Easter is a time when we reflect on what it means to be a Christian
Contributed by Elder Terrence C. Smith, North America North Central Area Authority
As recounted in Matthew, Jesus and His disciples journeyed toward Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked them who others said He was. After their replies, He asked them perhaps the most important question of their—or our—lives:
“…whom say ye that I am?” and Peter replied, ”Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.“ (Matthew 16:15-16).
And who is Jesus for us?
To Joseph Smith and others, He said He was Alpha and Omega: the beginning and the end (D&C 19:1), the very brackets to our entire existence. He was in the beginning with the Father (D&C 93:7); the first born of every creature on earth (Colossians 1:15), and He will be there at the end of time; for He will meet each of us individually where He employs no servant (2 Nephi 9:41).
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He didn't just come to show us the way, but He said that He is that way. We must not just follow His path, but we must strive to become more and more like Him. As He said, ”...what manner of men ought ye to be?“ and answered, ”…even as I am“ (3 Nephi 27:27).
He is the Truth. We come to truth by giving ”diligent heed to the words of eternal life“ (D&C 84:43). Do we feast or eat sparingly of those words—the scriptures and the words of our living prophets? We cannot be saved in ignorance of eternal truth (D&C 131:6). Without that truth we cannot be free, (John 8:32) and He is the Word made flesh (John 1:14).
He is the Life of the world. Light coming from Him gives life and light to everyone born on this earth. He created it, placed life upon it and sustains us daily (D&C 88:7-13).
He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). He will never leave us or forsake us. He says He will leave the ninety and nine and come out into the wilderness of our lives seeking us when we are lost. He will lead us beside still waters; He will restore our souls (Psalms 23:2-3).
He is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29). As the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) Jesus offered His body and blood to strengthen and save us from all sin and sorrow. He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7) and submitted to being broken like the sacrament bread we eat each Sabbath, to having His blood poured out like water so that we might be nourished and refreshed without money and without price (2 Nephi 9:50).
He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). His Atonement gives us the means to exercise faith and hope in Him so that we can repent and perform the works given us to do (Alma 34:15). He is the beginning of our faith, but he also finishes the work He both starts and sustains by saving us by His grace after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23).
He is also our Saviour, our Lord, our Redeemer, and the Anointed One of God—the Christ or Messiah. He is also Dayspring and Bishop of our Souls. He is our one Mediator, our Advocate with the Father, the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Holiest of All, the young Lion of Judah, the Holy One of Israel, the Mighty one of Jacob, the Son of Man, the Bright and Morning Star, the Man of Sorrows, and the Babe of Bethlehem.
But finally, who do we say that He is? At Easter, we try to look more profoundly into what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. What do we really believe about Him? Is He the focus of our testimony—the foundation of our faith? In what sense have we come unto Him? In what ways do we need to come further? Could our understanding of Him deepen? Do our actions need to change? Do our hearts need to soften?
By our fruits we can be known. What does our daily walk say of our belief in Him? Do we act as though He is the Rock and Cornerstone of our lives?
The great witness and builder of faith is His resurrection, which we commemorate this Easter season. It is the focal point of Christianity. It is that which distinguishes Christ and Christianity from all other faiths and philosophies of men. Paul summed it up:
”If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ…But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept“ (1 Corinthians 15: 14-15, 20).
This is what Easter is about. This is the basis of our hope in the good news of the gospel. This is what is at the foundation of our faith—the resurrected Lord at the right hand of the Father. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we take literally what many others only accept in a vaguely symbolic way or as a metaphor. We testify of the living embodied Christ who went to some lengths to convince His disciples on both continents of His bodily reality. He invited them to come and touch him and to feel the wounds of His hands and feet and side.
”…they were terrified and affrighted and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have“ (Luke 24:37-39).
He reminded them that after He left they should continue to eat real bread and to drink real wine or water to help them remember that He had really been there with them in flesh and blood. This is one of the sacramental ways in which we should ”always remember him.“
May I humbly add my witness—if the least of all—to the great cloud of witnesses who have given their testimony before. He does live. He was truly resurrected and He shall return. He knows us more intimately than we believe and loves us with a kindness greater than we can imagine. He is our best friend in all that is good for us. All He requires is that we come unto Him, follow His commandments, and deny ourselves the ungodliness in our lives, thus taking His yoke upon us. (Moroni 10:32-33; Matthew 11:29) It is a yoke—but a much less burdensome one than the dead weight of our unrepentant sins, our rationalized omissions and our postponed resolutions that we bear in our current lives.
May we in meekness accept His sacrifice in our behalf as He has already accepted us. (Romans 5:8) May we love each other and thus show our love and faith in Him. May we draw nearer to Him during this Easter season in recognition and humble gratitude for His Atonement in behalf of us all.