New Testament Lesson 23 (Matt 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18)
The Fifth Day (Wednesday Evening After 6:00 pm)
Jesus Introduces the Sacrament
● When Jesus and his Apostles met to eat the Passover meal, Jesus introduced the ordinance of the sacrament (Matthew 26:26–29; Luke 22:19–20).
● The final Passover was, in reality, two events rather than one: a formal celebration of the annual Passover supper and the first observance of the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of the atoning act of Jesus Christ.
— Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Since that upper room experience on the eve of Gethsemane and Golgotha, children of the promise have been under covenant to remember Christ’s sacrifice in this newer, higher, more holy and personal way . . . If remembering is the principal task before us, what . . . come[s] to our memory when those plain and precious emblems are offered to us?”1
● The sacramental prayers:
— The prayer on the bread (D&C 20:77) contains a covenant to remember our Savior’s body, of which the bread is a token. This commemorates the most important thing the Savior did with His body: He rose from the dead, thus overcoming death for all of us.
— The prayer on the water (wine) (D&C 20:79) contains a covenant to remember our Savior’s blood, of which the water is a token. This commemorates the fact that He shed His blood in order to meet the demands of justice with regard to our sins. Had He not done this, none of us would be worthy to return to our Heavenly Father as imperfect beings. He paid the price for our sins and washes us clean.
— The same prayers are found in the Book of Mormon (Moroni 4:3; 5:2).
— (See more on the sacramental prayers in the Doctrinal Insights below.)
Jesus Goes Out into Gethsemane
● Following the Last Supper, Jesus’ discourse and prayer, he said: “Arise, let us go hence.”
● “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30).
— President Harold B. Lee said, “So powerful was he in the Master’s day that the Master referred to Satan as `the prince of this world,’ but he added, `the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.’ (John 14:30). We must be able to say, though the power is evil on every side, `As for me and my house, we shall serve the God of this land.’ The prince of this world is coming to tempt every one of us, and the only ones who will stand through these evil days are those who have founded their houses upon the rock, as the Master said: when the storms descended and the winds blew and the rains came and beat upon the house, it fell not because it was founded upon the rock. That is what the Lord is trying to say to us today.”2
● They sang a hymn and then departed to go into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30).
● Jesus led the eleven Apostles to the Mount of Olives.
— This garden lies on the eastern slope of Olivet almost at the base of the ravine. It is a small olive orchard, called Gethsemane. The designation means “oil press, ‘’so called perhaps because the olive grove contained a press to crush the olives from the orchard. It is about a half mile from the city walls.
● Jesus went there often to pray or to teach his disciples (John 18:1–2).
THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
Phases of the Atonement in Gethsemane
● In Gethsemane he left eight of the eleven below and took three with him (Matthew 26:36).
● He took Peter, James, and John into the interior of the Garden (Matthew 26:37–38). He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here.” To “watch” means to “stay awake” (footnote 38b).
● He also said: “Pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:39–40).
1. Phase One of the Atonement
— Jesus went a “stone’s throw” (100 feet) farther and prayed (Luke 22:41–42).
— Sensing the severity he said: “If it be possible, let this cup pass” (Matthew 26:39).
— He spoke personally to the Father, calling him “Abba” (“daddy”) (Mark 14:36).
— An angel (Adam) appeared unto him and strengthened him. Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly (Luke 22:43–44).
— His sweat was “as great drops of blood falling . . . to the ground.”
— Jesus was in great agony—more than any man could have borne (Mosiah 3:7; Alma 7:11–13; D&C 19:15–20).
● The Severity of the Atonement.
— In His suffering, Jesus descended below us all (D&C 122:7–8).
— Elder B. H. Roberts said, “Let the severity of the Christ’s Atonement for man’s sin bear witness; for it required all that the Christ gave in suffering and agony of spirit and body, to lay the grounds for man’s forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The severity of the Atonement should impress men with the fact that we live in a world of stern realities; that human actions draw with them tremendous consequences that may not be easily set aside if the actions in which they have their origin are wrong . . . Suffering is the consequence or the penalty of violating divine, moral law; and the penalty must be paid, either by the one sinning or by another who shall suffer vicariously for him.”3
— It had to be an “infinite atonement” in order to save us (2 Nephi 9:7). Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “As part of His infinite atonement, Jesus knows ‘according to the flesh’ all that through which we pass. (Alma 7:11–12). He has borne the sins, griefs, sorrows, and . . . pains of every man, woman, and child (2 Nephi 9:21).”4
— (See more on the severity of the atonement Doctrinal Insights below.)
— The agony persisted into the night, and his three apostolic witnesses grew tired and fell asleep (Matthew 26:40–41).
— It was the Apostles, not Jesus, who said: “The Spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (JST Mark 14:43).
2. Phase Two of the Atonement
— Returning to his lonely agony, the suffering returned and he plead again for relief (Matthew 26:42).
— Again he returned to his three disciples and found them asleep. They did not know what answer to give to him (Mark 14:40).
3. Phase Three of the Atonement
— A third time he prayed, “saying the same words” (Matthew 26:43–44).
— Returning again to the three, he said: “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of’ sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:45–46).
● It was the great and last sacrifice (Alma 34:10–14).
— He drank from the bitter cup which the Father gave to Him (3 Nephi 11:11).
— The Father sent Him specifically to do what He did for us (3 Nephi 27:14–15).
— An Incredible Statement: Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:28–30). Considering what was coming on the cross, this statement reveals the severity of what happened there in the Garden of Gethsemane.
— He had yet more suffering to do. He was commanded by the Father to die and then resurrect Himself (John 10:17–18).
● The Importance of the Atonement.
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”5
— President Ezra Taft Benson said. “In Gethsemane and on Calvary, He worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It was the greatest single act of love in recorded history. Thus He became our Redeemer— redeeming all of us from physical death, and redeeming those of us from spiritual death who will obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”6
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord.”7
● “And always remember Him”. Elder Holland suggested what we should remember about the Savior:
— His love and strength in the Grand council of Heaven.
— That he is the Creator of heaven and earth.
— All that he did in his premortal life as Jehovah.
— The simple grandeur of his birth.
— His teachings.
— His miracles and healings.
— That “all things which are good cometh of Christ” (Moroni 7:24).
— The unkind treatment, rejection, and injustice he endured.
— That he descended below all things in order to rise above them.
— That he made his sacrifices and endured his sorrows for each of us.
● We are commanded in our day to partake of the sacrament “often” (D&C 20:75–76). Elder Matthew Cowley said:
— “The Lord, being aware of man’s tendency to transgress the law, and that ‘it is human to err’ has enjoined his Church to ‘meet together often’ and to partake of the emblems of his redeeming sacrifice, and to offer up their sacraments that they may more fully keep themselves unspotted from the world.
“The administration of the sacrament as a component of religious worship is so essential that the words in the prayer of sanctification have been given by direct revelation from God for this specific purpose. . . . In the blessing pronounced upon the sacred emblems of the Master’s great sacrifice, the priest repeats God’s own words—words which carry inspiration to the heart and soul of every participant in this holy ritual.
“The Sabbath is the day appointed for sacrament service. In the religious worship of this day every member of the Church is expected to present himself before the sacrament board and renew his covenants with his Redeemer. For those who neglect this duty, there is no covenant renewal, and the Lord will not hold them blameless. The vitality of the Church lies in the obedience of its members to the divine plan, and this vitality comes from the frequent communion of the Saints—meeting together often, and with contrite spirits, partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper.”8
● Worthiness to Partake of the Sacrament.
— The Lord commanded the Church, “If any have trespassed, let him not partake until he makes reconciliation (D&C 46:4; 3 Nephi 18:7–11).” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “If any of the members are not in good standing; if they have in their hearts any feeling of hatred, envy, or sin of any kind, they should not partake of these emblems. If there are any differences or feelings existing between brethren, these differences should be adjusted before the guilty parties partake; otherwise they will eat and drink unworthily and bring upon them the condemnation spoken of by Paul. We should all see that our hearts and hands are clean and pure.”9
— Though we do not need to be perfect before partaking, we must attempt sincerely to be free of sin. Our attitude will make a tremendous difference in the value of the ordinance in our lives.
● More on the Severity of the Atonement.
— President John Taylor said:
“Jesus had to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself . . . And as He in His own person bore the sins of all, and atoned for them by the sacrifice of Himself, so there came upon Him the weight and agony of ages and generations, the indescribable agony consequent upon this great sacrificial atonement wherein He bore the sins of the world, and suffered in His own person the consequences of an eternal law of God broken by men. Hence His profound grief, His indescribable anguish, His overpowering torture, all experienced in the submission to the eternal fiat of Jehovah and the requirements of an inexorable law. “The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible.
“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.’ 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.”10
— Elder James E. Talmage said, “Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause . . . He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. 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. 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.”11
— W. Jeffrey Marsh said, “Spiritual anguish and physical pain pressed down upon him so greatly that blood oozed from every pore in his body (JST Luke 22:44; Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18). The medical term for such a condition is hematodrosis. Under extreme distress and pressure the capillaries burst and produce a bloody sweat. Christ’s was the most severe instance of hematodrosis ever experienced.”12
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“This is what he did: He carried, in some way that I cannot understand and you cannot understand, the burden of the combined weight of the sins of the world. It is hard enough for me to carry my own transgressions, and it is hard enough for you to carry yours. . . . I have seen men in the gall of bitterness, in the torments and the anguish of their souls, because Of their sins. I have seen them cry out in anguish because of their transgressions—just one individual’s sins. Can you comprehend the suffering of Jesus Christ when he carried, not merely by physical manifestation but in some spiritual and mental condition or manner, the combined weight of sin? . . .
“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 . . .
“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.”13
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the Atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane.
“It was there Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world on condition of repentance. It was there he suffered beyond human power to endure. It was there he sweat great drops of blood from every pore. It was there his anguish was so great he fain would have let the bitter cup pass. It was there he made the final choice to follow the will of the Father. It was there that an angel from heaven came to strengthen him in his greatest trial. Many have been crucified and the torment and pain [are] extreme. But only one, and he the Man who had God as his Father, has bowed beneath the burden of grief and sorrow that lay upon him in that awful night, that night in which he descended below all things as he prepared himself to rise above them all.”14
1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 88, 90; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 67–68.
2. In British Area Conference Report, August 1971, 135.
3. The Seventy’s Course in Theology, 5 vols. [1907–1919], Fourth Year, 127–129.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 89; or Ensign, May 1987, 72.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 121.
6. The Teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson , 14.
7. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 60.
8. Elder Matthew Cowley Speaks , 191–192.
9. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:343.
10. The Mediation and Atonement , 149–150.
11. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 613.
12. His Final Hours, 47–48.
13. Doctrines of Salvation, 1:129–130.
14. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:774–775.