Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Friday, March 29, 2013

Atonement and Immortality—the Gifts of Easter

Many of my personal journal entries eventually
become blog posts, like this one.
Last night I spent some time cleaning up my computer journal and getting it ready for printing (I like having hard copies of everything I write). I often sit down at the computer to write in my journal and record pages and pages of details that are probably unnecessary, but that I feel compelled to include. Such are the ways of a perfectionist. There were a few entries in my journal from last year that I had started but never quite finished. So I explored my brain for the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing at the time I had dated the posts, and wrapped the entries up nicely.

I figured as long as I was patching up my journal, I would include an experience that I had in the fall of 2012; I’ve never forgotten it, and I’ve wanted to record it in my journal, but just never got to it. I sat down and wrote it all out—what happened and how it made me feel. As I neared the end of the entry, I went back and skimmed it. I liked it—a lot, actually. Then it came to my mind that Easter was approaching this weekend, and the light bulb of opportunity and inspiration twinkled to life in my brain. Among the writings I’ve been trying to finish lately, several incomplete blog posts are at the top of the list, and I’ve wanted so badly to get something posted. And this isn’t the first time that a “simple” entry in my personal journal has ended up becoming something deeper and more intricate.

"And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon
his head, ... and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!"

~ (Matthew 27:29)
I’m not one to be short on words, especially when writing, but I’ve tried to keep this post simple and to-the-point. Though the subject matter can be complex, I’ve attempted to simplify as much of my emotion as possible to maintain one epicenter of thought. I sincerely hope the message I share is something that will linger in your heart.

For the first three months working at my last job, I didn’t have a car. I rode the bus everyday to and from work, and had to get up at 5:00 a.m. to do so. My employer wasn’t far away, but because of the bus scheduling, I would often get home over an hour after I left my job. It was something I was never really happy about, but I had lots of interesting and fun experiences. Not only that, but it was humbling to be without a car for so long because I learned to better appreciate the blessing of having my own transportation.

"Resurrected Christ" by Walter Rane
Copyright © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
There was one day during those first three months (I don’t remember the exact date) that I boarded my last bus at the transit center to finally get home. The bus driver was on his break and not present, and I was sitting onboard alone, just waiting to get on the road. Suddenly a young Latina woman entered the bus; she was short and pretty, and walked with a strange gait. Upon observing her further, I saw that one of her legs was not only shorter than the other, but that it was twisted abnormally. She smiled sweetly, but perhaps reservedly, as she limped past me, carefully up two steps in the middle of the bus, and all the way to the back, where she sat down.

I remember being very tired that day, probably because I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and I had worked a full shift. When my body is weakened in some way and it is generally quiet around me, those are the times that the Holy Ghost often whispers to me, probably knowing that I am more likely to hear Him. I just remember smiling at her as she walked past me, maybe feeling a little sorry for her at first; but then I smiled to myself as the thought came into my mind that one day she would be whole, and all would be well. She would one day pass on through death, and then, because of the sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ, from death into immortality, being reunited with her same body, only in a perfected, glorified form—free from defect and pain.

The thought was almost fleeting, and it took me a second to grasp it and internalize it. I was not only amazed by this doctrine—this truth—that the resurrection was a reality, but that I truly believed it. I had to ask myself silently, “Is that really what I believe?” But there was no second guess in my mind; the belief was first-nature to me. It was no more difficult for me to affirm that glorious concept in my head than it would’ve been to understand that my heart was beating at that very moment. There was no question, no place for argument. It was true, and I knew it!

"Christ in the Land Bountiful" by Simon Dewey
Copyright © 2003 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
I felt such comfort and calmness that seemed to radiate from my grinning face. I was overcome with peace; not just for her, but for myself and for all mankind. I was certain about everything that I was feeling and thinking just then. I knew that there was not only the assurance of the redemption of her soul and body, but there was also purpose in her challenge during this life: To prepare for the perfection of the body by first perfecting the spirit. To learn and grow through corruption and frailty in order to reach a higher standard, a more divine standard—The Lord’s standard. 

The Lord loved her, He loved me, and He loved all of God’s innumerable posterity. He loved us enough to suffer, bleed, and die for us. It happened long ago and far away, but the atoning power of Christ transcends the universe, time, and all eternity. It wasn’t just a story created to pacify the naïve child into false security with promises of happy endings that would never come true. It was (it is!) the reality of every soul who has ever and will ever walk the earth. As one hymn so poignantly expresses, “Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

I am reminded of the Savior’s visit to the ancient Americas after His resurrection, and the taste we get of His divine power and mercy. It is recorded in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. After teaching the multitude of people for hours, the Lord commanded them to go home, rest, and ponder His words. But after basking in His glorified presence, the people could not bear to leave the Redeemer’s side:

          “And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.
“And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
          “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. …
          “And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.
          “And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.”

"Gethsemane" by Liz Lemon Swindle
Copyright © 2008 by Liz Lemon Swindle
This is only one glimpse from the scriptures into the heart of our Redeemer. This same compassion and love was the root of every act that Jesus performed while in the flesh—not just for those who were in need of His healing, but for those who were whole as well. From a quiet garden called Gethsemane, to a rocky hill called Golgotha, Jesus suffered nigh unto death to bear upon his mind and body every suffering and sin that would ever be manifest in this world, all in accordance with His Father’s will. As both a god and a man, His decision to die upon the cross was His, and His alone—and to die is what He chose. Such was His love and compassion for you and me, and hence comes His unique ability to succor those who come unto Him with broken hearts and contrite spirits. This redemption from sin constitutes the first great gift of Easter—the infinite and personal atonement of the Holy One of Israel.

The garden tomb that was given to hold His pierced body, however, would not be Jesus the Christ’s final resting place. The chains that held hostage the souls of man from the beginning of time and henceforth were burst on that first Easter morning when the grave yielded up her captive dead and Christ took up His crucified body once again, to the glory of His Father and to the redemption of every son of Adam and daughter of Eve to ever be born. This same Christ lives and reigns in the heavenly courts of glory, seated at the right hand of His Father, leading and guiding His Church upon the earth still today. This promise of renewed life is the second great gift of Easter given by the Savior—the immortality of man and the possibility for eternal life in the presence of Deity.

"He Is Not Here" by Walter Rane
Copyright © Walter Rane
Our eventual resurrection—yours and mine—is certain. There’s no question about it. It will happen! It will make no difference in the end what we believe or where our allegiances lie, the bonds of death have already been broken by Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, the Son of God. The bitter fruits of mortality that have been passed down to us by our first parents no longer hold sway in light of the miraculous atonement of Jesus Christ. He satisfied justice, He saved our souls. His atonement means healing, it means comfort, it means eternal life. It means that through Him I can be made whole—not only at some distant day, but now, every day. 

I don’t have to wait for resurrection morning to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I can choose to give away my life for His sake, in some way similar, yet incomparable to the way He gave His life away for my sake. I can love and obey Him and do as He commanded. I can love my God and love my neighbor, and treat others with the same compassion and gentle care that He did. Moreover, I can show my gratitude for His sacrifice by using His merits to cleanse myself of sin and transgression and by seeking the peace of forgiveness that only Christ can offer. Through all that I offer the Savior of the World—all my hopes, joys, fears, doubts, pains, sins, frailties, trials, and weaknesses—I can find my rest in the yoke that He offers and gladly bears with me. And I do. Jesus Christ is my hope, my faith, my happiness in this world and the world to come.

I join my voice with the testimony of angels, who, as they sat outside the empty garden tomb on that first Easter morning, declared unto Jesus’ female disciples, “He is risen.” For truly, He has; and I solemnly bear witness of it.

"Christ and Mary at the Tomb" by Joseph F. Brickey
Copyright © 2010 Joseph Brickey