From the Garden to the Empty Tomb


Gethsemane

Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933)

“Gethsemane.—The name means ‘oil-press’ and probably has reference to a mill maintained at the place for the extraction of oil from the olives there cultivated. John refers to the spot as a garden, from which designation we may regard it as an enclosed space of private ownership. That it was a place frequented by Jesus when He sought retirement for prayer, or opportunity for confidential converse with the disciples, is indicated by the same writer (John 18:1, 2)” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 620).

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972)

“We speak of the passion of Jesus Christ. A great many people have an idea that when he was on the cross, and nails were driven into his hands and feet, that was his great suffering. His great suffering was before he ever was placed upon the cross. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the blood oozed from the pores of his body: ‘Which 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—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink’ [D&C 19:18].

“That was not when he was on the cross; that was in the garden. That is where he bled from every pore in his body.

“Now I cannot comprehend that pain. I have suffered pain, you have suffered pain, and sometimes it has been quite severe; but I cannot comprehend pain, which is mental anguish more than physical, that would cause the blood, like sweat, to come out upon the body. It was something terrible, something terrific; so we can understand why he would cry unto his Father:

“‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt’ [Matt. 26:39]” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:130).

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994)

“On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took three of the Twelve and went into the place called Gethsemane. There He suffered the pains of all men. He suffered as only God could suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied (see Isa. 53:4–6).

“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” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 14).

Elder James E. Talmage

“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. … It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. …

“In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world” (Jesus the Christ, 613).

President John Taylor (1808–87)

“Groaning beneath this concentrated load, this intense, incomprehensible pressure, this terrible exaction of Divine justice, from which feeble humanity shrank, and through the agony thus experienced sweating great drops of blood, He was led to exclaim, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me’ [Matt. 26:39]. He had wrestled with the superincumbent load in the wilderness; He had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there; placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in his agony the blood oozed from His pores” (The Mediation and Atonement [1882], 150).

Calvary

Elder James E. Talmage

“It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in most terrible reality. That the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fulness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death. …

“The period of faintness, the conception of utter forsakenness soon passed, and the natural cravings of the body reasserted themselves. The maddening thirst, which constituted one of the worst of the crucifixion agonies, wrung from the Savior’s lips His one recorded utterance expressive of physical suffering. ‘I thirst’ [John 19:28], He said. One of those who stood by, whether Roman or Jew, disciple or skeptic, we are not told, hastily saturated a sponge with vinegar, a vessel of which was at hand, and having fastened the sponge to the end of a reed, or stalk of hyssop, pressed it to the Lord’s fevered lips. …

“Fully realizing that He was no longer forsaken, but that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and that His mission in the flesh had been carried to glorious consummation, He exclaimed in a loud voice of holy triumph: ‘It is finished’ [John 19:30]. In reverence, resignation, and relief, He addressed the Father saying: ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ [Luke 23:46]. He bowed His head, and voluntarily gave up His life.

“Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed” (Jesus the Christ, 661–62).

The Empty Tomb

President John Taylor

“As a God, He descended below all things, and made Himself subject to man in man’s fallen condition; as a man, He grappled with all the circumstances incident to His sufferings in the world. Anointed, indeed, with the oil of gladness above His fellows, He struggled with and overcame the powers of men and devils, of earth and hell combined; and aided by this superior power of the Godhead, He vanquished death, hell and the grave, and arose triumphant as the Son of God, the very eternal Father, the Messiah, the Prince of peace, the Redeemer, the Savior of the world” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor [2001], 43).

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985)

“Only a God could bring about this miracle of resurrection. As a teacher of righteousness, Jesus could inspire souls to goodness; as a prophet, he could foreshadow the future; as an intelligent leader of men, he could organize a church; and as a possessor and magnifier of the priesthood, he could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, even raise other dead; but only as a God could he raise himself from the tomb, overcome death permanently, and bring incorruption in place of corruption, and replace mortality with immortality. …

“No human hands had been at work to remove the sealed door nor to resuscitate nor restore. No magician nor sorcerer had invaded the precincts to work his cures; not even the priesthood, exercised by another, had been brought in use to heal, but the God who had purposefully and intentionally laid down his life had, by the power of his godhead, taken up his life again. … The spirit which had been by him commended to his Father in Heaven from the cross, and which, according to his later reports, had been to the spirit world, had returned and, ignoring the impenetrable walls of the sepulcher, had entered the place, re-entered the body, had caused the stone door to be rolled away, and walked in life again, with his body changed to immortality, incorruptible—his every faculty keen and alert.

“Unexplainable? Yes! And not understandable—but incontestable. More than 500 unimpeachable witnesses had contact with him. They walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, felt the flesh of his body and saw the wounds in his side and feet and hands; discussed with him the program which had been common to them, and him; and, by many infallible proofs knew and testified that he was risen, and that that last and most dreaded enemy, death, had been overcome. …

“And so we bear testimony that the being who created the earth and its contents, who made numerous appearances upon the earth prior to his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is resurrected and immortal, and that this great boon of resurrection and immortality becomes now, through our Redeemer, the heritage of mankind” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 17–18).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Then dawned the first day of the week, the Sabbath of the Lord as we have come to know it. To those who came to the tomb, heavy with sorrow, the attending angel declared, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead?’ (Luke 24:5).

“‘He is not here: … he is risen, as he said’ (Matt. 28:6).

“Here was the greatest miracle of human history. Earlier He had told them, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life’ (John 11:25). But they had not understood. Now they knew. He had died in misery and pain and loneliness. Now, on the third day, He arose in power and beauty and life, the firstfruits of all who slept, the assurance for men of all ages that ‘as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Cor. 15:22).

“On Calvary He was the dying Jesus. From the tomb He emerged the Living Christ. The cross had been the bitter fruit of Judas’s betrayal, the summary of Peter’s denial. The empty tomb now became the testimony of His divinity, the assurance of eternal life, the answer to Job’s unanswered question: ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14). …

“And so, because our Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith. But what shall we use? No sign, no work of art, no representation of form is adequate to express the glory and the wonder of the Living Christ. He told us what that symbol should be when He said, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).

“As His followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing His image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of Him whose name we have taken upon ourselves. And so our lives must become a meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the Living Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God” (“The Symbol of Our Faith,” Liahona and Ensign, Apr. 2005, 4–6).

[illustration] Christ in Gethsemane, by Harry Anderson

[illustration] The Resurrection, by Harry Anderson