Jesus' Last Week on Earth

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Question: How did Jesus spend his time the last week of His life?

Answer: We learn the following from Elder Robert D. Hales:

I am moved by the extent of the tribulation in the Savior’s experience. Even though He was the Only Begotten of the Father, cunning men sought to take His life from the very beginning. Throughout His ministry, a storm of rumors, lies, and persecutions followed Him wherever He went.

I am especially impressed as I consider the week leading to His death: the chief priests challenged His authority, tried to trap Him, and twice conspired to kill Him. In Gethsemane, while His disciples slept, He suffered the sins of all mankind and bled from every pore. He was betrayed, arrested, questioned, struck, spat upon, and beaten. After interrogation by the ruling council, He was mocked by Herod and finally taken to Pilate, where He was made to stand before an angry mob. Whipped and crowned with thorns, He was forced to carry His cross to Golgotha. Nails were driven into His hands and feet. His body was raised up between common thieves. Soldiers cast lots for His earthly possessions, and vinegar was given to quench His thirst. After six hours, He commended His spirit into the hands of His Father, gave up the ghost, and died.

When we observe the last week of the Savior’s life from our earthly perspective, our first impression may be one of suffering and destruction. We may see only the Savior’s mother and others weeping at the cross, soldiers afraid, the earth in great commotion, rocks broken up, the veil of the temple rent in twain, and three hours of darkness covering the land. A similar scene of storms and destruction unfolded in the New World. In short, we see the terrible tempest raging.

But look again, this time through the eye of faith.

In the last, most agonizing weeks of His life, consider that Jesus taught, testified, lifted, blessed, and strengthened those around Him. He raised Lazarus from the dead, taught about His Father, set the temple in order, gave several parables, witnessed the widow offering her mite, instructed His disciples about the signs of His Second Coming, visited the house of Simon the leper, instituted the sacrament, washed the feet of the Apostles, and taught His disciples to love one another. He testified of His divinity as the Son of God and taught of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. In His great Intercessory Prayer, He prayed to His Father for His Apostles and all who believe on their words, “that they might have [His] joy fulfilled in themselves.”

In His darkest hour, the light of peace and joy did not fade. It grew brighter! After His death, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. What joy must have been felt that morning as the news spread: “He is risen”! In time He came to the women on the road, to Cleopas and a disciple who were traveling to Emmaus, to the Apostles and disciples in the upper room, to Thomas, who doubted, and to others. Again, there was joy and rejoicing in the Atonement and the Resurrection.

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But this was not all. In vision, President Joseph F. Smith, a prophet, seer, and revelator, saw the Savior’s visit to the spirit world: (D&C 138)

“There were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality. …

“All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, …

“… [And] they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand.

“They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death.”

These faithful spirits knew that shortly “their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy.

“[And] while this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful.”

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Monday: Cleansing of the Temple - Healing of blind and lame

Matthew 21:12-16

12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Note: Jesus cleansed the temple at the beginning of his ministry. Now, three years later, Jesus cleanses the temple again.

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Tuesday: Teaching in Jerusalem (Matthew 21 and 23)

Matthew 21:23-27

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people (the Jewish religious leaders who are trying to trap him) came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

25 The baptism of John (the Baptist), whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. (If we say John the Baptist was just an ordinary man, the people will mob us, because they consider him to be sent from God.)

27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

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Wednesday: Continued teaching (Matthew 24 and 25)

Matthew 25:31-34

31 Then the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory (the Second Coming):

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Note: Here, in this context, the sheep symbolize the righteous, and goats symbolize the wicked.

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Thursday: The Passover and Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26)

Matthew 26:17-20, 36-46

17 Now the first day (Thursday) of the feast of unleavened bread (part of the Passover) the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.

20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane (the Garden of Gethsemane, just a few minutes walk from Jerusalem), and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. (Gethsemane means “oil press”)

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37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face (showing submission and humility in Jewish culture), and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

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Friday: Trial, Crucifixion, and burial (Matthew 27:1-61)

Matthew 27:24-26, 50, 58-60

24 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.

25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice (JST: saying, Father it is finished, thy will is done), yielded up the ghost (left his body, died).

58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered (given to Joseph of Arimahaea).

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

Note: There was an urgency to quickly get Christ’s body in the tomb and close the tomb, because it was evening and the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) was about to begin.

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Saturday: Christ’s body lies in the tomb while His spirit ministers in the spirit world (Matthew 27:62-66) (D&C 138)

Matthew 27:62-66

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation (part of Passover), the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver (referring to Jesus) said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error (attempted deception) shall be worse than the first.

65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can (take your soldiers and guard the tomb).

66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. (They put a wax seal between the stone door and the wall of the tomb so they could tell if someone moved the stone, plus they set guards to watch the tomb for three days.)

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Sunday: The appearance of the resurrected Christ

Matthew 28:1-10

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel (JST: two angels) of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: (JST: And their countenance was like lightening, and their raiment white as snow.)

4 And for fear of him (JST: them) the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Note: Jesus told his disciples he would meet them in Galilee after his crucifixion)

8 And they (the women) departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

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Elder Marvin J. Ashton has taught:

In the final week of his life cries turned from “Hosanna” to “Crucify.” Unwavering courage carried him onward and upward triumphantly. The honest in heart would yet know what he stood for and why he must die. Final scenes from the last week of his earthly life unfold before us lessons in attitude greatness. Learn with me more of his courage and divinity as we see him continue faithfully to the end in those trying days. Recall with me the Last Supper with his disciples, a visit to the Garden for high communion with his Father (“Let this cup pass, nevertheless thy will be done” [see Matt. 26:39]), a victory signal following the battle, and the crucifixion sight with soldiers appearing on the scene. When they boldly confronted him, prepared for resistance and rebellion, they were greeted with, “Whom seek ye? … I am he” (John 18:4, 5), he answered proudly. On a barren hill not far beyond the city wall he was nailed to a cross. As he suffered his cruel crucifixion, no doubt there were witnesses and spectators who observed with their limited perspective, “He is losing. He is confined. He is defeated.” How wrong they were and how wrong they are.

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Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 59; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 64-101; Excerpt from General Conference, October 1974, “Who’s Losing?” by Marvin J. Ashton; Excerpt from General Conference, April 2003, “Faith through Tribulation Brings Peace and Joy,” by Robert D. Hales, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.