Ye Have Made It a Den of Thieves

Courtezy LDS Media Library

Here’s we think happened on Monday of Holy Week or the last week of Jesus’ mortal life . . .

As Jesus returned from Bethany to the city Jerusalem with His disciples the following  morning, He saw a fig tree from a distance. He walked up to the tree to see if it had any fruit, though it was far too early in the season for ripe figs. When He found the tree barren, He said, in the hearing of His disciples, “Let no man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.” (Matt. 21:18–19; Mark 12:12–14.)

When Jesus went into the temple of God, He began to cast out all those who bought and sold within the temple’s sacred precincts, overthrowing their tables and chairs, not allowing anyone to carry any vessel through the temple. He said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’ But ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt. 21:12–13; Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46.)

When the religious authorities saw Him do these amazing things, and witnessed the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were very displeased, and said to Jesus, “Hearest thou what these say?” But Jesus answered them, “Yea; have ye never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?’”

Jesus taught the people daily in the temple, but the those of the religious establishment were jealous and looked for ways to discredit and ultimately kill Him. They feared Him, but they couldn’t figure out what to do yet, because He was so popular in the eyes of the people. The common people flocked to Him and were amazed at the doctrine He taught and listened to Him attentively. (Matt. 21:14–16; Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47–48.)

When they passed by the fig tree later, they saw that it had dried up and withered away, just as the nation who was about to reject Him would likewise perish.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem in Triumph

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Here’s what we know happened on Sunday of Holy Week, or the last week of Jesus’ mortal life . . .

A few days before the feast of Passover, Jesus and His apostles approached Jerusalem from the east on the Mount of Olives. They were near the villages of Bethany and Bethphage when He asked two of His disciples to go into a nearby village where, He said, “ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her, whereon yet never man sat: loose them, and bring them unto me.” He went on: “And if any man ask you, ‘Why do ye loose him?’ thus shall ye say unto him, ‘Because the Lord hath need of him.’ And straightway he will send them.”

The two disciples went into the village and did as Jesus asked. There they found an ass and her colt tied near a place where two roads met. As they untied the colt, the owners said, “What do ye, loosing the colt?”
 The disciples then said—with smiles, I think—“The Lord hath need of him.” When the owners heard that, they let them go, as if they recognized the origin of the request instantly. The disciples brought the ass and her colt to Jesus. They laid their garments on the unbroken colt and helped Jesus up onto his back
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This was significant as riding on a donkey in this way was a sign of royalty. It was all done in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah who wrote, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” The disciples didn’t understand the significance of this at the time, but after Jesus was resurrected and glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about Him.

As Jesus descended the west side of the Mount of Olives, nearing the Holy City, a huge crowd came out to meet Him. They laid their garments in the roadway and others cut down branches from off the trees and also laid them down in the way.
 Those who had witnessed the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, spread this news of Him. For this reason, the people of Jerusalem came out to meet Him, because they had heard that he had done a Messianic miracle.

The multitude started to praise God with loud voices because of the great things they had witness Jesus do, crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.
 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and hosanna in the highest!”

The Pharisees didn’t like hearing Jesus receive such praise which indicated that He was the Messiah. They said, “Master, rebuke thy disciples.”
 But Jesus answered, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
 The Pharisees weren’t happy with this response and said among themselves, “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.”
 Trouble was definitely brewing.

When he came near Jerusalem, He started to cry. He said, looking at the city, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.
 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee. And they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

When He came into city, many were moved and said among themselves, “Who is this?” Some answered, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” He went into the temple and had a look around. As the evening grew on, He went back to Bethany with the Twelve and spent the night there. (See Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:10–11, 17; Mark 11:11; Luke 19:41–44
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Second Coming: 16 Questions about the Last Days and the Coming of Christ

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I’ve listed here a few yes-or-no questions about the last days and Christ’s Second Coming based on Matthew chapter 24 and other scriptures. How many questions would you say deserve a yes?

The yeses are a strong indication of how close we are getting to the actual winding up scene. I’ll let you be your own judge, but I think it’s safe to say were getting really close. What does that mean in terms of days, months, and years? I don’t know. But I do know this: Now is the time to get ready.

  1. Are you hearing of wars and rumors of wars? (Matthew 24:5–6.)
  2. Are there famines, earthquakes, pestilences, tempests, and waves themselves heaving beyond their bounds (tsunamis) in various places? (Matthew 24:7; Doctrine and Covenants 88:89.)
  3. Have false Christs and false prophets appeared, deceiving people, including the very elect? (Matthew 24:5, 11, 23, 24.)
  4. Are the saints hated in all nations for His name’s sake? (Matthew 24:9.)
  5. Are there many who are offended, betraying one another, and hating one another? (Matthew 24:10.)
  6. Does iniquity abound? (Matthew 24:12.)
  7. Has the love of many waxed cold? (Matthew 24:12.)
  8. Has the gospel been preached in all the world as a witness? (Matthew 24:14.)
  9. Has the “abomination of desolation” appeared—the pollution of the holy temple and likely the setting up of an idol therein? (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15.)
  10. Has a great tribulation appeared, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time”? (Matthew 24:15.)
  11. Are there signs in the heavens? (Luke 21:11.)
  12. Has the sun been darkened, the moon refused to give her light, and the stars fallen from heaven? (Matthew 24:29).
  13. Has the earth reeled to and fro as a drunken man? (D&C 45:48; 88:87.)
  14. Has the antichrist, the Son of Perdition, been revealed? (2 Thessalonians 2:14.)
  15. Have the angels sounded their trumpets for all the world to hear? (Matthew 24:31.)
  16. Has the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appeared? (Matthew 24:27, 30.)

I give about half of these questions a yes, and believe in my heart that the other half could happen pretty quickly, as a “thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10; Doctrine and Covenants 45:19).

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:32–37.)

“My Peace I Give unto You”

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Within hours, Jesus would suffer beyond all comprehension, and yet he left these words—among His last—with His apostles:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27.)

“My peace”? What is His peace? I’ve been pondering that one today. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Lasting peace, real peace, is rooted in Jesus Christ. He was one with our Father, and He was at peace with Himself. He is the example of peace. Though He was thronged by mockery, persecution, betrayal, even torture, in this world, He overcame the world (see John 16:33). Overcoming the world, or real peace, comes when nothing in this world can break our connection with God.

We may find temporary peace in this world of ours, but lasting peace comes in the presence of God. We can find that presence at home, in nature, in the temple, or simply in our hearts. To be present with God, we must be present in ourselves. We must have a temple in our hearts, our own private holy of holies.

Peace is also the fruit of unity. Unity is the essence of God’s life. God is at peace with all beings in the universe, though they may not be at peace with Him. Which leads me to my conclusion.

You can be at peace within yourself, and with God, no matter what others are doing and saying around you. You can know peace, the peace that Christ gives, in spite of earth and hell. Peace can dwell in that private, invincible part of you, that place no one may enter or intrude upon without your permission.

Key Verse: “Eyewitnesses of His Majesty” (2 Peter 1:16)

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It was was the last talk on conference Sunday, October 2, 1977. President Spencer W. Kimball quoted a verse of scripture that stuck with me ever since. I had read it before, but this was different.

I had been on my mission for nearly a year. Oh, how we hungered and thirsted for the word of God in those days! For the first time, all of conference was piped into the chapels by telephone (what they called a WATS line in those days). To here these words live while serving in the mission field was a treasure and a blessing.

Here are the words, a prophet quoting a prophet:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16.)

Of Peter’s testimony, President Kimball also said:

Perhaps one of the last of Peter’s testimonies was borne to all the people, both those who had been converted to the gospel and those who would in the future be influenced by his statement, throughout all time a memorial to be remembered. As this great prophet faced his death and knew that it would not be long until he would discard this body tabernacle and pass into the other world, he determined to write his testimony message so that coming generations might all have his witness. It has been read and heard by countless millions.

While serving as a missionary, the prophet’s words were seared on my soul. Clean, pure words, words of testimony. It was as if he said, “I am not making this up, nor have I been deceived. I am an eyewitness of His majesty.”

I remember that day feeling that these words were true, that President Kimball was letting us know what he knew for himself, though he quoted on of his predecessors. I haven’t forgotten the power of those words. I hope I never do.

Made Perfect

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Those familiar with the New Testament know this verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).

That’s a loaded verse. Is Jesus commanding us to be flawless in character and behavior, today? Is He asking us to be perfect like God the Father right now? If so, I think the human race is sunk. Who among mortals could live up to such a charge? Not I.

What does perfect mean in this context? From the Greek translation of this verse, the word τέλειοι (telios) has seven definitions:

  1. brought to its end, finished
  2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness
  3. perfect
  4. that which is perfect, 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue, 4b) of men, 4b1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature

Hmm. Noah was described as “a just man and perfect in his generations” (see Genesis 6:9). The NIV translates this “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” while The Message translates it “a good man, a man of integrity in his community.”

So perfect can mean a number of things, but I like the definitions mature, complete, finished. These are qualities that seem far more reachable than flawlessness, which is a common and burdensome misconception of the word.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “just men made perfect.” That makes sense to me, that we are made perfect rather than getting there all by our determined selves.

Then there are these words near the very end of the Book of Mormon, written by Mormon’s son Moroni:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; 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 perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32–33; emphasis added .)

According to these beautiful words from Moroni, our perfection will come through the grace of God, if we love God with all our might, mind, and strength, denying ourselves all ungodliness, by the grace of God we will be made perfect. A perfect plan made by a perfect creator.

That doesn’t mean we are not accountable for our actions and for constant improvement. On the contrary. We are accountable, whether we believe it or not.

Overcome by Faith

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/category/final-events-bible-images?lang=engJesus told His disciples on the night He was betrayed:

Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33.)

These were among His last words to His apostles. What did they mean? I have a simple working definition I’d like to share, one that I will abandon upon new light.

Nothing got between Him and God. Not sin. No sinner or sinners. No crushing disappointment. Not addiction. Not another person or thing. Not betrayal. Not unbearable, excruciating pain. No threats of death. Not personal desolation. Nothing got between Them. The world, try as it may, could not hold Him.

He acted and was not acted upon, except as the Father willed (see 2 Nephi 2:13, 14, 26). “I and my Father are one,” He said (see John 10:30).

This afternoon, I read in the scriptures that those who inherit the celestial kingdom of God “overcome by faith” and will “overcome all things” (see D&C 76:53, 60). In other words, we can overcome all things through faith in Jesus Christ, who overcame the world. We can act and not be acted upon. We can be truly free.

Overcoming the world through faith in Christ is, to me, the ultimate freedom.