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Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Different Kind of Easter Message

As we contemplate the awesome significance of this week -- especially the events of the Savior's atonement, scourging, crucifixion and resurrection -- I think it's important to keep in mind something we rarely, if ever, contemplate:

Jesus' demeanor and emotions immediately after his resurrection.

To me, His last week in mortality was an abject lesson in "the dark night of the soul". No one ever has, does nor will reach the spiritual depths that He went through.
"He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth." (D&C 88:6-7)
It would do us well to remember that He was born in the lowliest of circumstances. He was tempted beyond anything man has experienced. His three-year ministry was punctuated by grief, sadness and suffering. He went among sinners, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes and the sick. He did things on the Sabbath which caused no small stir among judgmental church members. He was betrayed by one whom He loved. He was despised -- and unjustly executed -- as a criminal by church leaders and church members.
"It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him. The mortal mind fails to fathom, the tongue cannot express, the pen of man cannot describe the breadth, the depth, the height of the suffering of our Lord - nor His infinite love for us." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.14)
As I've stated here several times before, you can learn a lot from someone who is going through tremendous depths in their life, because the exact and opposite inverse -- tremendous highs -- are often right around the corner.
"Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent: When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt." (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, "Restore My Soul" [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17; here).

A Celestial Invitation

I believe that part of Christ's last days in mortality is a lesson, a message, to all of time and eternity. In it, we learn that because of what Christ experienced and conquered, because He descended below all things, there is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. He knows how to help us rise above our daily difficulties.

His life itself is an invitation:

If you are thirsty, come to the living waters. Do not waste your precious time digging wells that have no water in them.

If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come. Come, and you will be filled.

If you are weighted with burdens, He bids you to quit suffering, for He has already lifted them from you. All you need to do is receive His gracious gift -- His offer to cast your burdens upon Him -- and you will be comforted!
"Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee" (Psalm 55:22)
I believe that Christ's story is also about light. From the dawning of the sun's first rays upon the earth, to the Star of Bethlehem, to the First Vision, to the ultimate celestialization of the Earth, wherever He is, so also is the purest, most intense light in all creation. He truly is the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5).

The Lesson from Christ's Post-Resurrection Personality

As a people, we know quite a bit about the post-resurrected Savior.

We know that after He died, Jesus opened up missionary work among the spiritually imprisoned. He appeared to, and visited, his disciples in the Old World. He visited the Nephites in the New World. He visited others, too. He was with the Father at the First Vision.

But these are all examples of what the Lord did. They are about Him.

I've often stated on this blog that we, as a people, seem to know a lot about Christ. Unfortunately, it's been my observation that very few actually know Him.

When you seek to know Him -- I mean, when you really endeavor to understand His post-resurrection personality and disposition -- you see a Savior you've rarely, if ever, contemplated. It's like your knowledge of (not about) Him transforms from black-and-white to full-on, vivid technicolor.

With that in mind, I offer you an invitation: You can listen to talk after talk ABOUT Christ -- you know, the ones we hear every year at this time -- and walk away filled. Or you can choose to know Him better, and walk away transformed.

If you choose the former, that's cool. But if you choose the latter, then I extend a second invitation to you: Listen to the podcast below by John Eldredge, author of "Beautiful Outlaw" (which I've mentioned a few times on this blog). His podcast goes into some of the best depth about the post-resurrected Christ's personality I've ever heard.

It's my prayer that this Easter season, you'll rise above the usual focus about the Savior, and resolve to get to know Him. Personally. He wasn't blowing smoke when He said that the closer you draw to Him, the closer He'll draw to you. The first step in that process is knowing about Him. You're already there. You know plenty about Him! Now it's time to graduate. Get to know Him.

I testify to you that when you know Him, you'll always want Him to be part of your life -- anytime, anywhere. And He will definitely want the same (and more!) with you. When this happens, your relationship with Him will grow brighter and brighter...

...until The Perfect Day.