Tuesday, June 30, 2009

John 3

Chapter 3

Nicodemus comes to the Savior in the middle of the night (bad smoke alarms?) and asks Jesus questions he should have known the answer to. The Savior in verse 10 asks him why he isn't teaching these things if he has the writings of the prophets and is a Rabbi? The Jews must have been almost devoid of using the scriptures and only discusses things related to keeping the Law of Moses.

Verse 23 is another proof that baptism was done by complete immersion. Why go all the way to Aenon, where there are lots of springs and pools of water to simply sprinkle? The word baptism comes from the Greek word Baptizo which means to make fully wet or fully immersed. In Romans and Colossians the words "buried with him in baptism" are used. Immersion is important because being completely immersed in our baptism symbolizes the Savior being buried in the tomb and then coming up out of the water symbolizes his coming forth out of the tomb a newly resurrected being to live eternal life. We come up out of the water a new person, washed clean and ready for a new spiritual life.

John says that he must begin to decrease his ministry as the Savior increases his. I wonder if John also had an inkling that his life would be short.

Monday, June 29, 2009

John 2

Chapter 2

The Joseph Smith Translation makes much more sense of verse 4. I can't imagine the Savior being so disrespectful of his mother as to say "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" This sounds like a harsh rebuke. He would have loved his mother with a perfect love and respect and wanted others to know how they should treat their parents. The JST changes it to "Woman, what wilt thou have me do for thee?" This makes sense because Mary is asking the Savior what they should do to get more wine for the marriage feast.

The marriage feast was evidently hosted by his mother. The wine they used for these feasts was a grape juice, not the fermented juice. A firkin is about nine gallons so with the water pots holding two to three firkins each, the Savior created between 108 and 162 gallons, a huge amount. This miracle is the first that Jesus did and is only recorded in John.

I like the way verse 12 is worded, "he, and his mother, and his brethren and his disciples." I think this hints at his relationship with his mother and how she was a priority in his life.

When the Savior overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple, the people were changing the Roman coins into temple coins so the sacrificial animals could be bought. The money changers did this for a profit to themselves. The people also had to pay a half shekel tax. This enterprise of merchandising desecrated the temple and it's purpose of looking forward to the atonement of Christ.

Elder McConkie says that the Savior's driving the money changers and animals out of the temple shows three things:

1. The Savior was meek and lowly, but he was also a dynamic, forceful being, a man of courage and physical strength.

2. God was his father.

3. The temple was still his Father's house, even though those who worshipped there did so in darkness and great apostasy.

Verse 24 basically says that Jesus knows all things.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

John 1

I love the book of John. Because some are behind in the reading, I'm only going to do one chapter at a time for a while.

Chapter 1

It helps with verses 1-2 to substitute the word Christ for "Word." These verses show that the Savior was a God along with the Father before he ever came into this life and all things of this earth were created by him. With verses 31 and 33, the JST removes the word "not." This makes more sense, especially since John the Baptist does bear witness of him in verse 34. In verse 34, he calls the Savior the Son of God bearing witness of the Savior's lineage. In verse 35, he calls the Savior the Lamb of God referring to the Savior's mission. Verses 37 to the end of the chapter show that the 12 apostles knew he was the Messiah and the Savior knew them before ever seeing them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Luke 23 and 24

Chapter 23
Did you notice the lie in verse 2? The Savior had told the people to render to Caesar but now they accuse him before Pilate, the Roman ruler over Jerusalem, of subverting Roman authority by teaching the people to not pay taxes. Pilate obviously doesn't buy it. It's also interesting that the Savior will talk to Pilate, but to Herod the Jewish leader, he won't speak at all. Herod was excited to see him hoping for a miracle, but the Savior will not acknowledge him.

Chapter 24
Verses 36-43 are great evidence that the resurrected Savior has a body of flesh and bones and we will also when we are resurrected. The apostles and others that are gathered together are startled when they see the Savior, thinking they are seeing a spirit. But the Savior goes to great lengths to show them that as a resurrected being he has a body. "Handle me, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh an bones as ye see me have." Then he eats with them to prove it further. If you look at Romans 6:5, it says, "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death (meaning our baptism where are buried in the water symbolizing the Savior's death), we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection..." In Third Nephi, over 2500 people feel the body of the Savior has he witnesses to them that he is the Messiah and he is a resurrected being with a body of flesh and bones. Finally, we have the witness of and revelations given to Joseph Smith. In the D&C section 130:22: "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us." Isn't great how the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants always agree?

Verses 25-27 show that the Old Testament prophets, from Moses on, taught of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Those scriptures were removed before the Savior's birth.

Verse 45 shows that the 12 were kept from understanding everything.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Luke 21 and 22

Chapter 21

I love the Greek translation of verse 19. "In your patience, win mastery over your soul." This life certainly takes patience.

The Joseph Smith translation makes verses 24 and 25 more clear. Through verse 24, the JST says he was speaking concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. Then the 12 ask him concerning his 2nd coming and he starts telling about that with the end of verse 24 and the times of the gentiles being fulfilled.

Chapter 22

I think verse 20 is further evidence that when the Savior introduced the Sacrament to the 12, he was teaching them how they make and renew their covenant with it and had them make the same covenants we do. They didn't just eat the bread and drink the wine. The Greek translation says "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you."

Verses 31-38 are stated in a sequence that I think show that the Savior is telling Peter he will have to deny the Savior three times because Peter would not deny him unless he was told to. Peter is ready to be killed with the Savior, but like we talked about before, the Savior wants him preserved to lead the church and to strengthen the other apostles. Verse 61 is telling too. After Peter denies the Savior the third time, it says "the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord..." What a tough moment it must have been for Peter. I think when the Lord looked at him, he it was a look that said, it's okay. It was important that you deny me.

Luke is the only gospel that tells us that the Savior sweat drops of blood. Elder McConkie thinks that Adam was the angel who ministered to the Savior. He says there are two important gardens in this world, Eden and Gethsemane. The Savior ministered to Adam in Eden and Adam ministered to the Savior in Gethsemane.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Luke 19 and 20

Luke 19

Publicans were considered sinners to the Jews. Zacchaeus is a form of Zacharias. It is a Jewish name. Zacchaeus evidently extorted money from people at one time, but then restored it four fold. It appears that he is repenting of what he had done.

The man who did nothing to invest the money is the one condemned. It is those who know but fail to act that the Lord is unhappy with. I am always a little amazed when people who are members of the church, but never attend, will still call if they need food or money or a blessing. Every once in a while, some of those come back and get involved, but not too often.

Luke gives one of the most extensive prophesies of the Savior of Jerusalem's coming destruction.

Luke 20

In the parable of he vineyard, the people seem to understand that the Lord is saying that it has been the Jewish people's privilege to be the chosen people to do he work of the Lord, but because they are going to slay the Savior, they will lose that privilege and the kingdom will be given to another people. This is why they say in verse 16, "God forbid," or the Greek translation is "May it not be." Even the Pharisees get this one (see verse 19).

I love that the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers and scribes all finally give up trying to trick the Savior into giving a false answer and decide not to question him anymore. You would think they would have realized long before this that they were way out classed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Luke 17 and 18

Chapter 17

While there is much to learn in this chapter, there is one sentence that I think is among the most important in the New Testament. It is in verse 21, "The kingdom of God is within you." Everything we search for, the meaning of life, our purpose in life, is already within us. Knowing God, having a testimony of the gospel, knowing that Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son, knowing the Book of Mormon is scripture, all of these things we already knew before we came to this life. ALL spiritual knowledge is within us. Mortality and the veil buries this knowledge and how long it remains buried is up to us. We have the promise that all things can be revealed to us. The Savior says knock and he will open the spiritual doors for us. If we look without, in the world or in others, we won't find it because it is within us. Each day we live righteously, each day that we pray and read some scriptures, the door opens a little wider and a little more light is revealed. We just need to search deep and learn what is in our hearts. It's the most valuable thing in life there is. It's called the Pearl of Great Price (not the book) and because it is so valuable and personally sacred, it doesn't come without paying the price of sacrifice and effort. But it does come.

Chapter 18

I like the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee is doing everything perfect and as a result knows he is more righteous than everyone else. It's the typical "look at me the spiritual giant." We've all seen them. In contrast, the publican is aware of his faults and failings and asks the Lord for his mercy. It's important to notice that the Lord does not justify our righteous acts if our hearts are not where they should be. When our hearts are where they should be, we recognize our imperfections, they bother us, and we try to do better. But the great message is, when our hearts are right, we can know the Lord extends his mercy and it covers our imperfections and in spite of them, He still justifies us, meaning he still accepts us. He has already paid the price of our imperfections for us. That is a very comforting thought to me.

The Joseph Smith Translation of verse 27 is important. Take a look at the footnote for that verse.

Verse 34 shows that the 12 are not able to understand what the Savior will be going through with the atonement and resurrection until after when they receive the Holy Ghost. It is kept from them for good reason.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Luke 15 and 16

Chapter 15

The Pharisees are shepherds who do not fulfill their responsibility. They only condemn lost sheep while never letting the other 99 out of the fold for spiritual nourishment. The woman can be looked at as the church today who continually searches through their house for those who are less active. The prodigal son deserts the family and seeks to go beyond or be away from the father's (Lord's) influence. He ends up feeding swine, the lowest and most degrading job to a Jew. The father continually watches for his return and when he does there is no condemnation. When a person repents, the worst condemnation comes from their own self, not the Lord. I think this is why some people have an easier time feeling forgiven of the Lord, but cannot forgive themselves, even though He has. Notice that the son is fully reinstated to the family and restored to his sonship. Verse 30 is a key verse. The other brother is prideful and has no love for his returning sibling. Notice he says, "this thy son." He doesn't say "this my brother." There is no rejoicing at his brother's return, only concern for his own position and what he's received or not received. Take a look at Matthew 18:14.

All of this is a condemnation of the pharisees who are only interested in condemning those who are lost and not helping them to find their way back.

Chapter 16

The Lord isn't endorsing deceitful acts of the steward, but saying the disciples who he now is talking to should be diligent in applying themselves for their heavenly future. Worldly wealth shouldn't be squandered on selfish, worldly pleasures. The Lord was contrasting those who are careful and thoughtful in their money making affairs and those who look after their affairs in a half hearted way. Elder Talmadge says this parable teaches us to use our money in such a way that it will help us have friends after this life. Use mammon, which is worldly wealth, for righteous purposes. God, in reality, is the one who blesses us with what wealth we have and we are accountable for how we use it.

The rich man and Lazarus further illustrates this in a spiritual way. The rich man never repented, never used his wealth to bless others and now there is a wide spiritual gulf between him and Lazarus that cannot be made up. Just being a member of the church guarantees us nothing. It is what we do with our stewardship (membership).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Luke 13 and 14

Chapter 13

In the first 5 verses of this chapter, the people are referring to a natural disaster and then the Lord also refers to one. The people are inferring that people suffered and died in them because they were wicked and God punished them, much like Job's friends did to him. The Savior tells them that they are more likely to perish because of their wickedness than those people in the disasters were. God has sent disasters upon people who are extremely wicked. But more often than not, disasters are natural occurrences.

I think verse 17 is a telling verse. His adversaries are ashamed and the people are rejoicing over what the Savior is doing. The Pharisees and other religious leaders were terribly oppressive. The people could hardly sneeze with any freedom there were so many rules and restrictions. Now the Savior is showing how senseless and unfeeling these rules are, how more important people and their needs are. Like the mustard seed and the leaven in the bread, the gospel applied correctly in our lives makes it possible for us to grow and produce fruit in great abundance.

I like at the end of the chapter where the Pharisees warn the Savior about Herod. They are such cowards. They can't compete with the Savior so they say, "You better watch out or Herod is going to get you!"

Chapter 14

What a great lesson about humility in verses 1 to 11. These are great verses for those who ever aspired to a leadership position in the church. The Lord will elevate us at the right time and place. In the meantime, we should be among the most humble of people.

With the guests accepting an invitation to a supper but then giving all kinds of excuses why they can't come, I like to compare this to serving in the church. The Lord has invited us to such wonderful blessings in the church. Then all he asks is that we home teach or do something else. So often, people, find excuses not to help, or do their part unless it's something important and others will think they are someone important.

In verses 25 to the end of the chapter, the

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Luke 11 and 12

Chapter 11

I think most people feel that the Lord's Prayer is one the more beautiful statements in scripture. The Savior is giving us a wonderful example of how to pray, but it is not meant to be a prayer that we say verbatim. When I was in the Methodist Church, we often prayed using the Lord's Prayer only. But it is only a guideline as are all of the prayers the Lord says in scripture. I appreciate the Joseph Smith Translation clarifying the "lead us not into temptation" statement. The Lord doesn't lead us into temptation, satan does along with many of the things of the world. The JST says, "And let us not be led unto temptation."

In Chapter 11, the Lord is speaking to the people and to the wicked Pharisee leaders. He pronounces all of his woes on the pharisees in this chapter, which is a way of condemning them and telling them their fate is sealed because of their hypocrisy.

Chapter 12

In Chapter 12, the Lord is speaking to the 12 apostles. He warns them of the false teachings of the pharisees and other leaders. He tells them to not fear anything except those which can harm them spiritually. They should learn to rely on the Holy Ghost when they must speak to magistrates and other leaders who can imprison them. Then maybe because of the leadership position they are in, he tells them not seek to be rich and to have lots of possessions. There are four great rules or teachings that I think are important for life in this chapter:

1. Verse 15. Our life's success, our importance, is not determined by what and how much we possess. His warning is, we could die tomorrow and then what good will all of our possessions be to us?

2. Verse 21. Those who seek to obtain riches are not rich in the things of God. As a result, they are left with nothing if that is all their efforts in life were based on. People whose whole life is focused on having possessions and positions of power are those who have nothing. That is why some of them commit suicide when they lose it all that they have.

3. Verse 31. If you seek the kingdom of God first, then all that you will ever need will be given to you in abundance. The Lord doesn't mind us being rich, of having an abundance. That can come, but we have to have him first in our life. Then we can be truly happy regardless of what happens because our happiness isn't based on things that aren't capable of giving us happiness to begin with.

4. Verse 34. The things you put your most effort into obtaining tells you where your heart is. Our actions and thoughts always reveal our true nature. You can try to fake it, but it never works. No matter how beautiful the boat, if it has a hole, it will fill with water and eventually sink.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Luke 9 and 10

Chapter 9

We've talked about the things that are in this chapter previously. At the end of the chapter in verses 57-62, I think what the Lord is saying is, "If you choose to follow me, it is likely that you will see your home much less, you will not be with your family and always able to take care of family business. And once you've made this commitment, you will be expected to stick with it to the end regardless of how difficult it may become.

Chapter 10

In these first verses, we learn more about church organization. He's appointed the 12 apostles, now he's established the first quorum of 70. Most churches and most people think that the Savior just wandered from village to town preaching and working miracles. But he was organizing his church on earth, establishing leaders and giving specific assignments and instructions for them. In the first verses of Acts, it says that after the Savior's death, he continued to lead the church and give instructions by revelation to the leaders. The church didn't begin after his death, it continued to function as it was already set up. The only difference after his death is the church no longer confined its work to just the Jews. It would now go also to the gentiles meaning the whole world.

What do you think the difference is between verses 10-12 in this chapter and verse 56 in chapter 9?

In verse 24, we have evidence that plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. Here the Savior is saying that the old testament prophets and their kings would have loved to been alive to see and hear what is happening in the Savior's lifetime. They knew of his coming and what his mission and teachings would be. We're much like them. Knowing what we know, don't you wish sometimes you could have seen the Savior's ministry in person?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Luke 7 and 8

Chapter 7

A centurion commands 50 to 100 men. His logic and faith seem to be perfect. He understands that his superiors have the power to command him and he does what was commanded, and he has the power to command men and it is done. Well, if this is the Lord of all, what he says will have the power to be done also.

Jesus asks the people if when they went to see John the Baptist they expected to see a reed blowing in the wind. But what they saw was someone who does not waver like a reed does in the wind. The Savior tells the people that there was no greater prophet than John the Baptist. Joseph Smith said this was for three reasons:

1. He was entrusted with the divine mission to prepare the way for the Savior. No man has ever had such a trust committed to him.

2. He had the mission to baptize the Savior. No other man has had the honor, privilege or glory, of seeing the Holy Ghost descend upon the Savior.

3. He was the only true and legal administrator of the affairs of God's kingdom on the earth at that time. He alone held all of the keys of authority.

We get an insight into the nature of the Savior when he heals the widow's only son. We don't know how much she has suffered in her life. How many other children she has lost in addition to her husband. But she was well known by those of the city because many were with her and carry her son for her to the Savior. It is obvious the people care about this woman. You can sense his tenderness when it says he has compassion on her and tells her to weep not. At some point, all those who believe, but suffer greatly, will hear and feel the same things in their life.

Chapter 8

The woman in Chapter 7 who anoints the Lord and his forgiven of her sins is not Mary Magdalene. She will anoint him later than when this occurs. In Jesus the Christ, Elder Talmadge says that Mary Magdalene was one of the most virtuous and righteous women ever to follow Jesus. Her faith was so great and her good works were so extensive that she was singled out to stand as the first mortal person to see the Lord after his resurrection.

The seed that is sown represents the types of people who hear the gospel. Notice what happens to each of the four:

1. The first group (fall by the wayside) are those who easily allow their belief to be taken from them by Satan who is the author of all doubt.

2. The second group (fall on the rocks) accepts the gospel and are excited, but they do nothing to nourish their belief and it soon withers and dies.

3. The third group (thorns) let the things of the world rob them of belief. They would rather have the things of the world than the gospel.

All three of these have to involve rationalization. All have to convince themselves for false reasons why the gospel isn't true and worth living.

4. The fourth group (good soil) hear the word and then do one simple thing, they keep it. They do what is necessary to maintain their belief and as a result, they bring forth many good works.

In every case, it is really up to the individual person. We cannot make excuses for our unbelief. We only have unbelief when we fail to do what would enable us to have belief and faith. If we do what we should, the belief will come and our faith will increase. Faster than we would think it would. It just takes that first step in the right direction and then we keep moving forward.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Luke 5 and 6

Chapter 5

Maybe a couple of thoughts related to the Savior directing them where to fish. He didn't have them fish from the shore, but from out where the water was deep. The Lord doesn't expect us to stand on the sidelines but launch our lives deep into the gospel. Second, when they fish as he has told them to, they accomplished far more than they had dreamed. The same thing happens when we live the gospel life and keep the commandments. Peter tells him he's already tried it his (Peter's way), but he's willing and then does it the Savior's way. Finally, what I think the Lord is saying is, "Come do my work and you'll be amazed at the number of people who will come in the gospel fold because of your efforts."

Chapter 6

Verses 12 and 13 are important regarding how the Lord directs his church. He prayed all night before choosing the 12 and then it says he chose them. They didn't just decide to go to seminary and become ministers, the Savior chose them. John 15:16 says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you." To be a leader in the Savior's church, he must choose you and then you must be ordained by the Savior or someone he has given the authority to. We talked about the beatitudes in Matthew and Mark, but notice how all of them relate back to the two great commandments.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Luke 3 and 4

Chapter 3

Here's something to speed up your reading; you can skip verses 24 to the end of the chapter. In Matthew, the Savior's genealogy was through Joseph. This one in Luke traces his line through Mary. Joseph's is the royal line showing his right to the throne of David.

In verse 14, the soldiers ask John the Baptist what they should do. He tells them to accuse no man falsely and be satisfied with their wages. The soldiers would make people extort money from them by threatening to arrest them unless they did. John is telling them to stop the extortion and just be happy with the wages they have.

You can understand why the people think he is the Christ, his teachings are so similar to the Savior's.

Luke clears up the Holy Ghost being a dove when it descended on Christ after the baptism. He says the Holy Ghost was in the shape of a body and descended like a dove.

Chapter 4

Joseph Smith clears up some confusion by pointing out that the Savior wasn't tempted for 40 days, but was tempted after his 40 day fast in the wilderness. He also clears up something that makes much more sense. The devil didn't lead the Savior anywhere. The Savior was led by the Spirit and satan came to him after he was at each of the three places talked about. The Savior wouldn't follow satan anywhere. I like that the scriptures say that the Savior was full of the Holy Ghost and and in the power of the Spirit. Each time the Savior is tempted, he replies to satan by citing scripture showing the importance of keeping the Father's words and relying on the authority of the scriptures. In each temptation, the Savior emphasizes the importance of the spirit over ruling the body. Of course this has nothing to do with Hagen Das Bars!

The three temptations show the pattern of how satan tempts us and how the Savior helps us resist those temptations. This is a great quote from President McKay:

"Now, nearly every temptation that comes to you and me comes in one of those forms. Classify them, and you will find that under one of those three nearly every given temptation that makes you and me spotted, every so little maybe, comes to us as (1) a temptation of the appetite; (2) a yielding to the pride and fashion and vanity of those alienated from the things of God; or (3) a gratifying of the passions, or a desire for the riches of the world, or power among men."

Verses 16 to 30 give us a lot more detail of when he went back to Nazareth and couldn't perform miracles there, except for how he escaped their attempt to murder him my miraculously pass right through the midst of them untouched.

I like how the scriptures in this chapter describe the people as amazed and how they marvel at not just his miracles, but his words.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Luke 1 and 2

Chapter 1

Luke is a physician and was born of gentile parents.  We don't know if converted to Judaism and then Christianity or if he went from being a gentile to being a Christian.  He was with Paul in most of his travels (that's where we first hear of him) and was with Paul in his second imprisonment in Rome.  He also wrote the of Acts and both of these were written to his friend Theophilus.  Luke and John are my two favorites of the Gospels.  They are filled with wonderful stories about the Savior.

I think there is an interesting contrast between Mary and Zacharias.  When the angel appears to Zacharias, and tells him his wife will be with child, he doubts.  When the angel appears to Mary and tells her she will become pregnant, but not by a mortal man, and on top of that, she will be pregnant with the Messiah, she says, Here I am, let the Lord use me as he wants.  Both of them ask how what is going to happen to them can be possible, but Zacharias must not initially believe it because the angel takes away his ability to speak.  I think Mary is marveling and wondering how this is will happen, but not doubting that it can.  Both Mary and Elizabeth must be amazing people.  I love verses 46-55.  They are beautiful.  They are sometimes called the psalm of Mary.  And the prophecy of Zacharias  in verses 68-79 is beautiful too.  You can sense the change in Zacharias' faith in these verses.

Chapter 2

The word taxed in verses 1-3 is actually a bad translation.  What is happening is that a census is required every few years and each person has to return to the place of their birth to be registered.  Have you ever wondered why the angels appear to the shepherds and not to other people?  I used to think that it was because they were humble and would be believing. And that's probably true.  But I also wonder if it isn't for symbolism.  The true shepherd of all sheep is now born.

There is an important verse in this chapter, it's 19.  The shepherds are telling everyone that the Messiah has been born, but Mary has told no one what has happened to her.  Only Elizabeth, Zacharias and Joseph know.  Think what would have happened to her if she had started telling people that she was going to give birth to the Messiah.  She would have been mocked, maybe stoned for blaspheme.  If it had become known she was pregnant and not by Joseph, she would have been stoned to death for fornication.  I think she wasn't so concerned about that as she was being sensitive to how sacred and important this was.  It would not be her responsibility to bear witness that her child was the Messiah. It was her responsibility to give birth to him.  It's like Emma.  She didn't see the plates.  The Lord didn't require her to be a witness.  The Lord required her to stand by Joseph.

I love the stories of Simeon and Elizabeth.  When we were in Jerusalem, we sat on the steps of the Temple Mount that Mary and Joseph would have climbed to take Jesus to the Temple to be presented to the Lord.  Multitudes of people would be coming to the temple everyday.  But out of all the multitudes coming to the temple, and the very many also bringing their children to be presented, Simeon and Elizabeth are able to recognize which of all those children is the Messiah.  They could only have done this by the Spirit.  It makes me wonder how much I miss in life because I'm not in tune.  It's interesting that Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul.  He is alluding to the crucifixion.

In verse 46, it says that the Savior is asking the priests and doctors questions, but the Joseph Smith Translation makes more sense.  The JST says they were listening to him and asking him questions, not the other way around.  That's why they were astonished at his answers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mark 15 and 16

Chapter 15

Regardless of who they were or what they had done, I have to wonder what kind of person mocks someone who has been crucified.  Contrast those people, the ones who were referred to as the "chosen people,"  the ones with the knowledge of the true God with the Roman soldier, a gentile, who recognized that he was the Son of God.  We are told that all of the suffering in Gethsemane came again to the Savior on the cross.  And for the second time, he was left alone without the presence of the Father.  Later, he will say, I have trod the winepress alone.    If we ever feel alone or abandoned, we can be sure he understands.  Mary, his mother is present when he dies, but because there is no mention of Joseph, it is assumed that he has passed away.

Chapter 16

When we were in Israel, I thought that the one place I would really feel the Spirit was in the Garden Tomb.  Several of the prophets have said that this was the tomb of the Savior.  When we were there, there was a long line to get into the tomb.  Later, I was able to go back and go in by myself.  I didn't feel anything and then the thought came into my mind, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?"  As I turned to leave, I noticed as sign over the inside of the doorway there was a sign that said "He is not here. He is risen."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mark 13 and 14

Chapter 13

Many of the awful things that will happen prior to the second coming are listed in this chapter.  1 Nephi 22 should be read with this chapter because in Nephi, the Lord says numerous times how he will protect the righteous and the righteous do not need to fear.  The righteous will be in the midst of the calamities and will experience them, but they will understand what is happening and why, and will know how to stand in holy places where they will be protected.  Many of these things that were predicted are already in progress and we shouldn't be surprised that they are.  But we should be wise and aware.

It's important to remember that no one knows the time of the second coming.  I remember some were predicting that the year 2000 would be the time.  Now, 2012 is the big prediction.  I think we're a long way from it.  But we should be prepared as if it is tomorrow.

Chapter 14

It's interesting that Mary anoints the Savior's head in preparation for the atonement and crucifixion.  The men chastise her for wasting precious ointments.  Once again, it's the women who are sensitive and understand spiritually while the men are being their usual practical selves.  Women are so much more sensitive to the Spirit than men and men would be wise to recognize it and rely more on them.  For some reason, it seems like this little incident is what sent Judas over the edge.  He was in charge of the money and after this happened (he could have been the one complaining) he went to the chief priests and made the arrangements to betray the Savior.

It was the tradition during the passover to eat unleavened bread and wine and have prayers over them.  It must have been a deeply moving experience as the Savior turned the prayers into the first sacrament prayers for remembrance of the physical and spiritual suffering he was about to experience.

The Savior knew what he was going to go through.  But the Greek translation says  that he was amazed, awestruck, astonished at the intensity of what he was suffering.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, it appears that he suffered in these ways:

1.  He had never sinned, so he had never experienced guilt.  He knew what guilt was.  Now he felt the weight of guilt (the suffering those in hell feel) the same as a someone who committed the smallest of sins as well as that of a murderer, a child molester, a sexual deviant.  He was perfectly pure, but now he became the most impure of all by taking all of the sins of all people on him and experiencing the guilt for all so that IF they repented and they would be spared the justice of eternal judgement.  Ezekiel 18 says that if the wicked turn to righteousness, none of their wickedness will be mentioned to them.

2.  He suffered the pain of every possible physical, mental and emotion illness and stress so that he would understand perfectly our pains.  When we suffer a loss of a loved one, he understand perfectly.  If we're bi-polar or depressed, or severely mentally ill, he understands because he experienced it.  If we have intense pain from cancer or other illnesses, if we are fearful, he understands.

3.  Both of the above he experienced far more than we ever will so that no one will experience something he will not have and not understand.

4.  He suffered the loss of the Father's presence.  This is a far greater suffering than we realize and it's hard to understand how powerfully awful this was for him.

It is no wonder that he prayed three times asking the Father if there wasn't some other way this could be done so the suffering could end.  He addressed the Father as  "Abba Father" which is a very intimate term similar to "daddy."

When Judas betrayed the Savior, he just didn't lead the authorities and the priests to him and point him out, he gave the ultimate insult by betraying him with a kiss, an act that in those times was reserved for those who were loved and revered the most.

There wasn't a single time that anyone, the priests, rabbis, scribes, could come up with one single piece of evidence to convict him.  Pilate reaffirmed this when he said that he found no guilt in him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mark 11 and 12

Chapter 11

When Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on the pony being treated as their rightful king, it is the day after he has raised Lazarus from the dead.  There must have been multitudes in the crowd who had witnessed this because he was always surrounded by thousands.  These people were not honoring him in ignorance, but they were honoring him as the Messiah, and doing it in defiance of the Jewish priesthood leadership.   This fulfilled the prophecy in the Old Testament in Zechariah 9:9 that says, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, Shout O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation: lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."  Luke says that as he did this, he looked on the city and wept because of the destruction that would happen in about thirty years.

The fig tree represented a corrupt priesthood that should have been bringing forth fruit but failed.  Just as the tree withered and died, so did the Jewish priesthood in Jerusalem.  I like the fact that once the temple has been cleansed of all the money makers and corrupt thieves, he stayed and healed and taught.  He cleansed the temple on two occasions.  The first time, he called it his Father's house, this time he calls it his house.

I think the scribes, elders and priests knew in their hearts that John the Baptist's authority and teachings were of God and Jesus has caught them in the hypocrisy.

Chapter 12

These same scribes, elders and priests then listen to him tell the parable of vineyard.  In the parable, the owner is the Father who hires husbandmen (overseers) to tend the vineyard (people).   Servants (prophets) are sent by the owner to gather fruit, but the husbandmen beat or kill the them so that no fruit is ever gathered.  Finally he sends his son, his rightful heir, and they kill him.  Because of their wickedness, the husbandmen are destroyed and the vineyard is given to others.  Just has the husbandmen denied the heir, the priests and leadership of the Jews is denying Christ (the Chief Cornerstone).  As a result, their authority was lost to all of Israel and and eventually given to the gentiles through Joseph Smith.  Even today, the prophets and the Savior are denied by those who should know.  It amazes me how ministers of churches can teach that the Savior was only a great teacher, not the Son of God.

The parable marriage in the resurrection is sometimes used by those outside the church to show that there are no marriages performed after death, so our work in the temple to perform marriage sealings for our ancestors is wrong.  But all marriages, as the Savior teaches, will be done before individuals are resurrected.  This is kind of interesting because Sadducees who pose the question don't believe in a resurrection, but understand what it is.  They know that what they ask is incorrect, but they are trying to trick the Savior into giving a wrong answer.

I think if everyone just tried to live the two great commandments. this world would be an amazing place to live in.  We wouldn't have to put up with all of the war, crime, dishonesty, politics, pettiness, and other things that go on. Just dealing with illness and other tragedies is enough but we heap on all this other needless woe on ourselves.  Our hearts would all be like the widow's who gave the mite to the Lord.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mark 9 and 10

Mark 9

Joseph Smith pointed out that Elias, who with Moses appeared to the Savior on the Mount of Transfiguration is John the Baptist.  This makes sense when you consider that in the restoration of the gospel to Joseph Smith, John the Baptist will first restore the Aaronic Priesthood.  Peter, James and John  are there and will restore the Melchizedek Priesthood, Moses will restore the keys for the gathering of Israel for missionary work, and Elijah who will restore the keys for the sealing power which will include work for the dead.

The 12 could not heal the man's son.  The son's father pleads with the Savior who tells him all things are possible to him that believeth.  Then the father says something I think we can all identify with, "I believe.  Help thou my unbelief."  I think all people are like the 12, everyone has spiritual gifts and faith, but we all have different gifts and we all different levels of faith.  The Savior didn't refuse to heal the man's son because of his lack of faith, he still had compassion and healed him.  The Savior told the 12 that only with prayer and fasting would they have enough faith to heal someone like that.  Then I think, how I well did I fast this past fast Sunday?  I'm definitely not developing my faith as well as I could.

The Joseph Smith translation of verses 43-50 is important and clarifying.  The Savior is saying to not associate with those around us who are wicked (symbolized by a foot or a hand, those who would help us).  The church should cast out those who would lead us astray (symbolized by an eye, those who should help us to see clearly).

Mark 10

Verses 1-12 remind me of how important marriage between a man and woman is.  It is an eternal relationship with an eternal purpose.  I remember being in stake disciplinary council where a man whose wife had divorced him continued to harass her after she remarried.  He was using verses 4-12 as an excuse to publicly call her an adulterer.  What he didn't realize is that according Jewish law, to put a wife away was to separate from her.  So if either of them remarried, that would be adultery because they weren't yet divorced.

I love how the Savior rebukes his disciples for not letting the children come to him.  If only the world could the message about how we should treat children.  And the inability of the rich young man to separate himself from his riches to follow the Savior makes me think I'm glad I'm not rich.  It would be nice, but  if I had tons of money, I have to wonder if would stay humble and not treat people differently who had less than me. I admire those who are rich and you wouldn't know it just by talking to them.  Of course, I could give it a try.

The 12 don't understand some things yet.  In verses 35-45 James and John want to sit on his right hand in the kingdom of God.  The Savior asks them if they are willing to go through what he is going to go through in the atonement and crucifixion because that is what earns the privilege of so exalted a position.  They say they are but do not realize what that really means.  Then he tells them they will each suffer death for his sake, but even so, only the Father could grant such a privilege.  Again, for the second or third time, he tells them that to become the greatest, they must be come the servant of all, just as he as left the Father's presence to serve and suffer for everyone.

Finally, I'm impressed with the man who had his sight restored by the Savior.  The Savior tells him he is healed because of his faith.  From that point on, the man follows him unlike others who were healed and then didn't.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mark 7 and 8

Chapter 7

In verses 1-23, the Lord condemns the Pharisees and scribes for keeping the traditions of the elders rather than keeping the commandments.  Being the one who gave the commandments to Moses, he never said anything about washing of hands, or pots and cups.  He doesn't condemn their washings, he condemns them for being more concerned about their traditions than their failure to keep basic commandments like honoring their father and mother.  They're concerned about the food defiling a person.  He says, the food going into the mouth doesn't defile anyone, it's what comes out of their mouth; it's what comes from their heart that defiles them.

Th woman who brings her daughter to him is a Greek, a gentile.  The gospel first goes to the Jews and Jesus tells her that.  She is basically saying, I'm not a Jew (one of the chosen people), but that doesn't mean I can't believe and recognize the source of true spiritual nourishment.

I think it's interesting that the Savior heals the deaf and speech impaired man by doing something that uses the senses the man knows.  You wonder if he did this to enforce the power of the miracle for the man rather than just say the words he does to heal him.  He does the same thing to a blind man in chapter eight.

Chapter 8

In verses 1-9, he miraculously feeds another huge multitude because if they have traveled so far from their homes that they will have difficulty getting back without passing out from hunger.  In verses 10-12, he is troubled because the Pharisees want a sign, but he knows that it is not the miracles that will convert them.  We're the same way a lot of times aren't we?  If we could see a miracle, see an angel, we think that would convince us when only the Holy Ghost can do that.  And usually that only happens when we understand the doctrine.  In verses 14-21, he uses the feeding of the bread to the multitude as a symbol of his feeding the people truth concerning himself as the Savior.  The bread (teachings) of the Pharisees will not fill the people, only his teachings will.

In verses 29 to the end of the chapter, he teaches the 12 how he must suffer the atonement and be crucified, that it is necessary for him to lay down his life in order to save everyone else.  So it's important that they know he is the Savior.  They seem to know he is the Savior but don't yet understand why he must suffer and die.  Then he tells them that people must be willing to give him their lives, or they cannot be saved and his atonement will have been in vain.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mark 5 and 6

Chapter 5

When you think about the fact that the Gospels only contain an extremely small portion of what Jesus did and taught, it is remarkable.  The Apostle John said that if all that Jesus did was written about, the world would not be able to contain the number of books it would take.  Every day must have been filled with teaching and healing far beyond what we know.  In chapter 6, it says they were so busy they didn't have time to eat so Jesus wants to take the 12 into the desert for a respite and to eat.  But the crowds of people forget about eating too and follow him even though it is late at night.  It says that Jesus had compassion on the huge crowd and so he didn't go into the desert but saw that the people were taught and fed.  It says there were 5,000 men but how many more were women and children?  There could easily have been more than 10,000 people there.

With the destruction of the pigs, Elder McConkie points out how the Savior was justified.  If it was Jews who owned the pigs, it was an illegal business.  If gentiles owned the pigs, it was an insult to the Jews in whose land they lived.

I love the story of the daughter of Jairus.  Jesus takes only Peter, James and John, the 1st presidency of the church, to Jairus' house.  The wake for the dead daughter has already started because it says there was a great tumult and much ado and weeping.  When the Savior says the daughter is only sleeping, the people laugh and ridicule him.  Isn't it interesting that he makes all of those who were mocking him leave the room and only the faithful believers are allowed to stay.  After he raises her from the dead, they are instructed to tell no one about the miracle.  This means that all of the unbelievers will think that Jesus was right, that she was only sleeping.  While the believers have had the privilege of witnessing one the greatest miracles possible.  It is an important lesson for me, because I wonder how many miracles I have failed to recognize because of my own unbelief.  (See what's next in chapter 6)

Chapter 6

When Jesus returns to home in Nazareth, the people know him and can't believe that he can be doing and teaching all that he is.  It says they're offended.  Miracles happen because of faith and obedience.  So Jesus is unable to only work a few miracles in Nazareth.  Verses 5 and 6 are important.  Notice how the Savior marvels at their lack of faith.  Verse 6 says that he only went about the area teaching.  No miracles.

It says that Herod the king feared John the Baptist, that he knew he was a just man and holy (the Greek translation is righteous and holy).  Herod even observed to do much what John taught.  What a cowardly hypocrite he was, besides being so wicked.  Remember, he had all of he male children aged 2 and under killed.  When it comes time to either keep his promise to Herodias' daughter and behead John, or spare John's life, he was afraid of what the people around him might think, so he had John beheaded.  Now, he's scared to death that Jesus is John raised from the dead and come back to torment him.

At the end of the chapter, Jesus heals multitudes of people.  It needs to be remembered that these are people who believe and are converted.  He is influencing thousands upon thousands.  It must have been an amazing thing to see  and hear.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mark 3 and 4

Chapter 3

The Jews were fanatical about what you could or couldn't do on the sabbath day.  Their rules have always been amazing to me because they were detailed down to how many steps you could take from your home.  Most of the rules weren't part of the law of Moses, but ones that the rabbis had concocted as they interpreted the law of the sabbath.  Now with Christ, the difference between keeping commandments for commandments sake and having true religion in your heart is huge.  The pharisees are all about keeping rules, about appearances, the Savior is all about faith, love, healing and spiritual gifts.  Sometimes we see that in the church; people will act righteous, but we can see they are not righteous in their heart.  We need to remember the Lord's love is extended to all and he is patient with them as well as with us.

Chapter 4

I love the story of the Savior calming the sea.  He says, "Peace, be still,"  He says that to the sea, but I think he's saying that to the disciples too.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, he says, "Be still and know that I am God."  When we're in the midst of something that causes fear or anguish, or when nothing is going right in life, the Lord is telling us is to be at peace, to know that he's there, he's aware, and he's in charge.  Things will work out and he wants us to trust him and to have faith him.  When we do, it's easier to allow his peace into our hearts and it's easier to get through the trial.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mark 1 and 2

Mark 1

I'm once again impressed at the Savior's desire to heal us.  His empathy is towards everyone.  The evil spirits know he is the Son of God, that he is a God from the pre-mortal life because evil spirits do not have the veil.  Since they cannot be mortal and will not be redeemed and resurrected, there is no need for them to exercise faith in the Savior ( they didn't exercise faith before they were cast out),  so they do not have the veil like we do.  So that's why they recognize him (verse 24).  I think the reason he forbids the evil spirits to say who he is, and asks those he heals to not tell anyone, is because he wants each person to believe because of what he teaches them.  He doesn't want their conversion based on a miracle.  At the least, he certainly doesn't want evil spirits bearing witness of him.  In verse 44, he sends the cleansed leper to the priests because that is what their religious laws required.  He hasn't fulfilled the Law of Moses yet.  That will happen because of the atonement.

Mark 2

Verses 1-10, the Lord is saying if I have power to heal, I have power to forgive sins.  This is his message.  I think this is what we often forget.  For some reason, we get on ourselves because we fall short, we make mistakes.  And we go on in our misery instead of accepting the Savior's forgiveness and letting him heal us.  I think that is what he is saying verse 17.  He is saying, "I'm not hear to help the perfect, like you Pharisees think you are.  I've come to help those who are humble and recognize they need my healing."

In verses 18-22, he is saying the laws you have kept will no longer be valid.  His gospel is going to replace them.  The Savior's church (a new piece of garment or new wine) cannot become a part of the Jewish religion (be sewed into the old garment or the new wine mixed with the old), because the gospel brings new revelation, a new priesthood authority, and new ordinances.  In a way, it's like the restoration of the gospel.  The church couldn't become a part of the existing churches, it had to stand on its own because of new revelation and priesthood authority.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Matthew 27 and 28

Chapters 27-28

This finishes Matthew.  I'm just going to give two quotes and paraphrase

something about the crucifixion.  When we get to John and Luke we'll talk

more about the resurrection.  This is a little longer, I hope you'll feel

it's worth the time to read.

The place of crucifixion was by a public road.  The Romans wanted to set an

example for the people passing by.  Crucifixion is probably still the most

horrible way to die.  When nails are driven through the wrists, they sever

the median nerve which is one of the five main nerves in the body.  When you

bump the nerve in your elbow, you get a very small taste of the pain

involved. With the feet at the angle they are at, the person can push up to

relieve the pain in the upper body, but then all of the weight is on the

feet where the nails are driven through.  Plus the odd angle of the legs

causes great pain and cramping in the leg muscles.  This can only be stood

so long before the body slumps back down causing the rib cage to collapse

bringing great pain in the upper body and making breathing difficult.  All

of the weight is on the shoulders, wrists and nails.  The blood begins to

pool and stomach becomes bloated causing severe abdominal pain.  Plus there

is terrible thirst.  And yet, all of this was of no comparison to the pain

he suffered in Gethsemane with the atonement.

This quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell reminds me of how perfectly the Savior

understands everything we feel and go through, and how little I appreciate

what the Savior has done for me.

"Can we, even in the depths of disease, tell Him anything at all about

suffering?  In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities

were borne by Him even before they were borne by us.  The very weight of our

combined sins caused Him to descend below all.  We have never been, nor will

we be, in depths such as He has known.  Thus His atonement made perfect His

empathy and His mercy and His capacity to [care] for us, for which we can be

everlastingly grateful as he He tutors us in our trials.

And when we feel so alone, can we presume to teach Him who trod 'the

winepress alone' anything about being forsaken?  Should we rush forth

eagerly to show Him our press clippings and mortal medals - our scratches

and bruises - as He bears His five special wounds?

Indeed, we cannot teach him anything!  But we can listen to Him.  We can

love Him; we can honor Him; we can worship Him.  We can keep His

commandments, and we can feast upon his scriptures."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Matthew 25 and 26

Chapter 25

These parables were given to the 12 apostles.  In the parable of the ten Virgins,  all of the virgins had lamps, all of the lamps were burning at one point, and all of them had received invitations to the wedding of the bridegroom.  The fact they are virgins symbolizes their goodness.  So this isn't a question of some being bad and some being good.  I think the oil symbolizes our testimonies and what we do with them.  Five of the virgins had oil to keep their lamps burning.  Five were spiritually lazy and let their lamps burn out.  When the critical time came and they realized they needed a lit lamp, they had no way to light them.  It's like a hot coal.  As long as it remains in the fire, it will stay hot.  But even the hottest coal will loose it's heat and eventually go out when it's removed the fire.  Without the fire, the coal cannot reheat itself.  It's the same with our testimonies.  If we keep ourselves close to the Holy Ghost and those things that help us have the Holy Ghost, our testimonies will stay strong.

Chapter 26

In Gethsemane, the Savior suffered the greatest and worst of everything that can be suffered.  Every guilt, illness, emotional or physical pain, plus paying the price for every sin from the least to the worst.  Under the weight of this all, I appreciate the fact that he prayed three times for the Father to find another way, to get him out of it.  Since Heavenly Father is capable of all things, he knew he could pray for that.  But he also knew he had to endure it.  And since he was praying all of the time he was in Gethsemane, we can be sure he was praying for strength to get through it too.  At one point, an angel was sent to bless him.  Life will bring us difficulties and we will pray to have the difficulty removed, but some things we have to endure.  We are here to learn to deal with the opposition and while we would pray that there might be a different way, this is the way that we have to go, as painful as it may be.  If we can accept accept it, and endure our way through it, the experience will eventually pass.  And like the Savior's experience, great things will come to pass, things that would not have been achieved in any other way, whose results will not only bless our lives, but bless the lives or others in ways far beyond our comprehension.