Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

I spent today doing something that I've been planning and wanting to do for some time. In the company of two dear friends, I set out after breakfast to retrace the Savior's steps during the last day and a half of His life, beginning with the Last Supper and ending at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. At each stop, we read the scriptural passages related to the events that transpired there, sang hymns, and shared thoughts and testimonies. We wondered aloud about parts of the story where the details were fuzzy. We mused about the topics of unrecorded conversations involving Christ and the Apostles. We returned home this evening thoroughly exhausted, but strengthened, renewed, and with a greater appreciation of the life of the man we call Lord.

His path on that momentous day was long--longer than comes across in a brief reading of the gospels. Simply from reading the gospels, one might be forgiven for believing that all the events of Christ's Passion happened close by, and that He could proceed from one location to the next fairly smoothly. But in fact he retraced His steps repeatedly that day as He went from the Upper Room of the Last Supper to Gethsemane and back to Mt. Zion again to be tried before Caiphas, and so on. And He did it all without food or drink, without divine support, and without the companionship of his close friends, the Apostles.

In the Upper Room we watched the Lord institute the sacrament, and heard His prophecy that one would betray Him, and with the disciples we asked, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:22). With them we sang a hymn, and departed to the Mount of Olives, to a place we loved and knew well.

In Gethsemane we read about the apostles slumber, and Christ's agonized plea, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" (Matthew 26:40), and it became real to us. We knew that, like the apostles, sometimes our spirits were willing, but our flesh was weak. Sometimes we let our sorrows overwhelm us, and we turn away from the Savior's suffering, instead of watching and praying with Him one more hour.

We stood on the ground that had recieved His blood and heard His cry, "not my will, but thine be done" (Luke 22:42). And we rejoiced that He did not shrink in that crucial moment, that He partook of the bitter cup and finished His preparations unto the children of men (Doc. & Cov. 19:18-19).

We fled with the disciples when Jesus was arrested, and we realized that we had also deserted the Savior. In the home of Caiphas, we listened to Peter thrice deny his knowledge of Christ, and we knew that we had denied knowing Jesus by allowing a difference to exist between our knowledge and our conduct, by not loving our brothers and sisters as He had taught us to do.

With Pilate, we asked Jesus, "Art thou a king then?" And we marvelled at Christ's response, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world" (John 18:37). And we knew He was our king, and the King of all creation. We watched him scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns. We stood with the soldiers and whipped the body of the God we loved, and mourned that we had done this awful thing, that for our sins He had endured such agony, that the punishment that brought us peace had to rest upon Him (Isaiah 53:5), the Son of the Blessed, the great I AM, the Only Begotten Son of the living God.

We saw the love of a man who had done no wrong, who was delivered because of envy and convicted to satisfy a mob. We saw Him nailed to a tree. We heard the jeers of the people, calling Him to come down from the cross and prove His divinity. We stood beside Mary and watched her pain at seeing her son in agony, and we saw the love that Christ had for this woman. We knew that He saw the pain of His mother and the steadfastness of the apostle John. We heard Him ask forgiveness for His persecutors. We heard Him cry out in agony, forsaken of His Father. We saw His lifeless body taken down by His friends, and hastily laid in a borrowed tomb. We felt their grief as they spent the Sabbath without their Lord. We wept their tears as darkness closed in around them.

Our day ended at the Garden Tomb, as we ran with Peter and John to the sepulchre, and saw, and believed. We stood with Mary at the sepulchre, weeping, and our tears changed to tears of joy as we saw the angels, and then as we turned and saw the Master, and clung with her to the Savior's resurrected body, the witness of His triumph, the evidence of His Godhood. We marvelled and we rejoiced. And we re-committed ourselves to serve our Lord, to obey when Christ directs, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me...and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

1 comment:

  1. Eliza and I just did a fireside about our time in Jerusalem and I used the itinerary that you compiled for the last day's of the Savior's life. I just reread this post about our own excursion and I felt the Spirit of the event once more. I am so grateful that you put this day together for us; it’s one of my favorite memories of the Holy Land!