This article is the introduction to the Day 2 lesson for Come, Follow Me, week 25 of 2023. The scriptures being studied are Luke 22 and John 18. Christ’s atoning sacrifice covered every living soul in the history of the earth, yet is as individual in its scope as though done only for me. Remember that this is just the introduction to the subject. Read the manual and do the exercises they suggest to get the most out of this subject.
Luke 22:39-46 – The Savior suffered for me in Gethsemane.
This is an important topic to think about and discuss with others. As you do so, please keep a few things in mind. First off, there is very little we know of the actual events in the garden to help us know exactly what happened as the Savior paid for our sins. Remember that the only people with him was the First Presidency of the Meridian church, and they were all asleep! It is an assumption on my part that since Jesus went back to check on his brethren three times during his ordeal, and the time for the first check in was an hour, that each of the other two check ins were also about an hour in length. That is purely an assumption that he was in the garden roughly three hours.
The second thing to remember, and not one whit behind the first thing in importance is the fact that we have no idea how the atonement was actually carried out. There is absolutely no doctrine to spell out how Jesus paid for our sins. That he did is something we take 100% on faith. Our whole religion is based on that one point. That he was able, willing, and did pay for sins we could not pay for ourselves is what Christianity is all about. That is a powerful thought. It is also the principle that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is founded upon. Everything we do accepts the principle of vicarious works. Jesus did for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and we do for others, in the Temple, what they cannot do for themselves. These are powerful doctrines and beliefs.
My third and final point to keep in mind is that we don’t know the details of the nature of Jesus. All we know is the generic information that he was part human, so he could die, and part immortal, so he had control over life and death. This is what enabled him to keep himself alive through the ordeal in the garden that would have killed any other person, and then to raise himself from the dead after performing his work in the spirit world to set up missionary work for those who had been in spirit prison almost since the world began. Anyone who claims to have knowledge of Christ beyond these things I have outlined here, has gotten them from intellectualizing what might have been to draw conclusions that are not found in the scriptures or the words of the living prophets. At least I know of no prophets who have taught doctrine beyond what I have listed here.
Suffered for me
The nature of God, our Father, Jesus the Christ, and the Spirit, is and always has been to personalize what we are given based on our individual need. No two of us have the same needs to return home to God. So how often we have experiences with the Spirit, where and when we were born, and what blessings we are given in this life, all have to do with God’s knowledge of us and His desire that we take the challenges we face and overcome them to become the best version of our self we can become. The atoning sacrifice, I believe, was just as personal and individual as everything else God does for His children. The payment for my sins was not some generic payment made for the masses. My faith in Jesus tells me that his payment for my sins showed him all of my sins, not just some aggregate he needed to pay for to get through his own ordeal.
Some of the drops of blood he sweated that night figuratively speaking had my name written on them, for they were produced because of me. The importance of that night is the demonstration of his love for each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter if I am one of the faithful who rarely sins or one of those who laughed at him, mocked him, and wished nothing more than to see him die in the worst way possible. He loves us all equally. This tells me that his love is not based on our behavior, but on our inherent worth as a child of God.
This also hints to me that those who followed Satan were irredeemable, for his payment did not cover their sins. It means that those of us who came to earth could all be redeemed, if we made that choice. And the opportunity to repent is still available to each of us until the day of judgment, when it will then be everlastingly too late to change our minds. Christ has done all in his power to give us every opportunity to turn to him and be saved from eternal death, a permanent separation from God. The agency God has given us makes eternal death or eternal life a matter of our personal choice. Without the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us, none of us would have had a choice to be saved and have eternal life.
I would like to make one last point for you to think about as you ponder his atoning sacrifice for your sins. Innocence is a wonderful thing. In innocence there is no knowledge of crudity, debauchery, lewdness, the profane, or that which is sacrilegious. Innocence is that state of being where all is right in the world, for we know no wrong. Jesus was innocent, in that he had never sought out evil, not done anything against a commandment or desire of God. Yet, in his life he experienced much that was undeserved and unjust. These must have been so hurtful to his soul.
When it came to the sacrifice in Gethsemane, he had to experience every evil ever known to the entire history of mankind – not just from Adam down to his day, but all of it, from the beginning to the end. Every unjust act, act of betrayal, every lewdness and shameful thing. He, as the purest of the pure, was forced by the payment he agreed to shoulder, to experience in the most vile form. This wasn’t just someone who is accustomed to evil seeing a little more. This was someone more pure than a child living through the greatest sins and evils ever devised by man or by Satan over the course of thousands of years. This is more evil than any of us can even imagine.
How offensive and repugnant to his soul, what a shock this must this have been, to be subjected to the entire body of evil ever to be introduced to humanity for all time. So it doesn’t matter if I lived in a barbaric age or an age of extreme technological sophistication, he has witnessed all that has ever come before us and all that will come after us. He truly, as no one else can, understand our personal situation. And for all this exposure to evil, his heart remained pure in his devotion to God, and in his love toward each of us. He came to understand how and why each of us makes the decisions we do in life. This exposure to the overwhelming wickedness of every sin ever committed or to be committed taught him perfectly what we each need to be succored or nursed through our times of trial and pain.
Follow the manual
Okay, I’ve had my say. Now it is time to go and dive into the scriptures listed for today’s lesson, and to read or watch the talks about this subject (see page 98 in the 2023 manual). The atoning sacrifice of Christ is overwhelming. As overwhelming as it is intimate and personal. The time he spent paying the price required by God for all these sins he experienced first hand was suffered out of love for you and his love for me. No other motivation, in my mind, could have made such a sacrifice worth the price. Small wonder he kept the wounds of his suffering visible on his resurrected body so as to never forget the price he paid for each of us.
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