Day 1. The day is beautiful, the heavens blue and the clouds move quickly across the sky. The young colt the brethren obtained for me is indeed little, my feet nearly touch the ground as I ride him through the Jerusalem gate. The crowds are sparse at first, and growing more dense along my path. The women, radiant and hopeful, are placing their head scarves in the path of the colt, the men place palm fronds to keep the mud and dirt from my raiment. The children are happy and playful. They run up to me and touch my hand or the hem of my robe. One sunny little girl rode with me for a time on the colt, and then her mother insisted that she come down. My small band of faithful disciples–how will they fare when I am gone? My heart aches for them and I worry that this moment, this triumphal moment, will quickly turn to sadness and weeping, when in a few days I will be gone, and in a matter of years the streets of this city will run with the blood of the vanquished.
Day 2. They have been taught, and still they offend the spirit and purpose of the temple. My anger was kindled today and I forced the avaricious traders and usurers from that sacred courtyard. I commanded the money changers that they must leave. I have grown tired of their advantage-taking of those humble temple-goers, who seek only sanctification while the merchants seek profit. The temple has been desecrated and I will have no more of it. I broke up their tables and threw the money to the ground where they, like scavenging dogs, scrambled after it, every last pittance. I commanded them to leave but they will be back. Their habits only strengthen their lust for money. They no longer seek after the presence of the Lord. His spirit can be found in the Holy Temple, but they seek only money. In a few days the veil in the temple will be rent, and the wrath that will come upon these blasphemers will make my indignation this day seem mild.
Day 3. The brethren were astonished to see, when we passed the fig tree which I cursed only yesterday, that is had completely withered. The fig tree was surely beautiful, stately and full of shameless leaves. But it bore no fruit and was therefore of no worth. My little band of disciples, and especially these men, my apostles, who will take my place when I am gone from here, must understand that faithful words themselves fall short. The appearance of religion is not enough. You must bear the fruit of faith. I care not for your outward appearance, your sumptuous apparel and beautiful faces. You must serve me with works of faith. The fig tree was cursed and withered because it could bear no fruit. All of its sap, the energy it took from the sun, went to its pretty leaves and thick trunk. It was of no use to anyone and so it was cursed, as will be my people if they believe that only the outward aspect of faith is sufficient for the needs of my kingdom.
Day 4. All of the brethren have joined me in the upper room. It is the Feast of the Passover. The aroma of the lamb, the bitter herbs and flat bread are a delight to my senses. This is when my people remember their release from the bonds of slavery, my protecting miracles, and the importance of experiencing the bitter along with the sweet. I don’t think that yet they fully realize the lamb is me. They kill and let the blood of a little animal, perfect and pure, and then take into themselves its nourishing flesh. After this day the flesh and blood of the animal are never again to be taken. The Lamb of God will die for their sakes. They will now remember me with the bread and wine that will impart the higher law with which they will be nourished. No more will sacrificial blood be shed, for mine will flow in a little while, and will fill the earth with its cleansing power. Moses led them out of bondage, and I will break the bonds of death. They will come to know me as they take the bread and wine. Judas, my poor friend, never really knew me. He left us before he could partake of the Sacrament. He became like the money changers in the temple, blinded by the purse and the pieces of silver inside, blinded to the balm of my love and the glory of my salvation. We sang an hymn of praise to Father before we left the upper room then I bid the brethren to come with me to the Mount of Olives, to a garden called Gethsemane. I lingered for a moment, feeling the cool of the evening breeze upon my face. My hands did not tremble when earlier I broke the bread, but they tremble now.
They would not stay awake! My friends could not even watch and pray with me. I am alone in this intercessory prayer, save for the momentary comfort of an Angel, which strengthened me only enough to bear up under this weight. For the load of my suffering is not lighter but has increased beyond understanding. My fingers claw the dirt of this garden. My body is curled upon itself, writhing. I seek one spot of relief, one moment of rest, but there is no escaping this bitter cup. There is an inexorable squeezing within my chest. My lungs are pressed in a vise. My bowels turn on themselves in an anguished dance. Each muscle and sinew is drawn to the extremity. My bones throb as excruciating pressure threatens to burst them apart, joint and limb. I call out to Father to let this task pass from me. But I bow, and succumb to His will. My heart is then shattered with the inexpressible horror of irrevocable isolation and despair. Fugues of agony wash over me. My mind is stabbed with hot, sharp daggers of regret. Each sin, error, and sorrow, screams into my brain in flashes of tearful faces, blistering torments, mouths pleading for release, eyes clenched and fists beating the ground in piteous groveling, frenzied violence, and epochs of war. Every son and daughter of my Father, their sins and pains and afflictions and infirmities, engulfing me, blinding me. My world has become dark and terrible, the old olive trees are skeletons, their bony fingers hacking at me as I am swallowed into the blackest black of creation. My robes are soaked red as the screw on the press is turned, crushing me the Greatest of All, causing me to tremble, the blood hemorrhaging from my skin, seeping into the cloth of my garments. I am seared with a heat, scorching and fierce, as if I will be immolated, and the garden, the trees, my friends, the city below, and the whole world with me. Then I am left cold, the blood has grown sticky. I shiver, my muscles seizing, and it is awhile before my body ceases to shudder and my sensibility is restored.
I rise, my robes sodden with blood, and squalid, mud, leaves and sticks clinging to them. A little ways off a torch lights the faces of a mob. Judas points his finger my direction. I call to the brethren and Peter jumps to his feet. He acts rashly and smites one of the men on the ear with his sword. My strength ebbing, I slowly pick up the piece of the man’s ear, hold it to his head, and restore him. Peter is at once furious and ashamed. Judas embraces me and then I am bound, and taken, pushed out of the garden and down the hill, back to Jerusalem.
Day5. Trials given by men, such men as Annas and then Caiaphas, and then by the Sanhedrin hypocrites. They know nothing of trials. They sit in their comfortable spaces, idle, corpulent, fattened on the labors of others. They spit, they accuse, and they twist the law to fit their ends. They will kill me and believe that they have won the prize. And they have, but the prize is mine to give. These politicians, snakes, liars, and mockers will win eternal life as I become subject to their punishments. They do not know that I die for them. My enemies kill me, and my death brings them life…if they will repent and forsake their lusts and deceptions and gluttonies. But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I. Which suffering caused myself, God, 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. I have suffered all things, so that even the most depraved of sinners may repent and not have to suffer what I endured in that garden. I die for all, my enemies and my beloved friends.
They are powerless, Pilate, my disciples, Peter, James, John, and the brethren, to turn the tide of hate and anger. Some of those hopeful faces who smiled on me as I rode through Jerusalem as The King of Kings, are now creased with doubt and fear. They join in the chorus to crucify me. They would choose a murderer over The Lamb. The Romans prefer the execution upon a tree. They will hang me on a cross. A cross that I now carry through the streets and up to Golgotha. My back is scored with a thousand lashes, the skin planed, one pass at a time, from my flesh. Some pieces of bone and rock from the scourging whips embedded in my back. The cross grinds heavily upon my shoulders, my muscles ache, and I drip blood along the way, leaving a gory trail out of the city. A man, his eyes shiny with tears and bright with love, sidles next to me and bears up one side of the cross. He would bear my burden as I have borne the burden of the sins of the world. Blessed is he.
I know those nails. They are jagged stakes, not the nails of a carpenter made to join two boards, but rather to secure ship’s beams. Now they splay and wedge, as they break and tear into my wrists, hands and feet. The screeching burn of rasps against raw nerve. Blood oozes thick, my thirst is great, my pain is exquisite, and though my body droops on this cross, my mind is clear. There is one hurt, one sound I cannot, I will not, bear. Of all that I have borne to this moment, the most heartbreaking of things are the cries of my mother. I cannot bear this and I order John to take her to his home, to become her son, she his mother. She grabs at the cross, trying to touch my feet. I cannot look at her face. I turn away and she wails and screams as John pulls her down the path toward Jerusalem. Mother…Mother.
The sun moves over my head. It warms me, and in my misery I begin to feel a replenishing peace. It is power and peace. A reconciliation of all things; life and death, evil and virtue, spirit and flesh. I feel the presence of Father. But then He leaves, suddenly, inexplicably. Why, why now? I call out. And for a brief time the torture of Gethsemane returns, the ignominy of false accusations, trials by charlatans, the loneliness of rejection, the fires of atoning, and the cruelty of the cross. And then it is done. My work is done. My head bows, and I am still.
Day 6. The labor of atonement is done. The work of my flesh is complete. But my ministry, like my atoning sacrifice, is infinite and eternal. I will return to my Father’s home and prepare my gospel there, for its spirit inhabitants. This little book does not have the space to hold the things that I will do before I return to my body of flesh. I will tell you this; there is no child of God, no soul born upon the earth who has lived, lives now, or who will live, who will not learn my gospel, and then choose for him or herself whom they will follow. Come follow me, I say to all. I am your Savior, I have ransomed you with My blood. My way is the only way to happiness and eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Day 7. I am waiting when the Seraphim move the rock. It squeals against the limestone of the tomb. The splinter of light becomes a resplendent ray, and I am bathed in the warmth of the sun. Each cell of my body made new, pure, glorious. My senses are sublimely keen. The song birds sing a symphony of life, complex and perfectly congruous. The scents of lilies and dewy grass skim the gentle wind currents. The light from the sun is robed with spectral colors, iridescent and supernal. I breathe in the air of the tomb, it is stale and heavy with the spices and oils of embalming. I step out, bid the Angels adieu, and walk to a secret place. I watch from afar as my dear Mary treads the path toward Joseph’s sepulcher. She is downcast, her eyes swollen and her footfalls quiet. She sees the rock. I can feel the panic in her heart. She looks about, seeking my form, the shrouds, some sign of where I have been taken. She runs to me. “Sir,” she starts, “my Lord, where have they taken Him? Where is His body?” She believes me to be the gardener. I smile, but wait a moment for her gaze. “Mary,” I speak, “it is I. I live.” She narrows her eyes and sees my face, then with a gasp falls to my feet and calls out, “My Lord, my Lord!” My precious Mary has done on this Spring morning what I desire all of my children to do. To seek me, and when they find me, know that I am their Lord. I died for them. And I live.
St. Luke 24:6
Doctrine & Covenants 19:16-19
Tags: apostles, atonement, blood, Calvary, cross, crucifixion, Easter, empty, Gethsemane, Golgotha, gospel, intercessory prayer, Lamb of God, last supper, Mary, resurrection Jesus Christ, sacrafice, seraphim, tomb