Category Archives: Easter

On the Cross (Luke 23:34–38)

By S. Kent Brown. This is an extract from The Testimony of Luke. For this reading, compare Matt. 27:37–43; Mark 15:26–32; John 19:19–27.

New Rendition

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And dividing his garments, they cast lots. 35 And the people stood watching. And also the leaders kept sneering, saying, “Others he saved. Let him save himself, if he is the Christ, the chosen one of God.” 36 And the solders coming to him, ridiculed him, bringing vinegar to him, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 And there was also a writing above him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Analysis

The Joseph Smith Translation’s stunning addition to the Savior’s plea for forgiveness in 23:34, which forms the heart of these verses because of the abuse that he receives—“Meaning the soldiers who crucified him” ( JST 23:35)—pushes forward the issue whether certain wicked acts can be forgiven. To be sure, some cannot, such as blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (see 12:10; D&C 132:27). But what about other serious sins? Are there limits to divine mercy? Are there bounds to celestial clemency? In response, we notice that, in the only existing sample of the Savior’s intercessional language in modern scripture, he limits his appeal to his Father, seeking the Father’s graciousness only for those who “believe on my name,” begging him to “spare these . . . that they may . . . have everlasting life” (D&C 45:5). This engaging framework fits snugly with other passages from latter- day scripture that set out a limit to salvation—only for those who believe and repent (see 2 Ne. 2:6–7; Mosiah 3:17–19; Alma 12:15; D&C 29:43–44; etc.). Why? Because saving the wicked, particularly those who “have willfully rebelled against God . . . and would not keep [the commandments of God]” cuts across God’s justice: “salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such” (Mosiah 15:26–27). Continue reading

At the Place of Suffering (Luke 22:39– 46)

Extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. On this section, compare Matt. 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42.

New Rendition

39 And coming out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples also followed him. 40 And when he was at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you do not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them as far as a stone’s throw. And kneeling down he prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you will, remove this cup from me. However, let not my will, but yours be done.” 43 And an angel from heaven was seen by him, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more intently; and his sweat became like thick drops of blood falling down upon the ground. 45 And rising from prayer and coming to the disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. 46 And he said to them “Why do you sleep? Arise, pray that you not enter into temptation.”

Analysis

At last the Savior comes to “the hour” (22:14).[1] Throughout his ministry, he speaks openly and often to the Twelve and to others about the approach of this decisive climax (see the Notes on 9:22; 12:50; 17:25; 22:15). Now the eleven Apostles become its only witnesses,[2] perhaps aided by the memory of the unidentified young man (see Mark 14:51–52). But even the Apostles miss most of what happens because they sleep. In all, the most comprehensive account lies in the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 14:32–42).[3] Luke’s report is more  spare but holds the most graphic of descriptions: Jesus’ suffering causes him to bleed through the pores of his skin. This spilling of his own blood, occurring metaphorically in the heavenly sanctuary, “the holy place,” brings about the new covenant and its associated blessing of an “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:12–15).

Through his divine foresight, Jesus anticipates the shocking intensity of what is coming and admits his anxiety about it all (see the Note on 12:50; also John 12:27; 18:11).[4] But by the time he climbs from Jericho to the capital city, he shows his now settled resolve to face his suffering by pushing the pace up the hill (see the Note on 19:28). However, even his divine foresight and resolve do not fully prepare him for what crashes down on him at Gethsemane—our sins on a sinless man, our wickedness on a righteous person, our guilt on an innocent soul, all of this in addition to paying the price for the transgression of Adam and Eve—“In all their afflictions [the Savior] was afflicted” (D&C 133:53; see Rom. 5:12–17; 1 Cor. 15:21–22; Alma 7:11–12).

When the moment of his suffering arrives in its fiery fury, his first reflex is to push it away; his first temptation is to escape: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” (22:42). Again and again he begs his Father for a way out (see the Notes on 22:41–42).[5] As the other accounts illustrate through their verbs of repetition, he moves from standing to kneeling to standing again in an effort to diminish the awful anguish, to blunt the piercing pain (see Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35). As his repeated visits to the Apostles (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41) and as the additions to the Joseph Smith Translation illustrate (see JST Matt. 26:43; JST Mark 14:47), his suffering lasts most of the night.

But does the Savior bleed? At this point, all students of the New Testament Gospels have to make a decision: are verses 43 and 44 genuine? That is, does the angel really come and does Jesus bleed as if he is sweating? For many, these verses represent at best an independent and somewhat dubious Christian tradition that a scribe adds to a manuscript because, as theorized, Luke does not include enough about Jesus’ suffering.[6] For others, these verses are genuine.[7] For still others, these verses preserve “the most precious” of incidents from all the Gospels.[8] For Latter-day Saints, Jesus’ bleeding in Gethsemane is a fact (where else might Jesus bleed in this manner if not in Gethsemane?). It is as Luke describes and as the Risen Savior affirms: like sweat, the blood runs from “every pore” in his body. But this is not all. In the Savior’s own words, the searing “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” (D&C 19:18). Not surprisingly, prophecy captures this monumental moment: “behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7). In this poignant light, we conclude that verse 44 preserves a genuine record of Jesus’ suffering.

But what about verse 43, which pictures the arrival of “an angel . . . from heaven, strengthening [ Jesus]”? The early Christian authors Justin and Irenaeus, when referring to this scene, draw attention only to the bleeding and not to the appearance of the angel. But this omission simply represents an oversight because Justin is writing about Jesus’ sufferings and Irenaeus is treating Jesus’ human nature.[9] In the case of Tatian, he includes the notice of the angel.[10] Importantly, both verse 43 and verse 44 stand together in all the manuscripts that carry them. Hence, it seems impossible to separate the two. Thus the account of the angel’s appearance is to remain with the report of Jesus’ bleeding.

For any who hold that 22:43–44 forms an insertion into Luke’s narrative and that this insertion shows Luke to be emphasizing Jesus’ prayers in contrast to his suffering,[11] we simply turn to the multitude of references where Jesus prophetically tells his closest followers that he will suffer and die (see the Note on 22:15). To be sure, if we set verses 43 and 44 aside, Mark and Matthew report much more about Jesus’ suffering, although they write nothing about answers to Jesus’ prayers except Jesus’ reference to the Father sending “more than twelve legions of angels” if only Jesus will ask (see Matt. 26:53). But when we accept these two verses as authentic, then we plainly see the underlying themes of God’s initiative in answering prayers and of Jesus’ suffering as fulfilled prophecy.

One further observation. When we think of Jesus bleeding into his clothing from “every pore,” staining thoroughly at least his inner garments, we recall the scene sketched in Isaiah 63:1–3 of the one who “cometh . . . with dyed garments . . . [and is] red in [his] apparel” and treads “the winepress alone.” This adds a significant coloration to the “coming one” of John the Baptist’s prophecy. Jesus’ coming to this moment fulfills older and deeper prophecy (see 13:35; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Acts 13:25; Mal. 3:1; Mosiah 3:9; D&C 29:11; 88:106; 133:2, 10, 17, 19, 66; the Notes on 3:16; 19:38; 20:16; 21:8, 27; the Analysis on 3:7–20 and 19:28–40).[12]

Notes

22:39 he came out: As in 21:37, Jesus exits the city. He doubtless leaves before midnight because continuing the Passover meal after midnight is forbidden and renders participants unclean.[13] When he returns, he will come back as a prisoner (see 22:54).

as he was wont: Jesus’ customary travel route takes him out of the east side of the city to the Mount of Olives rather than in another direction. Luke seems to indicate that Jesus regularly comes this way. Other reports intimate that Jesus stays in Bethany with friends (see Matt. 21:17; 26:6; Mark 11:11–12; 14:3; John 12:1), but Luke records that he spends an occasional night on the Mount of Olives (see the Note on 21:37; also John 8:1–2). Luke’s following note about “the place” hints that the mount is a regular stopping spot (22:40). On this night, Passover celebrants are not to leave the immediate environs of Jerusalem, so Jesus does not go to Bethany.[14]

to the mount of Olives: Unfortunately, Luke’s description does not assist us in locating the exact spot where Jesus and the Apostles spend the next hours. The traditional locale of Gethsemane lies on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives. But the real location of Gethsemane may be higher up the mountain.

22:40 the place: This term (Greek topos; Hebrew maqōm) often refers to a special, even sacred spot (see the Notes on 4:42; 23:33; Matt. 24:15; John 4:20).[15] Jesus’ command that his disciples pray in that spot adds weight to this view. Clearly, “the place” is the designated locale for his suffering. Only Matthew and Mark name the locale Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32). John terms it “a garden” or cultivated spot and reports that it lies on the east bank of the Kidron stream ( John 18:1). In a metaphorical sense, it becomes “the holy place” where Jesus enters to shed his blood (see Heb. 9:12–15). In a different regard, a cave near the lower, traditional location, basically a storage area for tools that gardeners use in working with olive trees, may have offered a warm nighttime resting place for Jesus and his followers because “it was cold” ( John 18:18; see the Note on 21:37).[16]

Pray: This command, when paired with the same command in 22:46, forms a bracket or inclusio for verses 40–46. The intended result for both instances is the same—to overcome temptation or trial. Jesus will now do exactly as he commands his disciples and will experience the result firsthand.[17]

temptation: The same term appears in 22:28 and 22:46. One of its meanings is “trial” (see the Notes on 4:2; 22:28, 46). The sense seems to be that disciples should avoid temptations or trials that overmatch their natural or presumed ability to overcome, because only with humility will God assist.[18]

22:41 about a stone’s cast: This notation matches others which point to a recollection of an eyewitness from whom Luke learns indirectly, or with whom Luke speaks directly (see the Note below).

kneeled down, and prayed: The report of these actions also nods toward an eyewitness account, either from one of the three Apostles who can see Jesus or, later, from Jesus himself in a later conversation with his disciples, or from the young man noted in Mark 14:51–52 (see 1:2; 6:10; 9:55; 10:23; 14:25; 19:3, 5; 22:61; 23:28; John 8:6–8; Acts 1:3–4; the Notes on 7:9, 44; 18:40; 22:31, 34).[19] The act of kneeling, also noted in Mark 14:35, “stresses the urgency and humility” of Jesus’ prayer because customarily a person stands to pray (see 18:11, 13).[20]

prayed: The Greek verb proseuchomai stands in the imperfect tense, which can mean repeated or continuous action.[21] This main verb controls the sense of the adjacent participles that are translated “kneeled down” (22:41) and “saying” (22:42). Hence, in our mind’s eye we should see Jesus kneeling, praying, and speaking the words of his prayer again and again, or over a long period of time. That is, he kneels and prays, then he kneels and prays again, and again. We compare Mark 14:35–36 (Greek text), where we also find a string of imperfect tenses in the verbs describing these acts of Jesus, all of which carry a ring of eyewitness authenticity.[22] Incidentally, Jesus and the Apostles follow later Jewish law that forbids any revelry fol- lowing the Passover meal.[23]

22:42 if thou be willing, remove: The first request out of Jesus’ mouth is that his Father take the cup away, illustrating the intensity of his agony (see the Note below). It also forms an unsuccessful attempt to shift the burden of responsibility onto his Father. It seems that Jesus requires time to gain full control of himself so that he can finally pray “nevertheless not my will.” This observation finds support in the repeating or continuous sense of the verb “prayed”—“he prayed again and again” or “he kept praying” (see Note on 22:41). It is evident that the first crushing load of pain and sin to fall on him brings him to this begging request (see Matt. 26:37–38; Mark 14:33–34).

this cup: Reference to the cup, which Jesus shares with his disciples a short while before, occurs in each of the Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ prayer (see Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; also 3 Ne. 11:11). The tie to the two cups poured by Jesus at the supper is not to be missed (see 22:17–18, 20). Thus Jesus’ Atonement links closely with sacred ceremony, sacred actions. The first of the cups nods toward the messianic banquet at the end of time; the second points directly to Jesus’ atoning blood. In this latter instance, the mention of the cup may possibly tie to the general concept of “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of [God’s] wrath” (Rev. 16:19; also Rev. 14:10; 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 103:3). Notably, scripture paints divine wrath either as a liquid (see Job 21:20; Jer. 25:15–16; Hosea 5:10; Rev. 14:10; 19:15; Mosiah 5:5) or as a fire kindled by him (see Num. 11:33; Ps. 106:40; Jer. 44:6).[24]186 John 18:11 rehearses Jesus’ words to Peter about “the cup” at the time of his arrest, a reference that captures the meaning of this expression—“the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Not incidentally, Luke alone records Jesus sharing two cups at the supper (see 22:17, 20). The other accounts mention only one, that which points to Jesus’ atoning blood. What are we to make of Luke’s double reference to the cup? Both of them point to the future, one immediate (the Atonement) and one far away (the messianic banquet). But they both form a ceremonial tie to Jesus’ work as conqueror of the difficulties of this world.

not my will: Finally, after praying and supplicating “with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7), Jesus surmounts the temptation to back out of his suffering and submits to his Father’s will.

22:43 And there appeared: This verse and the next are not part of the earliest manuscript (75) or other important manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel. Hence, many scholars doubt their authenticity.[25] A few manuscripts place these verses after Matthew 26:39. Recent studies on P 69, a fragmentary text from the third century (held at Oxford) that preserves only a few verses from Luke 22 and omits verses 41–44 instead of just verses 43–44, illustrate that some early texts of these verses are in flux and unsettled.[26] Early Christian authors who quote passages from the Gospels—for example, the second-century writers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and likely Tatian—show an acquaintance with the scenes painted in 22:43–44, specifically Jesus’ bleeding.[27] Other textual evidence points to their genuine character.[28] In another vein, the verb translated “there appeared” (Greek horaō) actually stands in the passive voice: literally “the angel was seen” by Jesus, underscoring not only the divine initiative to assist him[29] but especially Jesus’ direct sight of this celestial personality, a prominent theme in Luke (see the Notes on 1:11, 12, 29; 24:24, 31, 34).[30] On the question whether Jesus generally needs assistance from angels, see the Note on 4:13.

an angel: The angel’s appearance is a favorite image among painters of religious art. The identity of the angel remains unknown. But the angel’s coming demonstrates the truth of Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles, that prayer will bring results, including heavenly assistance in trials (see 22:40, 46).[31]

22:44 And being: The content of this verse is certainly accurate because Jesus’ bleeding is confirmed both in prophecy (see Mosiah 3:7) and in the Risen Savior’s personal reminiscence of his experience (see D&C 19:18).

being in an agony: Perhaps oddly, before this point Luke offers few clues to us that Jesus is in deep agony, except the imperfect verb “prayed” that nods toward repeated or continuous praying (see the Note on 22:41). This differs from the other accounts wherein Jesus verbalizes his sudden anguish (see Matt. 26:37–38; Mark 14:33–34). Some scholars who believe that verses 43–44 are added by later scribes also judge that, in Luke’s portrayal, Jesus does not suffer deep distress about the troubles that are about to engulf him. Rather, he faces them in a way that becomes an example to later believers.[32]

prayed more earnestly: Without speaking directly about the intensity of Jesus’ suffering, this note discloses that he is pleading desperately for help. As in 22:41, the verb is in the imperfect mood and points to repeated and continual praying (see the Note on 22:41).

his sweat: Luke graphically pictures that all of Jesus’ body is affected by his suffering, as if he is working hard, like an athlete, and his entire body is sweating, from his head to his feet: “profuse sweat.”[33] The Joseph Smith Translation renders the expression differently, changing the noun to a verb: “he sweat” (JST 22:44).

as it were: The force of the Greek comparative particle hōsei is difficult to judge. Some scholars propose that it means “like” and thus they translate “his sweat became like drops of blood” or “the sweat was falling like drops of blood,” thus discounting that Jesus actually sheds blood in Gethsemane.[34] The other sense for hōsei is “as” (see 24:11; Matt. 28:4; Mark 9:26; Rom. 6:13), that is, “his sweat came to be as drops of blood.”[35]

drops of blood: The term translated “drops” (Greek thrombos) appears only here in the entire New Testament. The word can mean “clot” or “small amount of blood.”[36]

falling down to the ground: The blood that oozes from Jesus’ skin does not simply cover and discolor his body but comes in such amounts that the fluid gathers on and drops from the skin of his face. This circumstance raises questions about how art portrays Jesus both in Gethsemane and after- ward, until his execution—he freely bleeds at least into his underclothes, staining them, as the expression “every pore” strongly hints (Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18).

22:45 when he rose up: The verb “found” governs this participle and is the simple past tense in Greek, thus conveying to the reader the sense that Jesus prays a long time and then stands up. Incidentally, the verb “to rise up” (Greek anistēmi) describes the resurrection in a few passages (see 9:8, 19; 16:31; 18:33; 24:7, 46).[37] Mark’s report pictures the scene very differently, that Jesus goes forward and falls and prays, then goes forward and falls and prays, actions underscored by the repetitive force of the imperfect verbs (see Mark 14:35). Luke’s adoption of the imperfect verb “he prayed” fits into this view of events (22:41, 44; see the Note on 22:41). In this connection, both Matthew and Mark report that Jesus walks three times to check on Peter, James, and John during this extended experience (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41). Luke reports only one such contact. Luke seems to be placing more emphasis on Jesus’ act of praying and less on his interaction with the Apostles.[38]

for sorrow: The prepositional phrase means “from sorrow” (Greek apo tēs lypēs). The New English Bible renders the phrase “worn out by grief.” That sorrow or grief characterize the past days and hours which the Apostles, particularly Peter, spend with Jesus is certainly a matter of record: “being aggrieved” ( JST 22:33; also John 14:1, 27). The Joseph Smith Translation adjusts “for sorrow” to “for they were filled with sorrow” ( JST 22:45).

22:46 Why sleep ye?: The synoptic Gospels document the Apostles’ fatigue (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41). But only the Joseph Smith Translation hints at the length of their sleep: Judas and the arresting party approach “after they had finished their sleep” ( JST Mark 14:47; also JST Matt. 26:43). This added note indicates that they sleep about as much as they customarily do, that is, much of the night, and that the early dawn draws near (see the Note on 22:60). In this light, and in agreement with Jesus’ repeated returns to the slumbering Apostles, Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane lasts a large portion of the night.

rise: The Greek verb anistēmi, which here is a participle, can bear the sense “to rise again,” that is, to resurrect.[39] Hence, Jesus’ words to the three Apostles may form a mild hint at his own future resurrection (see the Note on 22:45).

pray: This instruction to pray illustrates an important principle. The divine world seems to be persuaded, perhaps even supported, by the prayer of the righteous (see Jer. 7:16; James 5:16; the Note on 10:2). Such appears to be the case when Jesus instructs followers in the New World to pray even while he is in their midst (see 3 Ne. 19:17–18, 22–26, 30; 20:1).

lest ye enter into temptation: The expression here is stronger than that in 22:40. Is it possible that Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane brings him to express himself more forcefully? That certainly seems to be the case in Mark 14:38, where Jesus’ words brim with meaning because he faces the temptation not to go through with the Atonement—“The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”[40]

temptation: The sense may reflect both meanings of this term: (1) to be tempted to do or think something inappropriate, or (2) to undergo a trial of some sort (see the Notes on 4:2; 22:28, 40). The appearance of the word “temptation” means that an overtone of Jesus’ prior temptations at the hands of the devil also lingers here (see 4:2–13). In that earlier case, the devil himself administers the temptations. None of his minions take the lead. We can be certain that Satan comes to Jerusalem both to influence Judas (see the Notes on 22:3, 31) and for Jesus’ last hours (see 22:53—“this is your hour, and the power of darkness”). Hence, Satan’s presence may be one of the reasons for Jesus’ instruction that his three chief Apostles pray.

[1] S. Kent Brown, “Gethsemane,” in EM, 2:542–43.

[2] Branscomb, Gospel of Mark, 267.

[3] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 197–201.

[4] Barrett, Gospel according to St John, 436; Marshall, Luke, 547; Morris, Luke, 340– 41; Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang, 411–51, 626–33.

[5] Maxwell, “New Testament,” 26–27.

[6] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1443–45; Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Histori- cal Introduction, 124.

[7] Marshall, Luke, 832, “with very considerable hesitation”; Brown, Death, 1:185; Morris, Luke, 340.

[8] Plummer, Luke, 509, quoting B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, early scholars of the New Testament text.

[9] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 103.8; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.2.

[10] Tatian, Diatessaron 48:16–17.

[11] Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[12] TDNT, 2:666–69.

[13] Mishnah Pesahim 10:9.

[14] Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 55.

[15] TDNT, 8:195–99, 203–5; TDOT, 8:537–43.

[16] Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus Knew It, 130–31; Taylor, “Garden of Gethsemane,” 26–35, 62.

[17] Green, Luke, 777.

[18] TDNT, 6:28–29.

[19] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 200–201.

[20] Marshall, Luke, 830.

[21] Smyth, Greek Grammar, §§1790, 1890–94, 2341; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §325, 327.

[22] Branscomb, Gospel of Mark, 267.

[23] Mishnah Pesahim 10:8.

[24] Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 2:14–17.

[25] For example, Bart D. Ehrman and Mark A. Plunkett, “The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43–44,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1983): 401– 16; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1443–45; Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[26] Thomas A. Wayment, “A New Transcription of P. Oxy. 2383 (P69),” Novum Testamentum 50, no. 4 (2008): 351–57; see also Claire Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang: Ou comment on pourrait bien encore écrire l’histoire, vol. 7 of Biblical Tools and Studies (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010), 460–65, 627.

[27] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 103.8; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.2; Tatian, Diatessaron 48.17.

[28] Bovon, Luke 3, 197–99; Lincoln H. Blumell, “Luke 22:43–44: An Anti-Docetic Interpolation or an Apologetic Omission?” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 19 (2014): 1–35; see also Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang, 609–18, 633–39.

[29] BAGD, 581–82; Brown, Death, 1:186.

[30] TDNT, 5:317, 324, 342.

[31] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1444.

[32] For example, Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[33] Johnson, Luke, 355; Tannehill, Luke, 324.

[34] Marshall, Luke, 832–33; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1444–45; Bock, Luke, 2:1761–62.

[35] Plummer, Luke, 510–11; Liddell and Scott, Greek Lexicon, 2040; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §453(3); BAGD, 907.

[36] Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 807; BAGD, 364.

[37] BAGD, 69; TDNT, 1:369–71.

[38] Marshall, Luke, 833.

[39] BAGD, 69; TDNT, 1:369–71.

[40] Neal A. Maxwell, “The New Testament—a Matchless Portrait of the Savior,” Ensign 16 (December 1986): 20–27.

 

The Women Receive the First Tidings of the Resurrection (Luke 24:1–12)

This section is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It includes an introduction, the New Rendition, notes on each verse, and analysis. (On this section, compare Matt. 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–11; John 20:1–18)

Introduction

The Garden Tomb

Surprised at the empty tomb and at the appearance of two angels, the women of Galilee hastily retreat to bear the news of the Savior’s resurrection to the Apostles; surprised at this news, Peter runs to the tomb to confirm their words; surprised that the stranger does not know of events in Jerusalem, the two disciples traveling to Emmaus share the news of Jesus’ death and receive in turn an eye-opening discourse; surprised at the disappearance of the stranger after breaking bread with him, these same two disciples rapidly return to the capital city to report their experience to the Apostles and others; surprised at the sudden appearance of the Risen Jesus while the two report and the others listen, they all watch in wonder as he eats with them; surprised at his unexpected presence, the gathered disciples listen in rapt silence as he instructs them and then departs. All is packed into one day. Continue reading

The Legal Cause of Action against Jesus in John 18:29-30

By John W. Welch

Published in Celebrating Easter, eds. Thomas A. Wayment and Keith J. Wilson, 157–76. Provo, Utah: BYU, Religious Studies Center, 2007.

It is a joy to ponder and appreciate the eternal importance of Easter. On the day before Easter, the body of the Lord lay in the tomb while his spirit inaugurated his redemptive work among the throngs in the spirit world. What a thrilling day it must have been for them to receive that visit from him. I imagine that the timing caught them by surprise, as it did among the Nephites. How much joy and excitement there must have been on this day before Easter on the other side of the veil.

In this paper, I will focus on only one aspect of the trial of Jesus, drawing more attention particularly to John 18:29-30 and articulating more clearly to an LDS audience why the accusation in that verse holds a key for understanding the legal cause of action and strategy of the chief priests before Pilate at that stage in the proceedings against Jesus. Continue reading

Preparing for Easter: Using the Days of Holy Week to Enrich Your Celebration

By Eric D. Huntsman

“There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Dec. 2000, 2)

I am convinced that if it were not for commercial and cultural factors, Easter would be more important to us than Christmas. As President Hinckley noted in the quote above, Christmas is only significant because of the miracle of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and his glorious resurrection.

With Palm Sunday and the week before Easter, much of the Christian world enters into a period of reflection and celebration known as “Holy Week.” Each of the events chronicled in this last week casts light on Jesus’ true nature as the Son of God, and reviewing them deepens the faith of believers in his matchless love.

While the LDS community does not formally observe Holy Week, the period from Palm Sunday to Easter morning present a wonderful opportunity for believers to use the scriptures to reflect upon the last days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Striving to observe Holy Week and celebrate Easter more fully over the past years has convinced me that the best ways to do this are first through personal study, and second, through developing rich family traditions.

My 2011 volume God So Loved the World: The Final Days of the Savior’s Life and a subsequent online blog, LDS Seasonal Materials, represent my previous attempts to make Holy Week more accessible for Latter-day Saints. This current effort, a collation of the New Testament texts of Jesus’ final week, aims to supplement my earlier materials by bringing the scriptural accounts to individuals and families in what I hope is a useful format.

In one sense, it is a collection of scriptures in the early Christian tradition of a lectionary, a collection of readings for given days or occasions. In another, it is a soft academic effort to help readers better understand the source materials—particularly how the four gospels relate to each other while simultaneously painting unique portraits of Jesus and his final week. It is more of a collation than a harmony, and it is arranged as a reader’s edition, formatted in paragraphs rather than verses, labeling sections, and using modern conventions such as quotation marks to better indicate dialogue.

Whether used in connection with my earlier publications or used alone for one’s scripture readings in the days leading up to Easter, I hope that you and your families may find this a useful resource in celebrating the greatest story ever told.

Eric Huntsman Lent 2017

The Last Days of Jesus: A Collation of the New Testament Texts

A Holy Week Lectionary to be used with God So Loved the World, “Easter Meditations: From Palm Sunday to Easter Morning,” or the LDS Seasonal Materials blog

While Latter-day Saints do not formally observe the last days of Jesus’ life, this period is an ideal time to deepen our understanding of and faith in what the Lord did for us. We can use this sacred time to worship with both our minds and our hearts through both concentrated personal study of the pertinent scriptures and rich family traditions that use these events as opportunities to share testimony and feel the spirit. Continue reading

Seven Versions of Jesus’ Prophecy on the Mount of Olives

By S. Kent Brown

For Latter-day Saints, Luke chapter 21 presents readers with one of seven versions of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Olives. Naturally, we know the versions that are presented in Mark 13 and Matthew 24–25. But there are more. We first notice that the Joseph Smith Translation completely freshens the reports of the sermon preserved by Mark and Matthew with a large number of changes that render their records largely the same; fewer adjustments appear in Luke 21. In each of the JST versions of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the alterations bear on the meaning and thrust of Jesus’ words. Thus far, we see six versions—those in the three synoptic Gospels and those in the JST version of those Gospels, one of which is partially reported in Joseph Smith—Matthew of the Pearl of Great Price. The seventh record of the sermon lies in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16–59. As a preface, the Lord tantalizingly declares that “I will speak . . . and prophesy, as unto men in days of old. And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh” “upon this mount,” the Mount of Olives (D&C 45:15–16, 48). With these words, we learn the vivid detail that Jesus imparts in the sermon while standing before his disciples, as a distinguished teacher, not sitting with them as Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:3 lead us to believe.

In contrast to Mark 13 and Matthew 24–25, Luke chapter 21 provides two delectable dishes, not just one, ending with crowds still seeking Jesus’ company (see Luke 21:38). The first small dish consists in the refreshing story of a poor widow’s two mites, complete with tasteless displays of wealth that contrast with her tiny gift to the temple that glows with her adoring devotion (see Luke 21:1–4). Why is this story in this place? Possibly because of Mark’s placement of it just before the Savior’s sermon on the future (see Mark 12:41–44). On this view, the fact that Luke includes this story here may demonstrate a dependence on Mark’s order of events for Jesus’ last week. Perhaps significantly, Matthew omits the story, effectively dulling the notion that Mark serves as Luke’s main or only source for Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, including the sermon on the Mount of Olives. Another possibility glimmers in front of us: Jesus’ mention of “widows’ houses” in the foregoing (Luke 20:47) may instead form a verbal bridge that brings the widow’s story here, pointing to a catchword association, a feature that may also infuse Mark 12:40–42.

But why recount this story about the widow before rehearsing the sermon about the fate of Jerusalem and its citizens? Because, after a first glance, her story brings together a raw, untouched comparison between her situation and the gleaming opulence of both the temple and its contributors, the latter offering a practiced yet worn piety that will not save the temple from destruction. In addition, we sense that, while the temple’s importance remains strong in the minds and hearts of even the poor, its officials and major contributors are out of touch with common persons, rudely flaunting their wealth in their presence. Such a perception may also give flavor to Jesus’ prior talk about those who “devour widows’ houses” (Luke 20:47).

In the eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives, the second and longest part of this chapter that rehearses Jesus’ grand and often frightful vision of the future (see Luke 21:5–36), the words of Jesus stir together a number of prophecies that appear elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel. The list is short: the exhortations to watch (see Luke 12:35–48; 21:34–36; especially JST 12:35–57); the warnings about deceptions (see Luke 17:20–24; 21:8–9); the desolation that stalks Jerusalem (see Luke 13:34–35; 21:20–24; JST 13:35–36); and the signs of the Second Coming (see Luke 17:26–37; 21:25–28; JST 17:26–40). The main question is whether the Savior indeed speaks such words away from Jerusalem, as Luke reports Jesus’ teachings. The answer is Yes, as both the JST version of Luke 12:41–45 and Jesus’ declarations about Jerusalem’s fate and the future kingdom make abundantly clear (see Luke 13:33–35; 17:20–37). Hence, we should see Jesus’ discourse on the Mount of Olives as one wherein he brings together sayings uttered on other occasions, along with fresh prophecies, and shapes them into a whole piece that addresses the issues of the future of Jerusalem, of the disciples, and of the end-time.

In light of the Savior’s introduction to the sermon preserved in modern scripture, “As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming” (D&C 45:16), no compelling reason exists to suppose that it is Luke who selects some of these sayings from their original setting in this sermon and inserts them into other, earlier contexts, or vice versa. Even so, we find what may be hints that Luke pens his version of the sermon after the Jewish War (AD 66–70), for he tops it with the vivid notation, “ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20; also 19:43). The other accounts omit this detail. Instead, they feature the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14), an expression from the book of Daniel which the Joseph Smith Translation interprets as “the destruction of Jerusalem” (JST Matt. 24:12; JST Mark 13:14; see Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). This said, reasons exist to question the scholarly insistence that Luke writes in hindsight, after the end of the war.

This view of the discourse does not enjoy widespread support. Many see the sermon as a collection of disparate sayings that Mark, the first Gospel writer, artfully stitches together into an absorbing sermon that simply reflects the major concerns in the primitive church’s preaching, that is, warnings against false Christs and prophets, the sufferings of believers, the judgment upon Jerusalem, and the requirement of disciples to watch for Jesus’ return. In this view, much of the sermon illumines Jesus’ teachings, but Mark alone, or his source, is responsible for its ordering and flavoring, or even its composition.[1] For Latter-day Saints, both the inspired changes introduced into the Joseph Smith Translation of the synoptic Gospels and the first-hand account of the sermon that the Savior rehearses in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16–59 stand firmly against such a view. Instead of Mark presenting a table of teachings based on the church’s preaching interests, it seems more likely that it is Jesus’ words in the sermon that set the agenda for those interests.

In a completely different vein, this sermon will save the lives of uncounted disciples who, knowing of Jesus’ warnings about the fall of Jerusalem and its temple, will flee from the capital city which becomes the headquarters of the church in its early days. Rather than retreat into the city for safety, as thousands do when war breaks out with Rome late in AD 66 and again when Roman armies approach Jerusalem’s gates in AD 70, Christians flee northward, many of them settling in a gentile town, Pella, on the east bank of the Jordan River. There they wait out the war and survive intact.

This text is extracted from S. Kent Brown, The Testimony of Luke, 929–932. 

[1]Bultmann, History, 125; Francis W. Beare, The Earliest Records of Jesus (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 216; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1323–25; George R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days: The Interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 350–65.

Palm Sunday

By Eric D. Huntsman
This post is excerpted from Dr. Huntsman’s blog, http://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com.

Palm Sunday is not a regular part of Latter-day Saint observance, and not even all Christian churches celebrate it.  Nevertheless, recounting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem has a long history in the Christian tradition, and it plays an important in the liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestant churches.  For me celebrating Palm Sunday truly opens Holy Week, setting it apart from other weeks by focusing my thoughts and faith on Christ my king. Continue reading

Resurrection Sunday

by Eric D. Huntsman
This post is excerpted from God So Loved the World and from Dr. Huntsman’s blog.

The experience of Mary Magdalene in finding the tomb empty is much expanded in the account of John.  In the account of Jesus’ burial in John 19:41, the sepulchre is specifically described as being in a garden.  It is in this garden that Mary’s touching experience with the Risen Lord is then described in John 20:1–18.  In this account Mary came to the garden tomb alone, and, finding it empty, she ran to tell the disciples that Jesus’ body was missing.  Upon hearing this news, Peter and another disciple, usually assumed to be John, ran to the garden, stooped to enter the tomb, and found in it only the linen cloths with which Jesus’ body had been wrapped. (John 20:3–10).
The disciples then left Mary weeping alone in the garden.  Soon she saw two angels in the tomb at the spot where Jesus’ body had lain.  When they asked why she was crying, she said it was because she feared that someone had taken the Lord’s body.  Then, turning, she “saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.” Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest 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,” which is to say, Master.   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.” (John 20:15–17)

Mary thus became the first person to see the Risen Lord, and, obedient to his direction, she went and told the disciples all that she had seen and heard.  In this Mary serves as a model witness for all believers, but especially to women.  As I wrote in God So Loved the World, 114, “Given the restrictions on women in that time and culture, which allowed them to do very little without the permission, guidance, or direction of the men in their lives, Mary’s ability to gain a testimony on her own—without father, brother, husband, or guardian—provides an important and empowering image for women today. Just as the Beloved Disciple gained his testimony standing at the foot of the cross and in the empty tomb, so can Woman gain the surest witness possible directly from the risen Lord.”

Yet Peter and John too serve as examples for believers, even when our witness is less secure than that of Mary.  When she had told them that the tomb was empty, they did not walk, they ran to the garden to see whether her report was true.  And though they did not see the Risen Lord at that time, seeing the tomb empty and the burial clothes lying there, they nonetheless believed.  Do we too run to find out whether the testimony of the resurrection that we hear and read from others is true?  And are we able to accept on faith its reality even when we have not yet seen the resurrected Christ?

Crucifixion in Antiquity

By Gaye Strathearn

In antiquity crucifixion was a choice of punishment since the time of the Persians, but it was undoubtedly the Romans who perfected it as a form of torture. The Jewish historian Josephus described crucifixion as “a most pitiable death” (Jewish War 7.203).

We have numerous ancient accounts that mention crucifixion, but few of them describe the process in any detail. Nevertheless, these accounts generally corroborate the descriptions recorded in the four New Testament Gospels.

In antiquity crucifixion was performed in a number of different ways. Some victims were impaled;[1] others were tied to a cross or a tree[2]—sometimes they were nailed.[3]

An ancient heel bone with a nail piercing it. From the Israel Museum.

An ancient heel bone with a nail piercing it. From the Israel Museum.

Archaeologically, only one set of remains has been found of a person who was crucified in Palestine prior to 70 AD. We know that the person was crucified because the nail was still in the right calcaneum (or heel bone). [See the picture taken at the Israel Museum]. Sometimes the victims were crucified while alive, but sometimes it was after they were dead.[4] Sometimes the legs were broken in conjunction with the crucifixion.[5] By Roman times, crucifixion was preceded by flogging[6] and the victims were sometimes required to carry the beam of the cross.[7] Usually the bodies were left to be devoured by birds and wild animals,[8] but in Roman times, it was possible for the family to petition to take the body and bury it once death had been verified.[9]

Crucifixion was chosen as a form of execution, especially for murderers, thieves and traitors, and slaves because it was public and humiliating, and because the torture could be extended for long periods of time.[10] Continue reading

Why should the cross be meaningful to Latter-day Saints?

By Gaye Strathearn

As I have thought about Christ’s crucifixion and the central place that Good Friday has historically and theologically held in Christianity, I would like to suggest four reasons why I believe that the cross should hold an important place in Latter-day Saint private and public discourse.

  1. The events on the cross are an integral part of the atonement

The most important reason that we should consider the cross is that both doctrinally and functionally, it is part of Christ’s atonement. I think that it is fair to say that traditionally Latter-day Saints have emphasized the atonement as taking part in Gethsemane. Yet the scriptures, both the Bible and Restoration scripture, repeatedly teach that the events on the cross also have an important part to play in our redemption. Paul taught the Romans that “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. . . . by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:10–11). The Book of Mormon frequently teaches that redemption is made possible through the “sufferings and death of Christ” (Mosiah 18:2; Alma 21:9; 22:14; 3 Nephi 6:20). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that Christ “was crucified for the sins of the world” (D&C 53:2; 54:1), and that “redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross” (D&C 138:35).

All of these passages from our restoration scripture support the biblical message of Paul that the crucifixion of our Lord was an essential part of the atonement and thus was an essential part of our personal and collective redemption. Elder Holland described Easter Friday as “atoning Friday, with its cross.”[1]

  1. The scriptural metaphor that we can be “lifted up” because Christ was lifted up on the cross is a symbol of God’s great love for his children.Good Friday processional_Antonnia Fortress

On day two of the Savior’s visit to the Americas the Savior himself describes his gospel and the atonement in terms of the cross: “My Father sent me that I might be lifted upon the cross . . . so that I might draw all men unto me.”[2] The context here is one of judgment, but it is also the hope that through repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end we will be sanctified by the Holy Ghost so that we “may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:16–20). In other scriptural texts we learn that the opportunity to be lifted up is evidence of God’s love for his people. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, he made reference to Moses’ lifting up a brass serpent to heal the Israelites, who had been infiltrated by a plague of serpents. Jesus specifically identified the act of raising up a pole with a serpent as a type of his crucifixion. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14–15). Then note the famous verses that immediately follow: “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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him should be saved” (John 3:16–17). The context of this passage indicates that the evidence of God’s great love for the world is that his Son was lifted up on the cross so that they could have eternal life. Continue reading