This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
June 19-25, 2023
Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19
In every word and deed, Jesus Christ exemplified pure love—what the Apostle Paul called charity (see 1 Corinthians 13). At no time was this more evident than during the final hours of the Savior’s mortal life. His dignified silence in the face of false accusations demonstrated that He “is not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:5). His willingness to submit to scourging, mocking, and crucifixion—while restraining His power to end His torments—showed that He “suffereth long” and “beareth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7). His compassion toward His mother and His mercy toward His crucifiers—even during His own incomparable suffering—revealed that He “seeketh not [His] own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). In His final moments on earth, Jesus was doing what He had done throughout His mortal ministry—teaching us by showing us. Indeed, charity is “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47).
And yet, according to Romans 5:8, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (referring to believers). I agree that what Jesus did for the benefit of all who would receive His Gospel is nothing less than incredible. That is the message the Gospels portray.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19
Jesus Christ’s willingness to suffer shows His love for the Father and for all of us.
Although the Savior had power to call down “legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53), He voluntarily chose to endure unjust trials, cruel mocking, and unimaginable physical pain. Why did He do it? “Because of his loving kindness,” Nephi testified, “and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).
You might begin your study of the Savior’s final hours by reading 1 Nephi 19:9. Where in Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; and John 19 do you find examples of each thing that Nephi said Jesus would suffer?
“[They] judge him to be a thing of naught”
“They scourge him”
“They smite him”
“They spit upon him”
Which passages help you feel the Savior’s “loving kindness” toward you? What other thoughts and feelings do you have as you read these accounts? Consider writing them down or sharing them with someone.
I find it interesting that, when there are multiple passages in the New Testament (the object of this year-long series) readily available, the authors of this series often feel it is necessary to quote from the Book of Mormon, just as it does here (1 Nephi 19:9) and in the previous paragraph (Moroni 7:47). Why? These references seem to have been given on purpose as a way to somehow insert references to Mormonism’s most important scripture. What a shame.
Let me provide other passages found in the Gospel account that would have been much better suited as supplementary scriptures instead of passages from the Book of Mormon:
- 1 Peter 1:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”
- 1 John 3:16: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
- Hebrews 2:14: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”
- 1 John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
- Ephesians 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
These would be a start. And more could be added. As far as a prediction of the forthcoming of the Savior supposedly found in 1 Nephi 9, did the writers even consider using Isaiah 53? It says:
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Obviously, Jesus is the prefect fulfillment of this passage. Indeed, Isaiah 53 is stronger than anything offered in the Book of Mormon. We also have specific evidence to show how the Book of Isaiah was composed before the life of Christ, as Cave 1 in the Dead Sea Scrolls contained two copies from before the time of Christ as scholars say it was composed in 125 BC. As far as the Book of Mormon, there is no evidence to show that it was an early book.
Matthew 27:27–49, 54; Mark 15:16–32; Luke 23:11, 35–39; John 19:1–5
Mocking cannot change the truth.
While Jesus had endured mocking throughout His ministry, it grew more intense during His scourging and Crucifixion. But this mocking could not change the truth: Jesus is the Son of God. As you read about the humiliation Jesus endured, think about the opposition and mocking His work faces today. What insights do you gain about enduring opposition? What impresses you about the centurion’s words in Matthew 27:54?
Opposition will always be against those of moral character in this world, regardless of which religion it is. Perhaps this could be considered a poke at what we at MRM do and this may be considered “mocking.” But this is not true. There are serious claims against Mormonism. By discussing the issues and not arguing against the person (ad hominem logical fallacy), the object is to discover truth.
If Mormonism is not true, then it will stand up against the “opposition.” We call this “inference to the best explanation,” meaning the evidence is compiled and compared with the truth claims in order to determine which makes the best sense of what is reality. As my friend Peter Barnes–a Jehovah’s Witness for 30 years before he became a Bible-believing Christian in the 1970s–used to say, “Error will always run from truth, but truth will never run from error.”
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How has reading about the Crucifixion strengthened your testimony that Jesus is the “Son of God”?
As talked about in last week’s lesson review, it is the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross that provides for forgiveness of sins. It is a crucial event because without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness.
What do we learn from these verses about how we can love and support family members?
Jesus took care of his mother, handing the responsibility to his friend John. It’s a beautiful scene. Christians have nothing against the family and the social structure that is badly neglected and abused in our society today. However, the family is not an entity that ought to be placed on a pedestal. These LDS leaders go overboard in their assessment of the family:
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball:
“Oh, brothers and sisters, families can be forever! Do not let the lures of the moment draw you away from them! Divinity, eternity, and family—they go together, hand in hand, and so must we!”Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, 212. Italics in original).
Notice the lack of mention of Jesus. Here is James E. Faust, a member of the First Presidency:
“The Savior’s supernal gift to mankind gave us the opportunity for eternal life, but eternal life without our loved ones would be bleak.”“Eternity Lies before Us,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1997, 19.
Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said,
“I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisiacal, beauty that we speak of heaven – I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, my children. It would, it would not be heaven for me.”(Introductory DVD shown at various LDS temple public viewings or open house
When I hear that quote, I ask, “What is Jesus? Chopped liver?”
But perhaps this citation takes the cake:
“Only in and through the family unit can we obtain eternal life”Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual Religion 231 and 232, 1986, 78.
Jesus seemed to be very clear that everything in life–money, jobs, power, and even families–ought to be of secondary importance compared to seeking first after God. And still, all of these things are quite important, but only with the right priority. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
I love my family as I think most Mormons do love theirs. It’s a good thing to put time and energy into one’s family; they are worth the investment and love. But to place family as a priority over seeking God is not what the Bible teaches. If families are to be such a high priority, then what do we do with Luke 14:26. It says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
I do not believe Jesus is saying we should “hate” our family members. Not at all. What He is saying, though, is that when you compare your affection for God with your family, there should be no comparison. A reason I can say this is reflecting on the final act of Jesus when He was on the cross. He told one of His best friends to take care of Mary since He would no longer be here. If Jesus intended for us to hate our families, such a command would make absolutely no sense.
When I have asked Latter-day Saints what they most look forward to most in the next life, I am told that they anticipate to be with their family forever. That’s even a motto in the church, “Families are Forever.” What I rarely hear in any response, though, is any mention of God and Jesus. When I have pointed this out, I am usually told that this was “assumed.” Was it? (The “family” certainly could be assumed as well, so why does the “family” so highly emphasized?)
My question is this: If the family is placed on a pedestal higher than God, isn’t that the same as idolatry?
We’re nearing the end of this series’ look at the Gospels. We are almost half done with the year and yet we’re still not out of the study of the four Gospels, which comprises less than half of the New Testament. Unfortunately, I feel that the reader has been short-changed. The Gospels have so much to offer and yet this series is like eating popcorn and candy for dinner rather than a meal of nutrition.
Mormonism’s presuppositions are clearly presented but the heart meaning of these passages is missing. My only hope is that having Latter-day Saints focus so much energy on the Bible will cause them to want to study it more for themselves and read this book like, as my friend Micah Wilder puts it, a little child. This series will certainly not satisfy the hunger pangs a spiritual person has.