them.

Neglected by many Christians is the concept that the Holy Ghost is sent to us as a guide and a comfort through the trials of life. Even more is the concept of the Holy Ghost as the third member of the Godhead, with the responsibility of testifying of the Father and the Son to all mankind.

As noted in previous lessons, Christ explained to the Pharisees that there were three witnesses of his Messianic call: himself, John the Baptist, and the Father (as demonstrated by the miraculous power given Christ by God). For the disciples, they would also be given three witnesses, the first leading them to the next.

The First Comforter is the Holy Ghost. His responsibilities include testifying of the Father and the Son and of the truths of the gospel. He can guide us into “all truth”, and speaks the things He hears from the Father and the Son. More importantly, his responsibility is to prepare us to receive the Second Comforter, Jesus Christ. So, John 16 explains how the Holy Ghost works with us, and prepares us for the higher teachings found in the next chapter.

This is Eternal Life
John 17

We learn in verse 3 that Eternal Life means “knowing” God and Christ. We gain this information after learning about the Holy Ghost, or First Comforter. He is the first and key step in the pathway to knowing God and Christ.

The Holy Ghost prepares us to enter into the presence of the Second Comforter, even the presence of Christ. It is then Jesus who prepares and leads us into the presence of the Father.

Chapter 17 of John contains Christ’s Intercessory Prayer, where he pleads for his disciples. They are not of the world, but still are weak and tend towards sin. Jesus asks that they may be one, even as he and the Father are one. For those who believe in the Trinity, this causes them to have to explain the term “unity of persons” differently for humans than for the Trinity itself. The belief is that the Father and Son are two persons, but one God and substance. Jesus does not mean that his disciples shall also become persons and also one being and substance. Instead, he is teaching that they shall be united in thought, desire, love, compassion, faith, hope, charity, and purpose. Just as the Holy Ghost speaks only those things which he hears from the other members of the Godhead, so the disciples shall speak and act as one. Yet they are physically separate persons. For LDS, the Godhead also consists of physically separate persons, who are yet “one” in all the important things. So, when Jesus states that he is in the disciples, even as God is in him, we understand that it is not a metaphysical joining, but a joining of hearts, desires, and minds. It is the perfect relationship.

The Perfect Relationship’s Exegetical Commentary explains what “Eternal Life” and “know” mean in regards to Jesus and God:

The Evangelist here defines “eternal life” for the readers. It is not just unending life in the sense of prolonged duration. Rather it is a quality of life, with its qualitativeness derived from a relationship with God. Having eternal life is here defined as being in relationship with the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Cristov" is not characteristically attached to Jesus’ name in the Fourth Gospel; it occurs elsewhere primarily as a title and is used with Jesus’ name only in 1:17. But that is connected to its use here: the statement here in 17:3 enables us to correlate the statement made in 1:18 of the Prologue, that Jesus has fully revealed what God is like, with Jesus’ statement in 10:10 that he has come that people might have life, and have it abundantly. These two purposes are really one, according to 17:3, because (abundant) eternal life is defined as knowing (being in relationship with) the Father and the Son. The only way to gain this eternal life, that is, to obtain this knowledge of the Father, is through the Son (cf. 14:6). Although some have pointed to the use of ginwvskw here as evidence of Gnostic influence in the Gospel, there is a crucial difference: for John this knowledge is not intellectual, but relational. It involves being in relationship.


The relationship that Jesus has with the Father extends to us. We are invited to join them in this intense and loving experience by first learning to be one with each other, and so then learning to be one with the Godhead. In following Christ, we take upon ourselves his name at baptism and promise in the Sacrament of bread and water to “always remember him” and again take his name upon us. Through repentance, atonement, faith, obedience and ordinance, we become holy. We enter a relationship with Christ, guided by the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost will eventually lead us into the Divine Presence or “Shekinah” of God, even Jesus Christ. The Savior then leads us into the Presence of the Father.

As we read from

Now Jesus turns his attention to the disciples. He begins by asserting that he manifested the Father’s name to them. The mention of the Father’s name will occur again in chapter 17 in verses 11, 12, and 26, but it is not often mentioned elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel (only in 5:43, 10:25, 12:28). What are we to make of this? In one sense the name represents the person (cf. 1:12) and thus Jesus in saying that he has made known the Father’s name is saying that he has fully revealed who God is and what he is like (cf. 1:18 and 14:9). But there is probably another meaning as well in the Fourth Gospel: Jesus himself is identified with God repeatedly (10:30, 14:11, etc.) and nowhere is this more apparent than in Jesus’ absolute uses of the phrase ejgwv eijmi without a predicate (8:24, 8:28, 8:58, and 13:19). The name of the Father which Jesus has made known to men is thus the Divine Name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

We receive the name of Christ in baptism. We receive the Divine Name from Christ prior to entering into God’s presence. This is the teaching of the Theophany - entering into the Presence of the Divine God.

In ancient texts, we find that Paul went to the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4), and in the Apocalypse of Paul was guided by the Holy Ghost from one level of heaven to the next, until he was in the Divine Presence. In the Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet also rose through the levels of heavens, until he was in the presence of the Godhead. The Prophet Enoch was given the title Metatron the Archangel, was placed upon God’s throne and worshiped as a member of the Divine Family.

Ezekiel, John the Revelator, Lehi, Jacob, and many other Bible and Book of Mormon prophets also experienced this divine theophany - entering into God’s presence and being one with God. Here, in Jesus’ culminating teachings of his mortal ministry, he shows the apostles and us the purpose of his life and ministry. Jesus would prove worthy of entering into Father’s presence and receiving a fullness of His glory. Jesus would also be the gatekeeper by whom we must pass in order to enter into God’s presence, where we also may enter into the Divine Relationship with the Godhead, receive a fullness of God’s glory and Eternal Life.


Wikipedia on Initiatory:

John 17 Exegetical Commentary:

First/Second Comforter, LDS Bible (KJV) Dictionary:

Metatron/Enoch - Wikipedia:

Apocalypse of Paul:

Ascension of Isaiah:

3 Enoch: