Lesson 25: “Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done”
Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19
Purpose: To strengthen class members’ testimonies that they can receive forgiveness, peace, and eternal life because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
If you were writing a book about your life so that your great-grandchildren could understand the most important things you were involved in, the things that mattered most to you, what might you include? Would you devote as much space to, say, your childhood birthday parties as to [choose significant event mentioned by class member]? Why?
If you were writing a book about the life of Jesus Christ so that your great-grandchildren could understand the most important things he did for us, the things that mattered most, what might you include? What do you think you would devote the greatest amount of space to? Why? [Steer discussion in the direction of the Atonement.]
Would you agree that the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, and what he did there, was one of the central events of his mission? Would it surprise you to realize that in all of scripture – the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price – we have only 34 verses directly reporting on the events of the Garden of Gethsemane? Oh, there is more reporting on the death of the Savior on the cross, and on his Resurrection, which have to be considered as part of the Atonement, and there is quite a bit on the meaning and importance of the Atonement, and prophecies pointing toward the Atonement, but as for reporting what happened in the Garden, we have only those very few lines.
Why do you suppose the scriptures report so little about such a significant event?
The Savior was arrested in the Garden and never again spent a quiet moment with his disciples – how did Matthew and Mark and Luke learn even as much as they report about what happened in the Garden?
Does this tell you anything about what scripture is, or is not, and how we know what we know about sacred things?
SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. The Savior takes upon himself our sins and infirmities.
2. We need the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Matthew gives us a short account – 11 verses – about the Garden of Gethsemane. Let’s take that as our base text and read Matthew 26:36-46:
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, 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.
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to the Garden. Why those three? Why not all eleven?
Jesus asks Peter, James, and John, to wait, or wake, or watch with him, while Jesus goes off a little way to pray. Why does he ask that of them? Why? Do you think the watchfulness and praying is to benefit Jesus, or the three men?
[If class members suggest that the watchfulness can help Jesus in any way and wasn’t solely for the benefit of the men themselves, ask:] Can you think of any other time in recorded scripture where Jesus asked his friends to help him for his own sake, his own comfort? What does that suggest to you about the ordeal Jesus was about to face?
Three times Jesus returns, to find the men asleep. What does he do the first time? How is that different from what he does the second and third times? Why? Does the difference mean anything? Could it symbolize anything that is a lesson for us?
[If class members cannot answer, or are unsure, state that I don’t have the answers, either. We may not be able to answer such questions neatly and meaningfully – but the purpose of discussing the gospel together isn’t necessarily that we have all the answers in nice, convenient packages. I hope that some of our unanswered questions stay with class members, that they will nibble at the edges of their consciousness and they will continue to think about the Atonement and try to puzzle out more of its significance, rather than believing we can sum it up in 50 tidy words.]
Jesus went off a little distance into the grove each time to pray. Why might he have gone off alone? If he wanted the three apostles to watch and wait and pray for him, why not pray there in their immediate presence?
When Jesus asks that the cup be taken from him, if possible, what is he asking to avoid?
Speaking to Joseph Smith many centuries later, the Savior reporting that his suffering in the Garden was so great that it caused him “to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” so much so that he was inclined to “shrink” – to pull away from the magnitude of his suffering (D&C 19:18). The account found in Luke adds a detail to Matthew’s account that suggests how great was the pain Jesus suffered:
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
James E. Talmage wrote that:
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. (Jesus the Christ, 613).
This is the part of the Atonement that we most often talk about: Christ suffered mentally and spiritually and emotionally for our sins, “that they [mankind] might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16).
And yet, as grievous as our sins are, payment for our sins is not all that the Atonement was about. Jesus suffered so that everything, not alone our guilt for sin, but that everything that goes wrong in this fallen world can one day be made right. Let’s read what Nephi wrote about the Atonement in 2 Nephi 9:21:
And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
Other than guilt for sin, what are some of the situations occurring in mortality that are covered by the Atonement? [Keep discussion brief, but draw out a few examples of the suffering of innocents in consequence of the sins of others, and the pains of life – e.g., inherited physical weaknesses, the suffering of women to give birth – that are the consequences of living in a fallen world.]
I’ve long taken comfort in that aspect of the Atonement, knowing that sometime, somewhere, in a way that I do not begin to understand, all things will be made right. We see this, perhaps, in the way the Lord has made it possible for our ancestors, born in times and places over which they had no control and in which they had no hope of learning the gospel, will have an opportunity to hear and receive all the blessings that we more fortunate generations have the opportunity to do. It gives me hope that people whose lives were stunted by the actions of others – by the crippled or unclean bodies they were born with due to the sins of their parents, the loss of opportunities due to neglect and abuse, the immoral lives led because no one taught them better – will somehow, somewhere be set right, that no blessing will be withheld from us if we accept the power of the Atonement and make it active in our lives.
In the book of Mosiah, King Benjamin prophecies about the coming Atonement of the Savior, including a reference to what would happen in the Garden. Let’s read Mosiah 3:7:
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
We are used to thinking about Jesus’s suffering in the Garden as an atonement for “the wickedness and the abominations” of the world – our sins. This verse, though, gives me a hint of how those other things – our physical suffering and the other consequences of being born into a fallen world – can be made right. Not only would Christ suffer temptations, or for our sins, in the Garden; he would suffer “pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue” there. He would suffer all the consequences of mortality, and overcome them all.
Is this an idea that brings comfort to you? [Discuss]
We should, perhaps, discuss briefly how the Atonement works, how Christ’s suffering for us in the Garden and on the Cross makes it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins and for all the wrong things of life to be made right.
This is an area that calls for the greatest humility on our part. Despite all the talks, all the books, about the Atonement, about its centrality to the Plan of Salvation, about the great love of the Savior in performing that work for us, we really know very little about how and why the Atonement works. It seems to me that it would be the grossest display of human pride for us to believe that we can explain the Atonement in a few words, as if we fully understood it.
Prophets and apostles have generally resorted to metaphors to share their own understanding of the Atonement, and we have several different metaphors that may be more or less reliable. [As these are discussed, write “Debt,” “Ransom,” and “Cleansing” on whiteboard]
* The first is one that we are probably the most familiar with, because it is a metaphor used by President Packer on several occasions. He teaches that, due to our sins, we are like debtors who have borrowed money that we cannot repay. We will be cast into prison, except for the generosity of the Savior, who steps forward voluntarily to pay our debts. This view is often condensed to the maxim “Mercy cannot rob justice.”
What do you think of this metaphor? How does it help you understand the workings of the Atonement?
* Another metaphor sometimes used is the ransom of captives. Let’s read in Moses 4:4 about the origin of Satan:
And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
In this metaphor, we are like captives in a dungeon, until Christ comes and of his own free will pays a ransom to purchase our freedom. The evangelist Mark is using this metaphor when (Mark 10:45) he says:
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
So is Paul, when he writes to Timothy and describes Jesus (1 Timothy 2:6) as the one:
Who gave himself a ransom for all …
We sing about this idea in the Sacrament hymn “Reverently and Meekly Now” when we sing, “Think of me, thou ransomed one.”
What do you think of that metaphor? It leans heavily on the mercy of Jesus – does justice play any role in this analogy?
* Another common metaphor is that the Atonement is a cleansing. Alma taught (Alma 40:26):
But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.
But the blood of Christ – his Atonement – washes us clean from the effects of sin, he says (Alma 5:27):
Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
What do you think of this metaphor?
So here we have three very different explanations for the Atonement – a debt paid to justice, a ransom paid to the devil, and a cleansing that makes us fit to enter the presence of God. LDS theologians have outlined other metaphors teaching other aspects of the Atonement as well.
Are they all true, despite how different they are? Does any single metaphor explain everything we’d like to know about the Atonement?
Does it matter if we understand precisely how the Atonement works?
What does matter?
[Testimony, building on the words from Luke 22:42: “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”]