As the Savior neared the end of His mortal ministry, “He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 2). In this lesson we emphasize the important truth that Jesus Christ allowed Himself to suffer and die at the hands of others; no man took His life from Him.
Display the picture The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book , no. 57; see also LDS.org).
Invite students to imagine being one of the faithful onlookers depicted in the picture as you read Matthew 27:26–54 aloud. Encourage students to follow along and ponder what it would have been like to be that person and to witness the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After you have finished reading, invite students to describe what thoughts and feelings they imagine the person experienced. After several responses, ask the class:
What feelings do you have for the Savior after reading and discussing this account?
Invite students to read John 10:11, 17–18 silently. After sufficient time, ask:
What do these verses teach about the Crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ? (Make sure students understand that Jesus Christ had power from the Father to lay down His life and to take it up again.)
Display the following teaching from Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“A natural effect of [Jesus’s] immortal origin, as the earth-born Son of an immortal Sire, was that He was immune to death except as He surrendered thereto. The life of Jesus the Christ could not be taken save as He willed and allowed. The power to lay down His life was inherent in Himself, as was the power to take up His slain body in an immortalized state” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 418).
According to the account in Matthew, what assistance did Jesus Christ have access to?
What do you learn from the passage in John? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: No man could take Jesus Christ’s life; He willingly suffered death.)
If Jesus could have called down legions of angels for help, why do you think He allowed Himself to be crucified?
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 19:9 aloud. Ask the class to define the word suffereth. (As used here, suffer means to permit or allow. You may want to suggest that students write “to allow” in the margin of their scriptures next to 1 Nephi 19:9.)
Why did the Savior allow Himself to be crucified?
You may want to display the following statement by Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy and ask a student to read it aloud:
“It was love for all of God’s children that led Jesus, unique in His sinless perfection, to offer Himself as ransom for the sins of others. … This, then, was the consummate cause which brought Jesus to earth to ‘suffer, bleed, and die for man’ [“’Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love,” Hymns, no. 176]. He came … to atone for our sins, that He, being raised on the cross, might draw all men unto Him (see 3 Ne. 27:14)” (“For This Cause Came I into the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 26).
Point out that Jesus suffered the Crucifixion because of His great love for His Father as well as His love for us. Then ask:
How can knowing that the Savior willingly submitted to being crucified because of His love for His Father and for us help you endure difficult experiences you may face?
To help students better understand what death by crucifixion was like, consider sharing the following:
“Death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds—all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries—especially of the head and stomach—became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself—of death, the awful unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most—bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.
“Such was the death to which Christ was doomed” (Frederic W. Farrar, The Life of Christ , 641).
Tell students that Jesus Christ uttered seven statements while on the cross. Write the following scripture references on the board (do not include the quotes in parentheses), and invite each student to search a few of them and identify what Jesus said:
As students report their findings, paraphrase these statements on the board next to their corresponding references. Ask students:
What do these statements reveal about the Savior and what He was experiencing on the cross?
What was Jesus referring to when He proclaimed, “It is finished”? (He had completed the infinite suffering required by the Atonement. You might point out to students that Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 27:54, reads: “Jesus when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost” [see also Matthew 27:50, footnote a]. Jesus died only after He knew He had accomplished all the Father wanted Him to do.)
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was ‘finished’ [see John 19:30]. Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ [Luke 23:46]” (“None Were with Him,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 88).
Invite another student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Jesus chose not to be released from this world until He had endured to the end and completed the mission He had been sent to accomplish for mankind. Upon the cross of Calvary, Jesus commended His spirit to His Father with a simple statement, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). Having endured to the end, He was released from mortality.
“We too must endure to the end” (“The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 6).
What do these two Apostles help us understand about what Jesus was referring to when He uttered, “It is finished”? (After students respond, consider writing the following truth on the board: Jesus Christ faithfully completed everything Heavenly Father commanded Him to do in mortality.)
In our own difficult times, how would it help to remember what the Savior faced and faithfully endured in order to fulfill His mortal mission?
How can remembering Jesus’s example help you to accomplish what you were born to do?
How can we show our appreciation for all that the Savior suffered for us? (Students may use different words, but they should express the following principle: We show our appreciation for the Savior’s suffering on the cross by following His example of faithfully enduring to the end.)
Invite students to consider sharing on social media their feelings for the Savior and what they are committed to do to remain true to those feelings.