The Savior was tried before both Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas. Neither of these men found the Savior guilty of the crimes the Jews accused Him of, but Pilate nevertheless gave Him up to be crucified. Jesus forgave the Roman soldiers who crucified Him and spoke to a thief who was also being crucified. After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea placed His body in a tomb.
Before class, write the following questions on the board:
Begin class by inviting students to ponder the questions on the board.
Invite students to look for a truth as they study Luke 23 that will help them know how to respond when they feel mistreated by others.
Remind students that after Jesus had suffered in Gethsemane, the chief priests arrested Him and condemned Him to die. Explain that from that time through His death, Jesus interacted with the following people: Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, a group of faithful women, Roman soldiers, and two thieves who were being crucified on either side of Him. Pontius Pilate was a Roman ruler in the territory of Judea, which included the capital city of Jerusalem; Herod Antipas (who had put John the Baptist to death) ruled the territories of Galilee and Perea under Roman authority (see Luke 3:1).
Divide students into pairs and invite each pair to read Luke 23:1–11 together, looking for the differences between the Savior’s response to Pontius Pilate and His response to Herod Antipas. To help them understand the Savior’s response to Pilate, invite them to also read Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 15:4 (in Mark 15:2, footnote b).
Invite students to discuss with their partners the answers to the following questions:
How was Jesus’s response to Pilate different from His response to Herod?
Why might Pilate have been surprised by the Savior’s response to him?
Why might Herod have been disappointed by the Savior’s silence?
Summarize Luke 23:12–25 by explaining that neither Pilate nor Herod could find fault with Jesus, so Pilate told the multitude that he would punish Jesus and release Him. The people cried for Pilate to release Barabbas instead and demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate released Barabbas and gave Jesus up to be crucified. (Note: The account of Jesus before Pilate will be taught in greater detail in the lesson on John 18–19.)
Summarize Luke 23:26–31 by explaining that a large group of faithful women who had been with Him since His ministry in Galilee wept as they followed Jesus while He was led to the place of His crucifixion. Jesus told them not to weep for Him but to weep for the impending destruction that would come upon Jerusalem because the Jews had rejected their King.
Invite a student to read Luke 23:32–34 aloud. Also invite him or her to read Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 23:35 (in Luke 23:34, footnote c). Invite students to follow along, looking for what the Savior did as He was being nailed to the cross.
What did the Savior do as He was being nailed to the cross? (You may want to suggest that students mark the Savior’s words recorded in verse 34.)
Why is the Savior’s prayer at this moment so remarkable?
What principle can we learn from the Savior’s example about how we should respond when others mistreat us? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: We can follow Jesus Christ’s example by choosing to forgive those who mistreat us.)
What does it mean to forgive?
You may want to explain that forgiving others does not mean that those who sin against us should not be held accountable for their actions. Nor does it mean that we should put ourselves in situations in which people can continue to mistreat us. Rather, forgiveness means to treat with love those who have mistreated us and to harbor no resentment or anger toward them (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Forgive,” scriptures.lds.org).
Ask students to consider silently whether there is anyone they need to forgive. Acknowledge that at times it can be difficult to forgive another. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Ask the class to listen for what they can do if they are struggling to forgive someone.
“I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. … It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 5).
What did President Hinckley counsel us to do if we are struggling to forgive someone?
How do you think praying for strength can help us to forgive?
Ask students to think of a time when they have forgiven someone. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class. (Ask them not to share names with the class, and remind them not to share anything too personal.)
Encourage students to follow Jesus Christ’s example and forgive those who have mistreated them. Invite them to pray for the strength and ability to do so.
Summarize Luke 23:35–38 by explaining that Jewish rulers and Roman soldiers mocked the Savior as He hung on the cross.
Display the picture The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book , no. 57; see also LDS.org). Invite a student to read Luke 23:39–43 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for how the two thieves who hung on either side of the Savior treated Him.
How did each of the two thieves treat the Savior?
What might the thief have meant when he said, “We receive the due rewards of our deeds” (verse 41)?
How did the Savior respond to this thief when he asked the Savior to remember him in God’s kingdom?
To help students better understand what the Savior meant when He told the thief that he would be with Him in paradise, invite a student to read aloud the following statement:
“In the scriptures, the word paradise is used in different ways. First, it designates a place of peace and happiness in the postmortal spirit world, reserved for those who have been baptized and who have remained faithful (see Alma 40:12; Moroni 10:34). …
“A second use of the word paradise is found in Luke’s account of the Savior’s Crucifixion. … The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that … the Lord actually said that the thief would be with Him in the world of spirits” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 111; see also History of the Church, 5:424–25).
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, where would the thief go after he died? (The spirit world [see Alma 40:11–14].)
What truth can we learn from the Savior’s statement that the thief would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43)? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: The spirits of all people enter the spirit world at the time of their death.)
Explain that other scriptures can help us better understand what would happen to the thief and others like him in the world of spirits. You may want to suggest that students write Doctrine and Covenants 138:28–32, 58–59 as a cross-reference in the margin of their scriptures next to Luke 23:43.
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 138 contains a revelation given to President Joseph F. Smith in which the Savior revealed truths about the spirit world. These truths can help us understand what the Savior meant when He said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 138:11, 16, 18, 28–32. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior did when He went to the spirit world.
What did the Savior do when He went to the spirit world?
According to verse 29, where did the Savior not go while He was in the spirit world?
What did the Savior organize His righteous messengers to do?
What truth can we learn from these verses? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: Under Jesus Christ’s direction, righteous messengers teach the gospel to those in spirit prison.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Brother Alain A. Petion, former Area Seventy. Ask the class to listen for what the Savior’s message might have done for the criminal on the cross.
“The Savior graciously answered and gave him hope. This criminal likely did not understand that the gospel would be preached to him in the spirit world or that he would be given an opportunity to live according to God in the spirit (see 1 Pet. 4:6; D&C 138:18–34). Truly the Savior cared for the thief who hung beside Him; surely He cares greatly for those who love Him and strive to keep His commandments!” (“Words of Jesus: On the Cross,” Ensign, June 2003, 34).
What hope do the words in D&C 138:29–32 give us regarding all those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel?
Explain that even though the gospel would be preached to this thief, he would not automatically be saved in God’s kingdom.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 138:58–59 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for what the thief and others in spirit prison would have to do in order to be redeemed.
What would the thief, or any other spirit in spirit prison, need to do in order to be redeemed?
What will happen to those spirits who repent and accept the temple ordinances performed on their behalf? (Spirits “who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the [temple],” be cleansed through the Atonement, and “receive [their] reward” [D&C 138:58–59].)
What can we do to help those spirits who, like the thief, need to be redeemed? (We can complete family history work and participate in temple ordinances for the dead.)
Summarize Luke 23:44–56 by explaining that the Savior died on the cross after He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (verse 46). Joseph of Arimathea then wrapped the Savior’s body in linen and laid Him in a tomb.
Conclude by testifying of the truths you discussed in this lesson.