God So Loved the World

Speaking of the final day of Jesus’ time in mortality, the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a modern Apostle and witness of Christ, said:

I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross. On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth. On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled. It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.

Elder Wirthlin adds, however, that “the doom of that day did not endure,” for on the following Sunday, Mary found an angel in the empty tomb which bore glad tidings, saying, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6). With those words, the angel heralded the greatest hope that had ever been given to woman or man—and that has ever been given since. The quiet declaration was that Christ had conquered death and that, through Him, all of us could likewise live anew.


The Empty Tomb (lds.org)

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Easter season is one that reflects the hope of renewal that is inherent in the celebration. The trees, barren through the months of cold, are adorned with bright green buds; the perfume of flowers, having been absent for months, drifts on the spring breeze; the sun, no longer obscured by grey, wintry clouds, shines in the blue sky, warming and illuminating the landscape. It would seem as though nature itself were celebrating the resurrection of its Creator. But beyond the blue skies and bright flowers, “Easter is that sacred season when the heart of each devout Christian turns in humble gratitude to our beloved Savior,” Elder Richard G. Scott said, for “Easter brings thoughts of Jesus, His life, His Atonement, His Resurrection, His love. He has risen from the dead ‘with healing in his wings.’”

During His final days, Jesus Christ confronted all our sorrows and pains and bore the awful weight of our sins. He was uniquely qualified as God’s Only Begotten Son to suffer in our place, and did so, sustained by His infinite love for us. He could have turned from the collective weight of our sins and sadnesses at any moment, but He did not. He submitted Himself to the Father who had sent Him, saying, “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).  When all others had left Him, the Savior pressed on through persecution and abuse. Indeed, “one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught. “Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: ‘I will not leave you comfortless.’” Jesus endured all so that we might not suffer as we go unto Him for strength and relief.

Surely, Jesus of Nazareth was more than simply a great teacher or gifted leader. He was the Son of God. After His resurrection and ascension, He appeared to His “other sheep” (John 1:16) in the Americas and declared, “I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world: and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:10-11).

When the Savior left the tomb that Sunday morning, He showed that victory over death was possible–a victory He has promised to us. The Apostle Paul delcared, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [T]hanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Corinthians 15:55, 57). I cannot think of any greater blessing than to know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that He lives, and that He was sent by God, our loving and devoted Father. The Lord’s prophet on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson, taught that “God our Eternal Father lives and loves us. He is indeed our Father, and He is personal and real. May we realize and understand how close to us He is willing to come, how far He is willing to go to help us, how much He loves us, and how much He does and is willing to do for us.”

Indeed, the great Easter message and blessing is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).


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