We've Moved

We've moved! See RestoringMyBalance.com

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day Six: Thursday, Good Friday & The day of the Crucifixion

The events of this day occur rapidly, in part due to the fact that the time for the passover feast was quickly approaching. Jesus was taken first to Pilate by the Jewish leaders. With Pilate, a formal trial began where the accusations were discussed. Throughout most of this interchange, Jesus remains quiet. When asked if Jesus is  "the King of the Jews", Jesus responds with, "Thou sayest it." According to John's account of this  day, Pilate retreats to a private discussion with Jesus. At this time, Jesus confirms in brief His earthly mission to proclaim the truth.
Herod gets involved only for a moment and returns Jesus to Pilate. Finding no fault with Jesus and with his wife expressing her own worries, Pilate proclaims that he will wash his hands of the death of Jesus.  At this, those who are present agree to take responsibility. At the crowds insistence, Barabbas is released and Jesus is set to be crucified. During this time, which is believed to be about 3 hours, Jesus is scourged, mocked, ridiculed and beaten.
Jesus was to carry His own cross to the place of execution, Golgotha. In all ways, the events of last night and today truly represent that Jesus had descended below us all. All sources of dignity and respect were stripped from Him at this time. Yet in the midst of this torture, He offered a plea of forgiveness for those that were taking part in these events. For three hours a darkness covered the land. 
Surrounding Him at this time are several of His most faithful followers among which are His mother, John and Mary Magdalene. One interesting point of view that I discovered was than when Jesus confers the care of His mother to John, this symbolizes that John was brought more closely into the family of Christ. Because of what happened on the cross, we all can be brought into this deeper relationship with the Lord.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has an insightful message about the Father forsaking the Son at this time. He suggests that the Father was closer to Jesus at this time than ever before during Christ's mortal ministry. However, to answer all the requirements of Christ's supreme sacrifice, it was necessary for the Father to withdraw briefly. That Jesus would truly know and understand the magnitude of how each of us would feel, when saddled with our own sin, when we suffered from a spiritual retreat.
I cannot help but to combine Elder Holland's message about this time of withdraw from our Heavenly Father with the earlier accounts of scourging and ridicule that the Lord faced at the hands of the Roman guards and Jewish leaders. Though our sins are often known only to ourselves; the shame, ridicule and guile we place upon ourselves can be torturous. Coupled with the loss of the companionship of the spirit, we can easily feel hopelessly alone. Our perfect Savior felt ALL of this for us, not to prove He is better than us, but to allow us to be carried to where He is. Truly, Jesus Christ, knows and understands us at our very lows.
Jesus utters His final words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit". This act of allowing himself to die, completes the witness that He would have the power to rise from the grave.
Immediately following Jesus' death, the earth shook and the veil of the temple was rent. Shortly thereafter, Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus to his private tomb. He was joined by Nicodemus who brought a kingly portion of spices for the burial. The Sabbath was quickly approaching so preparations were done hastily. Both of these men were socially well esteemed and it is believed they were private believers of Jesus. Interesting that they both came out very openly at this time to be part of such a personal and respectful symbol of support. 

Watch Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's testimony
Christ's Atonement is Central to the Plan of Happiness

Read the words of today's hymn before you listen to it. In 1985, Karen Davidson was asked to write the English lyrics to this tune written by Bach. She says of her goal in writing this song, she wanted three things. First, to accurately depict the details of the Crucifixion; Second, To show that the agony and death of Christ were paradoxical to the healing and release He would offer to His children and Third, a song that could be used both as a sacrament hymn and an Easter song. The lyrics are beautiful.
For full hymn, "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" Hymn #197.

Scripture Experience:
     * Jesus in the hands of the Romans (Mark 15:1-19; Matthew 27:2-30; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-19:15)
     * Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:20-28; Matthew 27:31-38; Luke 23:26-34, 38; John 19:16-24)
     * Jesus' final hours (Mark 15:29-37; Matthew 27:39-50; Luke 23:35-46; John 19:16-24)
     * Signs and reactions to Jesus' death (Mark 15:38-41; Matthew 27:51-56; Luke 23:47-49; John 19:31-37)      * The burial of Jesus (Mark 15:42-47; Matthew 27:57-66; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

Day Five: Thursday- The Last Supper and Gethsemane

The events of the Thursday before Easter are powerful in every aspect. Details of this day begin in the early evening as Jesus instructs His disciples who to look for in the city, and from him they will find a room for the group to share their passover meal. After having pondered the both fig tree stories from earlier this week, I was struck by Mark 14:15 where Jesus says the disciples will be shown a room that is "furnished and prepared". It seems like that is a very common theme and perhaps a suggestion for our own lives.
The Last Supper was offered to the Disciples as the Passover feast with the Lord. As Latter-Day Saints this is significant, because it is through our partaking of the sacrament each week that allows us to remember Jesus and renew our baptismal covenants with Him. In this upper room, Jesus not only introduced and offered the sacrament. At this time He also washed the feet of His disciples and taught to them the important lesson that none is above serving, which I think is a preparation for the great commandment, to love one another.
Jesus takes these last moments with His disciples to leave with them more council and teachings. Among these teachings:
      * The commandment to love one another as He loves us
      * "I am the way, the truth and the life", which leads us to back to our Father in Heaven
      * "If ye know me, ye know the Father"
      * Offer our prayers in Jesus' name
      * "If ye love me, keep my commandments"
      * teachings about the Holy Ghost
      * "My peace I leave with you..."
      * the teaching that we should abide in Him
      * He also teaches more about the resurrection

After their time together in the upper room, Jesus and His disciples cross the Kidron Valley and come to the Gethsemane. As they enter the area, Jesus instructs all but Peter, James and John to stay back while the four proceed further into the garden. As they proceeded to walk further, Jesus' countenance began to show signs of sorrow. Jesus asks the three men to stay and pray for Him as he continues on, where He offers a prayer that the Father will allow this cup to pass. Three times, He goes back to find Peter, James and John asleep. Jesus suffered intensely for the sins of each and every one of us. Today, I found myself so grateful for Luke's account which includes the ministering of an angel to Jesus in His suffering. Ironically, I found one resource that also points to Luke being the only one to mention the healing of the cut off ear. Pointing out that Luke was also watchful to look for examples of the loving and kind acts of the Savior. This reminded me of council from Latter-Day leaders to look for the hand of God in our lives daily.
As they prepare to leave Gethsemane, Jesus knows that His enemies are near at hand. And just as He described earlier that very night, Judas is at the lead of a group of armed men ready to take Jesus as their prisoner. In front of the Jewish authorities, Jesus is questioned and abused. It was when Jesus acknowledges who He is, the Messiah and the Son of God, that the decision is made to sentence Jesus to death.

The Hymn that I ended up selecting for today is Hymn # 193, "I Stand All Amazed". I know that there are so many hymns that would have summed up this day, and maybe you have a favorite. I'd love to know which one it is. For my heart as I have been working on this project, I go to bed every night with the words of this song on my mind. More than ever before, I truly do Stand all amazed at the sacrifice rendered on our behalf. Remember to select words and music to hear both music and lyrics.
"I Stand All Amazed" Hymn

Other Hymns that you may want to read the words to or listen to are: Hymn # 185, "Reverently and Meekly Now"- which is unique because it is written in the first person, from the Savior's point of view and Hymn #173 "While of These Emblems We Partake"

Scripture Experience:
     * The Last Supper (Mark 14:12-31; Matthew 26:17-35; Luke 22:7-38; John 13:1-30)
     * The farewell discourses (Luke 22:24-30; John 13:31-17:26)
     * Jesus goes to Gethsemane (John 18:1)
     * Jesus at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1)
     * The betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-52; Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11)
     * Jesus before the Jewish authorities (Mark 14:53-65; Matthew 26:57-68; Luke 22:54, 63-71; John 18:12-28)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Week: Wednesday, The Betrayal of Judas

Some traditions call this day, "Spy Wednesday" most likely referencing the betrayals and plotting that filled much of this day in the Savior's life. This is the day that the leaders are plotting to kill Jesus. They are very mindful of two things in their plan: first, they don't want the multitudes to be aware of the plan or the actual event and second, they don't want it to occur on the day of Passover- ironic that though they have a plan to kill Jesus, they are worried about the religious traditions. This is the day that Judas goes to the leaders in Jerusalem and offers to betray Jesus to them away from the multitudes.
One thing I didn't point out yesterday was that during the week of Passover, the Priests in Jerusalem would have traditionally been analyzing and inspecting very carefully the lamb that would be used as the Passover sacrifice. Instead, their time this week is spent analyzing and inspecting the Savior for blemish and flaw. When their attempts to cause Him to stumble fail, they prepare to be rid of Him. Little do they understand that by doing so, they are participating in the ultimate sacrifice of all time.
John records that in the council of Pharisees and Priests, Caiaphas (the High Priest) made a prophesy that one man must die so that the entire nation would not perish. This is interesting because Caiaphas was justifying the death of Jesus as a way to save the Jews from destruction at the Roman's hands. Yet his statement is true in the eternal perspective as the plan of Salvation required One who was flawless to sacrifice so that we all could return to our Father in Heaven.
Not a lot is said about Judas' decision to betray the Savior. The two possible reasons in the scriptures are money or greed and that Satan influenced Judas' decision. Regardless of why it happened, I have tried to understand what would put a person in the mind set to not only betray to death a friend, but the man you believe to be the Son of God? I keep coming back to a teaching of Joseph Smith about true faith. The prophet taught that to have true faith you had to have 1) you have to believe God exists, 2) you must have a correct idea of His character and 3) a knowledge that your life in according to His will. My assumption is that Judas didn't have a deep rooted testimony in one of these areas, so he was able to betray the Lord. 

The Hymn that I liked for today is.....I Believe in Christ

In light of the fact that Judas betrayed Him and the leaders of Jerusalem were plotting to destroy Him, I can imagine His followers singing their devotions and belief in Him.

Scripture Experience:
      * The plot to kill Jesus (Mark 14:1-2; Matthew 26:1-5; Luke 22:1-2)
      * The anointing (Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 26:6-13)
      * Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11; Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:3-6)

Easter Week: Tuesday, The Olivet Discourse

On this, the third day of Easter week, the time of Jesus is spent primarily teaching in the temple and later on the Mount of Olives with His disciples nearby. Mark's accounts of this day include the lessons of the fig tree, but it is believed that he does this more for the impact of the lesson than the actual timing of the event.
When Jesus arrives in the temple this day, the Jewish leaders are again waiting to trap Jesus in His words and teachings. The Pharisees, Herodians and the Sadducees are prepared for confrontation.
The questions posed to Jesus are about the tributes paid to Ceasar, the first commandment and the widows mite.
Upon leaving the temple, Jesus issues a prophecy about the destruction of the temple. Considering the temple and grounds are still under construction at the time, I wonder if the disciples could grasp on to what He was saying in it's entirety.
Jesus and His followers head to the Mount of Olives where more prophesies and parables are given. These prophesies are about the Second Coming of the Lord. Because they focus so much on the destruction that will come to the Earth prior to His coming, this time on Mount Olives, known as the Olivet Discourse, is often referred to as "the little apocalypse".  Among the parables at this time are those of the Ten Virgin and the parable of the servants and their given talents.  It left me reflecting on what types of actions in my day I place most value on and are they the same things that will prepare me to meet my Savior. Read in Matthew 25:35-45, for a wonderful example of exactly what type of behaviors are expected to serve the Lord.
Another lesson that I found interesting is found in all three gospels.  It is present in the stories of Noah and Lot, but applied to the knowledge of the Second Coming.  The principle taught is that nobody can predict the Second Coming.  It will come without any knowledge of man, angel, or Spirit.  In both Noah and Lot's time, life was normal up until the day of destruction.  There will not be obvious signs or warnings.  He teaches that the best thing to do is to be prepared at all times, since there is no way to tell when the Second Coming will arrive.  It is our best option to be in good standings with the Lord, and to be prepared for His Coming regardless of anything else.

Hymn: For today, I chose "On a Golden Springtime" from the Primary Children's Songbook. I did this because as I pictured the Savior with His disciples, sitting at the Mount of Olives. From their vantage point, they would have had a full view of Jerusalem and the temple. This song seemed fitting for how my mind imagines this moment. Click on image to begin the song.

Scripture Experience:
     * Lesson from the withered fig tree (Mark 11:20-26)
     * Teachings in the temple (Mark 11:27-12:44; Matthew 22:15-23:36; Luke 20:20-21:4)
     * Jesus' lament over Jerusalem according to Matthew (Matthew 23:37-39)
     * The Olivet Discourse; Jesus' prophecies regarding the last days before His second coming
             (Mark 13:1-37; Matthew 24:1-25; Luke 21:5-36)
     * Summary of Jesus' teaching (Luke 21:37-38; John 12:37-50)

Easter Week: Monday; The Temple and the Fig Tree

At first glance, it may seem that this may not have been an incredibly busy day for the Savior, especially compared to yesterday. However, looking at the events of today, it was actually quite significant.
First, as the Savior and His group of followers returned to Jerusalem from Bethany, Jesus found Himself hungry. He approached a fig tree hoping to find fruit despite the fact that it was not the season for figs. He issued a curse upon the fig tree that it would never again yield fruit for man. The tree than withered and died. This curse upon the fig tree has always struck me as interesting, because it seems so out of Jesus' healing and loving nature.
However, as I read the few verses that followed Matthew's account of the fig tree and than considered other writings, two interesting lessons came out. In Matthew 21:21-22, after being questioned about the fig tree, the Lord responded by giving short lesson on faith and prayer. Is it possible that Jesus was taking an opportunity to show his disciples, and us, how with faith we could do anything?
Also, many sources teach that this fig tree was an example of what would happen to Israel. Just as the fig tree was unprepared for its Master and faced destruction, his people also faced destruction as they were not prepared to accept Him.
Jesus also spent much of this day in the teaching. Unlike His previous visits to the temple, where He taught in the courtyards, during this week He teaches in the temple. The chief priests, scribes and elders were present for His teachings and confronted Him demanding to know what gave Him authority to be there. He also gives the parable of the wicked husbandmen, which is a parable about them. Knowing that he people were very devoted to him, they priests and scribes left defeated. Many parables were issued on this day, of which some prophesy of the rejection of Israel's leadership.
I found the final event of this day to be highly emotional. For a brief moment, Jesus shares His burden with those closest to Him. In John 12:27, Jesus shares His trepidation for the coming events and makes a plea to be spared of what He knows is coming. Unlike the similar plea that He will make in just a few short days, Heavenly Father speaks in a voice that is heard by those nearby. Jesus is reassured by the voice of His Father that He will be glorified.
I know how my actions and my mood often are a direct reflection of what is in my heart. When I have a task that I am hesitant to complete, I know it shows in everything I do. My emotions were sparked as I realized that our Savior knew the coming events and was concerned about them, yet He went about the Father's work each and every day. I hope that as you study this week, you will find yourself dedicating your full efforts to aligning your will with that of the Father's, that you will gain a deep appreciation for the events of this week so that your testimony will be firm and fast in the atonement and resurrection of our Savior.

I have included another Hymn, #59 "Come, Thou King of Kings". Though there may not be a hymn for every day, this one struck me as good for today for many reasons. First, you can use it for family home evening if you would like. Second, as I have been studying this, the last week of Christ's life, I am struck more than usual at how His role as King became more apparent to His followers and His enemies.  Again, select words and music to hear the full version of the hymn.
To Listen

Scripture Experience:
     * The cursing of the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22)
     * Mark's account of the cleansing of the Temple (Mark 11:15-19)
     * Jesus' pattern of teaching in the temple (Luke 19:47-48)
     * Teachings in the Temple (Mark 11:27-12:12; Matthew 21:23-22:15; Luke 20:1-19)
     * Jesus and the coming hour (John 12:20-36)

Easter Week: Palm Sunday

Good Morning and welcome to Palm Sunday, the day that marks the beginning of Holy Week. Just prior to this day in the life of the Savior, Jesus and His disciples have been with Mary, Martha and Lazarus at their home. With Lazarus at His side and Martha preparing and serving their meal, Mary makes a gesture of grand measure by anointing the feet of the Lord with a very expensive ointment that has been reserved for the purpose of anointing the Savior, for His upcoming burial.  This anointing can also suggest that Jesus is indeed a King among the Jews. I think it is interesting that on this night Judas confronts the Savior about the ointment selection. But even more interesting is the fact that with love, Jesus teaches a very significant lesson- that He is only to be with them for a short time more and His presence in our lives is worthy of THE VERY BEST we have to offer.
As Jesus and His followers travel the road from Bethany to Jerusalem, they stop to secure the donkey on which Jesus will mount and ride into Jerusalem. This donkey can represent two different aspects of the life of Jesus. First, the humility that our Savior has throughout His life and Second, the majesty of who He truly is, the literal Son of God.
As the procession comes upon Jerusalem, Jesus stops and mourns this great city that would not accept Him as their Savior. I am amazed at what this shows about our Savior. He knows what lies ahead for Him and His thoughts could be on so much more than the fate of this city. Yet His love and compassion continue and His concern for this people never wavers.
A large crowd has gathered along the journey to Jerusalem. Many surrounded Him waving palm branches and spreading their coats to make a path for Him to ride. Lazarus has recently been raised from the dead, and word of this has spread quickly. Many have come out to see the procession, maybe because of this miracle- but this miracle can hardly compare to conquest over death that will occur just one week from this day.
Jesus proceeds to the temple, where He clears the temple of all the disrespectful activity there. I think that for the residents of Jerusalem and the crowds that have gathered, the two events are determining factors for how they will feel about Jesus in the coming days. Both of these events show that Jesus' authority is far more than a prophet or teacher. He has the power and authority to bring life back to the dead AND to cleanse the temple. Those who loved Him probably became more devoted and those that despised Him started plotting.

I have included for today the link to Hymn # 69, "All Glory, Laud, and Honor". Also today I have a short video clip that I hope will bring the Savior to the forefront of your mind this week

 Link to "All Glory, Laud, and Honor".
Make sure to click on "Words and Music" under the Recorded Music section to the left before pressing play.

Scripture Experience: Read about the Events of Palm Sunday
     * The Triumphal Entry (Mark11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19)
     * Jesus' lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44)
     * Jesus' cleansing of the temple (Mathew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48)

Enhanced Understanding