“13 Images from Easter Week,” New Era, April 2018
There are many important truths contained in the record of the last week of Jesus Christ’s mortal life—truths about the Savior, His kingdom, and how we can follow Him.
Here are some of those truths, illustrated by images of physical objects that were part of the last week of the Savior’s life.
Early in His last week, Jesus Christ drove the moneychangers out of the temple. The sounds of clinking coins and barking salesmen echoing off of the temple walls must have been distracting and offensive to the spirit of worship and devotion that the Lord’s house deserves. The Savior said, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). They had allowed the things of the world to intrude upon the sacred space of His Father’s house. But He showed that the place where we are meant to seek His Father’s kingdom should be free from the distractions of the world.
Sometime later in the week, the Pharisees tried to set a trap for Jesus Christ by asking Him a political question related to the tribute the Jews paid to the Romans. The Savior asked for a penny and asked whose image was on it. They said it was Caesar’s. Then the Savior said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). He reminded us that though we are in the world and should obey the laws of the land, we must pay our true devotion to God.
While at the temple that week, the Savior saw a poor widow throw two of these tiny coins into the temple treasury. He gathered His disciples and said that this woman’s offering, though of the smallest amount, was greater than anyone else’s, for “she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:44). What mattered to Him was her willingness to give, not the size of her offering. He showed yet again that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; … the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7) and that “my ways [are] higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55:9).
While the Savior was at the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot came with a group of armed men to arrest Him. Peter impulsively drew a short sword and cut off the ear of one of the men. The Savior immediately told Peter to put his sword away and said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). As a further manifestation of His power and mercy, He also healed the man’s ear (see Luke 22:51).
Purple was a kingly color, and the soldiers mockingly put this robe on Jesus Christ because He had claimed to be the king of the Jews. Of course, in reality He is much more than that—He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).
The Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on the Savior. “Perhaps this cruel act was a perverse attempt to mimic the placing of an emperor’s laurel upon His head. Thus, there was pressed down upon Him a crown of thorns. He accepted the pain as part of the great gift He had promised to make. How poignant this was, considering that thorns signified God’s displeasure as He cursed the ground for Adam’s sake that henceforth it would bring forth thorns. But by wearing the crown, Jesus transformed thorns into a symbol of His glory” (President James E. Faust [1920–2007], Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Apr. 1991 general conference).
Early in the Savior’s last week, Mary poured this box of ointment on Him. He said that it foreshadowed His death because perfumed ointments were also used to prepare bodies for burial (see John 19:39).
When Jesus Christ died, the veil of the temple was “rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51). “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, … by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:11–12; see also verses 13–14). Through His death and Resurrection, He rent the veil separating us from God’s presence (see Hebrews 10:19–22).
“[Jesus Christ’s] agony in Gethsemane and on the cross was greater than any mortal could bear. Nevertheless, because of His love for His Father and for us, He endured, and as a consequence, He can offer us both immortality and eternal life.
“It is poignantly symbolic that ‘blood [came] from every pore’ [Mosiah 3:7] as Jesus suffered in Gethsemane, the place of the olive press. To produce olive oil in the Savior’s time, olives were first crushed by rolling a large stone over them. The resulting ‘mash’ was placed in soft, loosely woven baskets, which were piled one upon another. Their weight expressed the first and finest oil. Then added stress was applied by placing a large beam or log on top of the stacked baskets, producing more oil. Finally, to draw out the very last drops, the beam was weighted with stones on one end to create the maximum, crushing pressure. And yes, the oil is bloodred as it first flows out” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Oct. 2016 general conference).
See Matthew 27:26.
As was customary, after He was condemned, Jesus Christ was taken by the Roman soldiers to be scourged. “They scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).
The Savior said, “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works” (3 Nephi 27:14).
He also taught that each of His disciples should “take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24), which means “to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 16:26 [in the Bible Appendix]).
See John 20:25.
The crucifiers drove nails through the Savior’s hands, wrists, and feet to secure Him on the cross. “[Jesus Christ] has, he reminds us, ‘graven thee upon the palms of my hands’ (1 Nephi 21:16). Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion, Christ is not going to turn his back on us now” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Come unto Me,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, 19).
“The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ [Job 14:14]. To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth” (President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018), “He Is Risen,” Apr. 2010 general conference).
If you had to summarize all of Easter in a single word, you might choose the word love.
We see the love of God the Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in the central act of the Father’s plan, the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. The images of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary are images of deep and eternal love.