This is one of those lessons where there is so much going on, so many events all converging down to one specific moment that whole books have been written about various parts of these events. When Jesus said “To this end was I born” He was summarizing His entire role as Savior. I don’t believe we grasp the magnitude of this statement. So to this end, I wish to address some of the principles from this week’s reading assignment that circle around the greatness of the calling of the Savior of the world, and the tragedy that surrounded the fulfillment of His great sacrifice that led to His resurrection.
Reading Assignment: Matthew 26:47–27:66; Mark 14:43–15:39; Luke 22:47–23:56; John 18–19
Additional reading: Isaiah 53; Mark 15:39–47; John 3:16; 15:13; 1 Nephi 11:32–33; 19:7–9; 2 Nephi 9:21–22; Bible Dictionary, “Crucifixion,” 651.
The office of Savior
In the premortal world Jesus was foreordained, set apart as the Savior of God’s children. There is no calling more important than this. Our Father in Heaven has already passed through mortality. You cannot go back to mortality after you have finished it. But the person who performs the saving ordinance for others has to be mortal. Therefore God could not save His own children. He required another to do that.
Think what trust God had to have in Jesus to give Him this responsibility. He turned over the fate of every one of His children to Jesus. He had to absolutely know that Jesus would in fact carry out His divine commission to pay for our sins. If He wasn’t absolutely sure of this He would have been gambling on losing all of us to a failed experiment. Christ became the surrogate father to us all when He accepted the role of Redeemer. Our ability to not only repent, but to receive glorified bodies in the hereafter rested squarely on His shoulders. No one else could do what He had been commissioned by our Father to do.
Christ accepted the role of creator, redeemer, Savior, and judge. He is second in power only to God the Father. Yet at the same time, his calling required that he come to earth and walk among us, setting for us the perfect example of service, compassion, and love, demonstrating to us what our Father would have done had He been here in person.
Jesus was the great Jehovah, the master of Israel. He created the earth and all that is on the earth. He placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and once they ate the fruit and fell, His role as redeemer began in earnest. Note that from the time they were expelled from the garden God the Father no longer spoke to the children of men to give commandments. All communication from God came from Jesus, our Redeemer. Under the constant direction of the Father, Jesus has instructed the prophets, revealed the future to the prophets, lead Israel, and obeyed God in all things.
Purpose of the Savior
It is true that Jesus did all these things, but to what end? The main calling of Redeemer and Savior is not to administer programs and handle the affairs of the people, but to save the people from their own destruction. Because of the fall of mankind we were all lost to God forever, unless a reconciliation, a payment was made that would satisfy the eternal laws of God for all the commandments ground under foot and accidentally broken by His children while in mortality. This is the purpose and calling behind the role of Savior. It is to save us from our lost and fallen state.
All of the important details of His atoning sacrifice had been revealed to the prophets many centuries before it happened. Though Jesus had not yet gone through the experience, He knew every detail of what would happen surrounding those few days. All of those details had been shown to multiple prophets and recorded in scripture. If the Pharisees who arrested Jesus were not completely blind to their own actions, they would have been shocked to see themselves fulfilling prophecy after prophecy each step along the way.
Last week we talked about the reconciliation Christ made for us in the garden of Gethsemane. We read about the suffering and agony He endured to satisfy the laws of justice so that He could turn around and offer us mercy. Without that payment on our behalf there could have been no mercy given. This was half of what the Savior had to do to fulfill His great calling. But the other half of His calling is tied up in His death.
Jesus had to die
Why was it so important that Jesus die? He had suffered for our sins. He had paid the price so He could offer us mercy and a chance to repent. He had opened the door for us to be saved from being shut out from the presence of God forever. What more did He have to do? What would have happened to us had He not died for us as well?
Without His death there would be no resurrection. It wasn’t just that Jesus died. The important part was that He died so he could fulfill the Father’s commandment to resurrect Himself. By performing this act He opened the door for all of God’s children to receive resurrection as well. Without the Savior’s resurrection we would have remained as spirits, whether righteous or wicked, never to progress, because progression requires a resurrected body, a glorified body. Jesus had to die or this could not have happened. His death was critical in achieving the resurrection.
It was for this purpose He was born into the world, to perform the atonement for us, and to die for us so we could have a glorious resurrection. This was the second half of His calling as Redeemer to all of God’s children. The atonement opened the door for us to be able to become clean so we could return to our Father in Heaven. The resurrection opened the door so we could return to be with our Father in glorified bodies that could progress and experience all that God experiences throughout eternity. Neither half of the role of Savior and Redeemer would have sufficed. Both halves had to be accomplished.
The Savior’s focus
During all of His trials Jesus never lost sight of what He had to accomplish. This was the most important act ever performed in the history of the world. Even while undergoing the excruciating torture of the cross, after having already been through Gethsemane’s gauntlett and the scourging of the Roman soldiers, Jesus was so focused on what was most important that He was able to take care of the last minute business of making sure his mother was cared for. While hanging, nailed to the cross, He was thinking about His mother’s needs. He was focused on pleading with His Father to forgive the Roman soldiers who were hurting Him. Despite all the pain and anguish of the flesh He had endured to that point, He was still focused on finishing His Father’s commandments to the letter. It wasn’t until He was sure that every bit of what was required of Him had been accomplished that He reported to God that His commands had all been fulfilled, and He allowed Himself to die.
Normally these lessons are about the actual lesson, but this time I thought I needed to address the importance of the title of the lesson. We need to appreciate the faithfulness of our Savior. Nothing was more important to Him than the will of God. He knew how much was riding on His obedience. Sometimes I don’t think we realize how much is riding on our obedience, and how much we are giving up and putting in jeopardy when we choose to disobey the commandments. But we can look to our Savior, as in all things, and see a perfect example of how it is supposed to be done, and what can come from a life of devotion to God.