We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. (Third Article of Faith)
To introduce this subject, we must state that the Lord’s Atonement is the most important event that has occurred since the creation of the earth to the present. The Atonement of Christ is the most fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is one of the least understood of all truths. Most have a superficial knowledge of it, and they rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see them through the trials of life. However, if we are to have faith like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, we must know and believe what they knew and believed and live as they lived. To do so, we must gain a deep and thorough understanding of the Atonement. We must dispense with the ideologies and wisdom of man and hearken to the voice of the Spirit. We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord and thereby obtain the power of God unto salvation and exaltation.
To start with, we must come to an understanding of these concepts on this most important topic:
THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT
As there is a physical death and a spiritual death, so there is a physical redemption and a spiritual redemption. To understand the Atonement, we must understand these four basic concepts.
Physical Death: Separation of the spirit from the physical body; to cease to live as to mortality. Physical death was introduced by Adam’s fall.
Physical Redemption: Reunification of the spirit and the body forever; known as the resurrection, it means to live in immortality.
Spiritual Death: To cease living in the glorified presence of our Heavenly Father; to be cast out from His divine presence. Because of the nature of our intelligence, this type of death brings sorrow, torment, pain, guilt, and self-condemnation. It results from sin, for God has said, “I, the Lord God, cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance,” and “No unclean thing can dwell in my presence.” He is a God of law and justice. If not, the Book of Mormon informs us, He would cease to be God. The crushing, grinding feelings of guilt and pain that we feel when we grievously sin are but the mere evidence of spiritual death, as the Father begins to withdraw his presence and/or influence. This withdrawal of the Spirit is what turns us over to the buffeting of Satan which, then, binds us by the chains of hell. To so fully sin as to cause a complete withdrawal of the Spirit is to become a companion to the Devil who is miserable forever. If it were possible for a person to totally sin, then the Father would have to withdraw even the “sustaining powers of life”. For such to happen would result in, what the prophets refer to as, “our ceasing to exist.”
Spiritual Redemption: To regain spiritual life, to have joy and happiness, to die as to all that is evil and miserable, to live in the Spirit, to return to the presence of God; in the complete sense of the word, it is to have eternal lives.
Daily, the obituary columns of our newspapers present us with the reality of physical death; while the apostle Paul reminded us:
…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and, therefore, the reality of spiritual death.
Fortunately, Heavenly Father has prepared for us a Plan of Redemption from both physical and spiritual deaths, which we know as the Atonement of His only Begotten Son. Redemption, both physical and spiritual, is wrought by our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
The scriptures teach that the Father could not save us himself. Peter declared,
There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Jesus Christ is the only name that will save us. Father himself could not redeem us to His presence. (See also Moses 6:52.)
To understand Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we must first understand the relationship of the universal and eternal laws of justice and mercy. Fundamental to these laws is the fact that the Lord has told us (D&C 93:30) that we are free to act for ourselves; and, of course, Lehi explained to us the necessity of “opposition in all things” (2 Ne 2:11-17) so as to test our use of agency and teach us to appreciate joy and happiness.
D&C 130:20, 21 and 132:5 explains that the law of justice has both punishments and blessings attached to it. Whenever the law is transgressed, punishment must be inflicted which results in misery. Whenever a law is obeyed, blessings will be given which result in joy and happiness. Since we have a choice between good and evil and know the laws of God and are free agents, we can apply the law of justice in our lives and seek for whatever blessings we desire, or conversely, experience the punishment inflicted by broken law.
Christ was subject to the law of justice. Because he lived a sinless life, he had no sin for which to suffer. Our Heavenly Father knew that the demands of justice could be satisfied by allowing Christ to accept our punishment inasmuch as “all [of us] have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. Since the law of justice requires that God must be a God of order, and that He must be impartial, is it just, therefore, that one can suffer the consequence of broken law for another? The reason that a loving God could allow His Son to suffer for others’ sins is because of the law of mercy which is a part of the law of justice. The law of mercy is based on love and has been agreed to by all the intelligence of the universe. It introduces the possibility of vicarious payment for the law that was broken. Whenever the law is transgressed, a payment must be made. Under the law of mercy, the person who transgressed the law does not have to suffer the consequence of the broken law if he will repent and someone who is sinless is willing and able to make payment. In addition, the law of mercy insists that the demands of the law of justice be fully met. Alma stated,
Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved. What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so God would cease to be God. (Alma 42:24-25. See also Alma 34:8-18)
The law of justice made the Atonement of Jesus Christ necessary. When Adam fell, he transgressed a law with physical and spiritual death as its punishment. Thus, the law of justice demands payment.
Acceptance of the law of mercy by all intelligence made it a component part of the law of justice and, therefore, made appeasing the law of justice possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ; but, in order for Christ to pay fully for the transgression of law, it was necessary that He be both able and willing to make Atonement. He was willing to make payment because of his love for mankind, and He was able to make payment because He was loved by all intelligence, lived a sinless life, and received the power to atone for the spiritual and physical deaths introduced by the Fall. Because of this Atonement which appeases the law of justice, He is rightfully referred to as the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. The implementation of the law of mercy is conditional; only upon our repentance from all sin is it operative.
Helaman 5:10 states that:
. . . he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
The Lord said in D&C 58:42,
. . . he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
He did not say He might forgive us or maybe He would forgive us. It is automatic; he simply said, if we repent, we are forgiven. We can still experience joy and happiness as we are “fore-given”. Incidentally, forgiven means that full punishment was “given before” or paid in advance through the Atonement. If we repent, we will not be identified by our sins in the resurrection, and we can be resurrected to glory.
THE EVENTS OF THE ATONEMENT
To start with, Jesus,
…said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. (Matt. 26:1-2)
At the same time some very devious things were happening . . .
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. (Matt. 26:3-4)
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. (Luke 22:3-4)
And (Judas) said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. (Matt. 26:15-16)
Now it’s Thursday evening . . .
And when the hour was come, he (Jesus) sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: (Luke 22:14-15)
He (Jesus) riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. …he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. (John 13:4-5, 11, 21)
The apostles . . .
…they were exceeding sorrowful, and began everyone of them to say unto him Lord, is it I? (Matt. 26:22)
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” [John, the beloved.] Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him [John], that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it [sop is a piece of bread dipped into gravy]. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot . . . And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. …He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. (John 13:23-28, 30)
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, …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 13:31, 34-35)
Jesus then introduced the Sacrament . . .
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:26-28)
And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night… (Mark 14:27)
Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. (Matt. 26:33)
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. (Luke 22:31-33)
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee… (Matt. 26:34-35)
Jesus then said. . .
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. …I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. …If ye love me, keep my commandments. …He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. …I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 14:1, 6, 15, 21; 15:5)
Then He Gave The Great High Priest Prayer which is recorded in the seventeenth Chapter of John. In verses one through three, Jesus offered himself as the great sacrifice in this way:
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent. (John 17:1-3)
Then in verses 4-19 Jesus solemnly reported to the Father of His mortal mission:
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. …And now I am no more in the world…. …now come I to thee… (John 17:4, 5, 11, 13)
In verses 20-26 Jesus prayed for the apostles and all of us:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me. (John 17:20-21)
Jesus needed seclusion — He needed to talk to his Father as He approached the agony of Gethsemane . . .therefore, He and the remaining 11 apostles went up over the temple square, down into the valley, across Kidron Brook and started up the Mount of Olives. . .
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane [It was an olive grove in which there was an olive press], and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. (Matt. 26:36)
He left eight at the gate and then went into the grove . . .
And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; (Mark 14:33)
He was doing well until that moment; Jesus had never before experienced the effects of personal sin. What He knew about the consequences of sin had been second hand or learned from observation. Never in His entire life had He ever felt guilt, or shame, or unworthiness before His Father. So, for the first time He began to feel and experience the effects of sin. He began to feel guilt, shame, and the actual horror of our sins — the same as if He had committed them Himself. Undoubtedly, this was more than He had anticipated. The scripture says:
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death . . . (Matt. 26:38)
He threw himself down on the ground and pled with His Father. No mortal words can convey the agony He suffered. However, we do know that this experience was not picturesque. This was not a peaceful kneeling at a rock. His agony was so great that:
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed . . . (Matt. 26:39)
. . . that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee . . . (Mark 14:35-36)
Then the petition:
. . . take away this cup from me . . . (continuation of Mark 14:36)
In effect, ‘Do I have to do this? Can’t we work this out some other way? Please! ‘ He was trembling.
Even though all things are possible unto God, He knew there was no other way. He is a God of law. The Book of Mormon teaches that He is maintained in His position as God by being the absolutely strict arbiter of justice. What the Son had agreed to do is the way. King Benjamin taught:
. . . there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ . . . (Mosiah 3:17)
Father then strengthed Him:
. . . there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. (Luke 22:43)
We propose that the angel that came from the courts of glory to strengthen him was none other than Michael (Adam), who fell, that mortal man might be.
The scripture is silent on what the angel said. However, he might have said: “Because You have agency, You don’t have to do this. However,we knew You would and that is why You were chosen and ordained from before the foundation. But, if You don’t, everything You helped create will be lost. (See 2 Nephi 9:7-9) The only way creation can be perpetuated and exalted is for You to go through with this.” Jesus responded:
. . .O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Matt. 26:42)
Then . . .
. . . 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 22:44)
The weight imposed upon Him descended with such overwhelming impact that His circulatory system could not contain His blood. The trauma, so great, that blood came through His sweat glands onto His skin as “great drops”. His mortal body was suffering so much that it was beginning to break down.
He suffered an agony that no mortal can know. An angel told King Benjamin more than a century before that;
He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. (Mosiah 3:7)
Christ suffered the consequence of all sin — which was the total withdrawal of the Father’s sustaining influence and Spirit. Only Christ could forebear such an experience — all others would cease to exist. Whenever we commit a grievous sin, we feel the spiritual consequences of the spirit’s withdrawal, and it leaves us in deep guilt, shame and agony of soul. But, to have even the life sustaining forces of the Father withdrawn is something beyond our capacity to comprehend.
James E Talmage described Christ’s sufferent in the Garden of Gethsemane as follows:
Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. . . . He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. . . .
In some manner, actual and terribly real . . . the Savior took upon himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. . . .
From the terrible conflict in Gethsemane, Christ emerged a victor. Though in the dark tribulation of that fearful hour He had pled that the bitter cup be removed from His lips, the request, however oft repeated, was always conditional; the accomplishment of the Father’s will was never lost sight of as the object of the Son’s supreme desire. The further tragedy of the night, and the cruel inflictions that awaited Him on the morrow, to culminate in the frightful tortures of the cross, could not exceed the bitter anguish through which He had successfully passed. (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pg. 613-614)
He descended below all things that He might succor His people (ie: Alma 7:12). There is nothing in human experience that we could do or feel that the Savior has not felt as a result of the Atonement. No matter what we have done, save murder only, He knows how we feel and is willing to ransom us from the fateful consequences of our sins on conditions of repentance. He literally bought us because He loves us.
The Lord . . .
. . .suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. (D&C 18:11)
To this dispensation in March 1830, the glorified Lord, Jesus Christ told how He felt about those ominous hours of agony . . .
Therefore I command you to repent–repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore–how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink–Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19:15-19)
From this statement we find that He was pleased that He was able to do His Father’s will and complete the Atonement.
Now, back to Gethsemane; as near as we can determine, this incomparable suffering continued for some three or four hours. During that time, He had come back twice to Peter, James and John, perhaps for support, only to find them asleep. So, He returned to solemn prayer and His struggle.
. . .he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, 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)
After, they had finished their sleep, he said, Rise up, let us go; lo, he who betrayed me is at hand. (JST Mark 14:47)
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? (Luke 22:47-48)
With His body wrenched and drained of strength, He had to confront Judas and those mortal devils with him, some from the very Sanhedrin. He was led away with a rope around his neck, as a common criminal, to be judged by the arch-criminals who as Jews sat in Aaron’s seat and who as Romans wielded Caesar’s power.
Jesus was first taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas — the high priest, for questioning at which one of the officers struck Jesus. He was then taken to be examined before Caiaphas and the council where Caiaphas, the high priest:
. . . said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am . . . Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. (Mark 14:61-64)
They blind-folded Him.
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (Matt. 26:67-68)
Peter gained entrance into Caiaphas’ house, had already denied Christ twice and had just been questioned the third time at which —
. . . Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)
Peter must have felt very grieved; he had denied the Lord.
And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council. (Luke 22:66)
The formal trial at which they condemned him had been held.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. (Matt. 27:3-7)
Without question, they knew they had condemned an innocent man.
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. (Matt. 27:2)
Pilate . . . said, What accusation bring ye against this man? (John 18:29)
And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. (Luke 23:2)
Now they were accusing him of treason to Rome and desired that as the charge to put him to death.
And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. (Luke 23:3)
Pilate . . . went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. (John 18:38)
And they [the Jews] were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. And as soon as he knew that he belongeth unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:5-7)
And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: . . . Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. (Luke 23:8-11)
Pilate had tried to reason with these criminal Jews. He could find no fault in Christ sufficient to put him to death. Herod could not either, and he sent Jesus back to Pilate. Then Pilate said. . .
But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? (John:18:39)
And there was one named Barabbas . . . who had committed murder. . . But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. (Mark 15:7, 11)
Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. (Luke 23:20)
And Pilate . . . said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? (Mark 15:12)
But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. (Luke 23:21-22)
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. (John 19:1)
To be scourged was one of the cruelest of tortures. The victim was stripped naked, tied over a post about waist high, and whipped with a Roman flagra 40 stripes, less one. The whip had woven into it sharp pieces of metal and bone. It cut to the bone and most victims passed into unconsciousness dying from shock long before the scourging ended. Jesus bore it all to the end.
Then . . .
. . . the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, [Into his sweating, trembling brow a crown of piercing thorns was pressed.] and they put on him a purple robe, (John 19:2.)
And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. (Mark 15:18-19.)
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, [He hoped to invoke compassion when they saw the Christ all bloody and sweating.] Eki Homo! Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. (John 19:5-6)
Then Pilate once again . . .
. . . sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth . . . And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saithunto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. (John 19:12-15)
These criminal Jews literally sold their souls to put Jesus to death. They denied their true King! Pilate had been warned by his wife who had a dream, not to crucify Jesus. She urged him not to do it. But . . .
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. [It has been and still is to this day.] Then released he Barabbas unto them . . . And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. (Matt. 27:24-26, 31)
They made Him carry the cross piece from the hall of judgment to the city gate. In His weakened body there was not enough strength . So, they compelled a man by the name of Simon, a Cyrenian (A North African Jew from Cyrene), to carry the cross for Him up to the hill Golgotha. “The word ‘Golgotha’ in Aramaic Hebrew means ‘skull’. ‘Calvary’ is taken from the Latin word ‘Calvaria’ which means the same. The face of the cliff does look somewhat like a skull.
When they arrived at the hill top they placed the cross piece, called a patibulum, on the ground. They stripped Jesus naked, made Him lie on his back on the ground, stretched out His arms on the patibulum (which is called the implement of torture), and at the center of the open palms the point of a huge iron nail was placed, which, by the blow of a mallet, was driven through the hand into the wood. With Jesus hanging from the patibulum , it was then hoisted into position and fastened in place by nails or ropes to the 8 or 9 foot upright pole, which had been placed in the ground. They had driven nails through both His palms and wrists to be certain he did not tear loose. With the patibulum in place, Jesus’ body was supported by a small piece of wood projecting at a right angle, called a sedile, on which He sat. With both feet together, they pounded another large iron nail. As He was only a little above the ground, He was in full reach of anyone who might desire to add to his humiliation and pain by spitting, poking or slapping.
This terribly uncomfortable position made movement excruciating and the injured, crushed and exposed wounds throbbed with flaming pain. His head and stomach became swollen with blood.
He hung there full of pain between two thieves, naked, humiliated, and in full view of all who either loved Him or hated Him. A party of four soldiers watched Him (John 19:23), with their centurion (Matt. 27:54), whose purpose it was to prevent His body from being stolen.
Compassionate words were the first He uttered. . .
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do, [Meaning the soldiers who crucified Him.] (JST Luke 23:35)
Jewish men wore five articles of clothing: A head-dress, shoes, an inner garment, an outer garment, and a girdle. These items, according to Roman custom, became the property of the soldiers who performed the crucifixion. There were four soldiers and each took one article of clothing. In the case of Jesus, the robe, woven of a single piece of cloth, apparently was of excellent workmanship, and for this the soldiers elected to cast lots. (B. R. McConkie, DNTC, pg. 820)
Pilate had a sign written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin attached above Jesus’ head on the cross which read,
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:38)
This caused a tremendous stir for . . .
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. (John 19:21-22)
With evil intent and purpose, as He hung in agony on the cross, Jesus was mocked and derided by the spectator-multitude, whose members were pleased to see Him die; by the chief priests, who caused His death; by the Roman soldiers, to whom slaughter and death were common occurrences; and by one of the thieves who was crucified with Him. (B. R. McConkie, DNTC, pg. 821-822)
Jesus made only seven utterances on the cross of which the second was to the one thief who displayed some repentance. The Prophet Joseph Smith translated the scripture as. . .
. . . This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits: then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries. (TPJS, pg. 309)
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother. . . (John 19:25)
Mary’s grief must have been almost unbearable as she watched her son suffer. When Jesus was just eight days old he had been presented in the temple and an old Jew by the name of Simeon, who had been promised that he would see the Messiah before his death, had prophesied to Mary:
A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also. (Luke 2:35)
At this moment Mary stood grief stricken as it were with the prophesied sword piercing her soul. Jesus’ third utterance says . . .
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple [John], Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26-27)
From other sources, we learn that the Redeemer’s own wives and offspring were there also, to be everlasting witnesses of Him and His Atonement.
As Jesus hung in agony, at about noon, thick darkness spread over the land and lasted until approximately 3:00 p.m. Indeed, the earth did manifest its grief at the torture and death of its Master.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice [His fourth utterance], saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? . . . My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
What mind of man can fathom the significance of that awful cry? It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in most terrible reality. That the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fullness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death. (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pg. 661)
Father had to withdraw His sustaining forces of life again. This was done so that all the intelligence of the universe could accept Jesus’ sacrifice. Mercy must be allowed to appease justice. Father must have agonized as He witnessed this terrible scene! Perhaps that is why He asked one earthly father to sacrifice his only son–as Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac–so that, at least, one father could begin to understand His grief.
Then His fifth utterance . . .
. . . I thirst. (John 19:28)
He had developed an overwhelming thirst. It was then that the women . . .
. . . which also bewailed and lamented him. . . (Luke 23:27)
. . . offered Him in compassion vinegar with gall (a drug) to drink. He tasted but did not drink. Instead, He chose to suffer with His mind as clear and His senses as unimpaired as possible.
Then at length, when He realized His sacrifice had been accepted came his sixth utterance.
. . . Father, it is finished, thy will is done. . . (JST Matt. 27:54)
The seventh and final utterance came when he said . . .
. . . Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. . . (Luke 23:46)
He voluntarily died! At that very moment Jesus became the Christ, the Redeemer of mankind.
Jesus’ mortal work was done; He had paid the price for the sins of the world; man was ransomed from the spiritual and temporal death brought upon him by the fall; the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice had been made — all according to the will of the Father. (B. R. McConkie, DNTC, pg. 829)
Earth’s witness continued; the veil of the temple was rent and the earth did quake and the rocks rent. The centurion by Jesus’ cross testified . . .
. . .Truly this was the Son of God. (Matt. 27:54)
In the Promised Land some 16 cities were destroyed, the whole face of the land was changed, and there was darkness for three days.
Then the soldiers came to break the legs of those crucified, so they would die before the start of the Jewish sabbath. They broke the legs of the two thieves and . . .
. . .when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (John 19:33-34)
It was finally over.
Before dark, Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ mother’s father’s brother, who was a member of the Sanhedrin and who had voted against Jesus’ censor went to Pilate and begged and received a burial permit once Pilate was assured that Jesus was dead. He took the lifeless corpse of the Savior from the cross and placed it in his own elaborate sepulcher, which was close by and under Calvary. With Nicodemus, they pulled the crown of thorns off his head and used costly ointments and spices to anoint the wounds and embalm their King. The great stone rolled into place to seal the sepulcher. The Pharisees then begged Pilate to place guards at the sepulcher so that they could be certain that the disciples would not steal the body and proclaim he had risen from the dead.
Between Christ’s death and early Sunday morning, He had been in the spirit world “setting the captives free”. Then it happened…
And behold . . . two angels of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And their countenance was like lightning, and their raiment white as snow; and for fear of them the keepers did shake, and became as though they were dead. (JST Matthew 28:2-3)
It was the Resurrection!
While yet dark, Mary Magdalene arose and went to the sepulcher. Arriving there she saw the stone had been rolled away. She ran to Peter and John and told them . . .
. . .They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. (John 20:2)
What a picture . . . [is] left for us of this unique moment in history. Fear fills the hearts of Peter and John; wicked men must have stolen the body of their Lord. They race to the tomb. John, younger and more fleet, arrives first, stoops down, looks in, but does not enter, hesitating as it were to desecrate the sacred spot even by his presence. But Peter, impetuous, bold, a dynamic leader . . . rushes in. John follows. Together they view the grave clothes-linen strips that have not been unwrapped, but through which a resurrected body has passed. And then, upon John, reflective and mystic by nature, the reality dawns first. It is true! They had not known before; now they do. It is the third day! Christ is risen! ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ (1 Cor. 15:54) (B. R. McConkie, DNTC, pg. 841-842)
Apparently they left and Mary Magdalene was left by herself; but, could not contain her grief.
. . . Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked in the sepulcher, Andseeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener,saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni . . . Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; 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. (B. R. McConkie, DNTC, pg. 843)
So it was. . .
. . .Mary of Magdala, chosen and singled out from all the disciples, even including the apostles, to be the first mortal to see and bow in the presence of a resurrected being. Mary, who had been healed of much and who loved much, saw the risen Christ! (B. R. McConkie, DNTC, pg. 843)
Later that morning, Jesus appeared to the other women allowing them to hold him by the feet (Matt. 28:9), and . . .
One may wonder why Jesus had forbidden Mary Magdalene to touch him, and then, so soon after, had permitted other women to hold him by the feet as they bowed in reverence. . . . It appears reasonable and probable that between Mary’s impulsive attempt to touch the Lord, and the action of the other women who held Him by the feet as they bowed in worshipful reverence, Christ did ascend to the Father, and that later He returned to earth to continue his ministry in the resurrected state. (James E.Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pg. 682)
Then Matthew states. . .
. . .the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matt. 27:52-53)
The resurrection had become a reality! The Savior appeared many times that day and for the next 40 days to the apostles and the saints so they could bear their witness that the Atonement and the resurrection were literal events.
At the end of His forty day ministry. . .
. . . he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50, 51)
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:10-11)
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; (Luke 24:52)
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ATONEMENT
The Savior did for us what no one else could. He truly is our mediator with the Father. He did His Father’s will! Upon returning to His Father He might have said,
I have gone down to earth among Thy children and at their hands I was crucified. I spent my life and blood to perfect those who keep my commandments, so that, on conditions of repentance, they will not be known by their sins in the resurrection. I love them and I have done thy will so that mercy appeases justice and so that they can be allowed to come up and be with us.
In Christ’s own words,
Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou was well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life. (D&C 45:4-5)
Because He shed His blood and endured such suffering, He can say to His Father regarding us:
Thou hast exalted Me and given Me My Kingdom. Therefore, because of My love for them and My sacrifice for them, on condition of repentance, let them come up into My Kingdom.
He appeased the law of justice through enacting the law of mercy. Because of the love and respect of all intelligence in the universe for Him and the Father, the Father is able to now accept us back into His presence and allow us the right to share as joint heirs with Christ His Celestial Kingdom. What Father could not do directly, He has accomplished indirectly through the mission and sacrifice of His Only Begotten (in the flesh) and Beloved Son Jesus Christ.
We must recognize that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is literal. He paid for us with His own life because He loves us and desires to share His Kingdom with us.
There is nothing in the entire plan of salvation as important as the atoning sacrifice of Christ. It is the single most important thing of which we must take advantage; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and our salvation and exaltation rest. Let us not waste it.
The words of a beautiful hymn written by Eliza R. Snow express so much:
How great the wisdom and the love
that filled the courts on high
And sent the Savior from above
To suffer, bleed, and die!
His precious blood He freely spilt;
His life He freely gave,
A sinless sacrifice for guilt,
A dying world to save.
How great, how glorious, how complete,
Redemption’s grand design,
Where justice, love, and mercy meet
In harmony divine!
Should we not all proclaim,
[I] believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. (Third Article of Faith)
Should we not strive to learn and be completely obedient to the laws and ordinances of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ?
How fortunate we are to have earned the right to come to earth in the last days; Christ’s earth–where He worked out the Atonement for us. At the end of the Millennium, the earth will be Celestial and Christ will reign here from eternity to eternity and, if we repent and follow Him, taking advantage of the Plan of Redemption, we can be with Him in eternity. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the True God. He lives! He is our Redeemer and Savior. Many have heard His voice and are witnesses of His influence in their lives. We love to testify of Heavenly Father and of His Son; for we love them with all our hearts. May we all come to know them and develop the divine nature after the likeness of Christ so that we might have eternal life as they do.In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.