These are my Easter questions: How can we begin to comprehend the grace that so fully Christ offers us all, including the great opportunity to repent, to change our very nature if we will, through the kindest act of all eternity — the Atonement of the Lamb of God? And how can we thank him?
Easter’s empty tomb in Jerusalem is often depicted in paintings as witness to the risen Lord that first Easter morning, and with reason. We see the stone rolled away from the borrowed sepulcher where the crucified Jesus had been laid three days earlier by grieving loved ones.
Mary of Magdala and another Mary came to the tomb, the heavy stone rolled away by an “angel of the Lord descended from heaven,” who announced, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.” And then this marvelous statement: “He is not here: for he is risen” (Matthew 28:5-6).
But the disciples were not left to wonder at an empty tomb, or even at an angelic announcement. The risen Christ himself would appear in the glorified flesh to these disciples and others, and they became witnesses that he lives, and they worshipped him. He spoke with them. He ate with them. He commissioned them to continue as witnesses, which they would do powerfully even to their own persecution and deaths.
We have every reason to believe the Bible accounts of the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and of Paul and others, who all testify to the reality of the resurrection.
But beyond the “what” of that reality, we may understand the “why” Christ was God’s great gift for us, his children living in a fallen world.
Jesus was no ordinary man. Only a God could do what he did. He was the Son of God the Eternal Father and a mortal mother, Mary. In him was the power to give up his life and to take it again as the “First Fruits of them that slept.” But even more significant than his physical resurrection was the power to take upon himself all of the sins, pains, sorrows and grief of all mankind, which incomparable suffering Christ bore in the garden called Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary.
Years before his birth, prophets had foretold by revelation his infinite Atonement, saying, “Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”
For centuries God’s people had sacrificed unblemished animals in anticipation of the atonement of the Lamb of God, “And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law,” a Book of Mormon prophet explained, “every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:8, 14).
These prophesies, years before the Savior’s birth, were fulfilled in Christ as recorded in the Bible — the Easter story and beyond.
The resurrected Savior of the world would also visit faithful disciples in Ancient America, as recorded in many chapters in the Book of Mormon, their scriptural record. They, too, would see the marks in his hands and feet and worship him as he ministered to them.
Centuries later, the glorified Christ would reveal himself to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, who testified in 1832, “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father ...” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:23).
The Lamb of God came to save us and fit us for heaven, so we are invited to come unto Christ in faith, “and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be ... sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ ... that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:32-33).
After all our Savior and Redeemer has done for us, may we show our gratitude by accepting his kind invitation. If you seek him this Easter, see ComeuntoChrist.org.