For Christmas this last year my family went back to my parents’ place to celebrate the holiday with my family. We were there for the Sunday before Christmas and got to listen to the bishop give a few thoughts on the holiday. He told a story of his family from when he was a young father. It was getting close to Easter and he and his wife had decided to read through the scriptures about the days leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion with their children in preparation for the holiday. On the night they were ready to read the last part of the story, where Christ is crucified, his wife had to work that evening and he was trying to wrangle the kids while reading these scriptures to them. As he was getting to the part about the crucifixion he looked up and saw that his oldest daughter, who was only about 5, was crying. He asked what was wrong, thinking that probably she’d been hit by a sibling or something of that nature. She responded, “Daddy, why did they kill Jesus?” The father paused for a moment trying to come up with the right answer that a young child would understand. He thought about the political situation in Jerusalem at the time and couldn’t figure out how to explain this in terms his daughter would understand. Finally he turned back to his daughter and asked, “What do you think?” She responded, “They must not have known how much He loved them.”
Some of you may already know that the bishop in my parents home ward, is my dad. The little girl in this story was me. Although I didn’t know this story when my dad told it, the question is one I have pondered apparently for more years than I realized. How could anyone kill our Savior? I still believe that the only real explanation is that they must not have known how much He loved them. Somehow they missed the fact that this man had suffered for every pain, sin and sorrow that these people would endure only hours before they took Him, beat Him and nailed Him to a cross. If they could have comprehended, even to the smallest degree, how deeply and personally He loved them they couldn’t have done what they did. And yet Christ’s attitude as they gathered around Him to mock Him was “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” What perfect love He has for each of us. In a situation that would make any reasonable person say “Seriously?! I did all this for you, and this is the thanks I get?” He turns and says, “Look, they don’t get it. It’s sitting right in front of their faces and they just don’t get it. Please don’t hold them accountable for this.” Furthermore, Christ, being the only one who could tell the Father who to forgive, as the One who had taken all sins upon Himself, rather than making a simple request He tells Heavenly Father – forgive them. While they were yet in the act of killing Him, he frankly forgave them.
Last night I was putting Sam to bed and as we were discussing his behavior that day he started to throw a huge fit about the privileges he would be losing as a result of the things he had done. As I was sitting there I was just begging him inside, “Don’t you get it? I want so desperately for you to be happy. I helped make that little body you’re flinging around. Your father and I spend our waking hours working to provide you with food, shelter, clothing, activities, education, and love. I would love to give you everything I can so you can grow up to be happy and healthy. I wouldn’t even give you these rules and expectations if it weren’t truly for your own happiness.” Afterwards I thought, is this how Christ looks at us? Trying to tell us, “Look, everything I have done I have done for you. I’ve created this earth, and helped create you. I want you to have all that I have. I’ve put everything in front of you, all you have to do is keep these few commandments, be kind to each other, learn to be righteous, and it can all be yours.” Does He look down at us refusing to follow His plan and just shake His head and think “Don’t you get it? You’re pounding your head against a wall and causing your own unhappiness. Please, let go of these things and follow me and be happy.”
So today I want to challenge each of us, to get it. Do you realize how much your Savior loves you? Does that love guide your actions? And then I want to further challenge – have you shared this love with those around you? Are there those around you who are kept apart from a relationship with Christ and His love only because we haven’t shared it with them? I wonder, if more people understood the love of their Savior would we have the violence and hatred and wars that plague our world today? We read in 3 Nephi about the people who live in absolute peace for 300 years. While this peace lasts for less than a page of the 500+ page book, the period of time it describes is about a quarter of the time period of the whole record. Could it be that once the people had met Christ and understood fully how He loved them that nothing else was as important? All the petty strifes of life fell away and they cared about each other better and lived happily and in peace.
I want to bear my testimony, that I know that our Savior loves each of us, deeply, and personally. His greatest desire is for our happiness and we can achieve that happiness by following His commandments. Please, if you haven’t felt the love of our Savior pray to feel it, ask for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of that love and hold on to it tightly. I know that the gospel that He taught is true and if you live it you will be happy.