During Holy Week, Christians around the world reflect on the sacred events of the Savior’s life—and this year I feel as though members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been invited to experience those important events firsthand.
On Palm Sunday, we were privileged to participate in a Hosanna Shout. Could you feel the connection to the followers of Christ who two millennia ago lined the streets of Jerusalem to welcome the Lord to the city of Jerusalem? Like those followers of Christ, we exclaimed "Hosanna!" with our worldwide brothers and sisters.
During his remarks in the Saturday evening session of conference, Elder Gerrit W. Gong pointed out, “Hosanna means ‘save now.’” In the footnotes of his text he references Psalm 118:25 and says it is the full expression of the traditional chiastic Messianic plea: “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.”
Truly there was a significance in doing a Hosanna Shout on Palm Sunday, and truly we need the Lord’s saving.
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When President Russell M. Nelson announced a worldwide fast for Good Friday, I wondered about the significance of performing a fast on this sacred day of Holy Week—we were being asked to perform our sacrifice as we remember “the supreme sacrifice the Savior made for [us].”
President Nelson said, “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us!”
As I explored the significance of Good Friday, I found several ways to add meaning to my special Good Friday fast. Here are just some of the tie-ins I found.
1. A Final Meal
The night before the Lord was crucified, he sat with his apostles for the Last Supper. In the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the meal is identified as Passover. According to the Bible Dictionary, “The Feast of the Passover was instituted to help the children of Israel remember when the destroying angel passed over their houses and delivered them from the Egyptians.”
During this Passover meal, Jesus instituted the sacrament with His apostles. “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28).
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, the sacrament commemorates our escape from the angel of darkness. “Perhaps we do not always attach that kind of meaning to our weekly sacramental service. How ‘sacred’ and how ‘holy’ is it? Do we see it as our passover, remembrance of our safety and deliverance and redemption?” Elder Holland asked.
Though I won’t begin my fast with the sacrament, I will eat a special meal on Thursday evening. During that meal, I will ponder what it means to escape the angel of darkness and how Christ, through His body and His blood, stops the destroying angel and allows us to be delivered.
2. Serving as He Would
At the Last Supper, the Savior washed the feet of his disciples and instructed them to do likewise. He taught, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).
The Prophet’s call for a worldwide fast is not worldwide simply because the whole world is invited to join, but also because it is a fast for the whole world. We will unite our faith to fast and pray “that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.”
What I love about President Nelson’s plea is that while it does bless individuals, it also blesses the world. Maybe the pandemic isn’t impacting your part of the world as much as others. Fast for the places that need it. Maybe you are blessed to be able to work at home. Fast for the people who are on the frontline as caregivers and don’t have that option. Maybe you aren’t in the high-risk category for severe illness from COVID-19. Fast for those who are.
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3. The Garden
As I write these words, the current number of cases of COVID-19 around the world is over at 1.4 million. Only a quarter of those cases have recovered. There are infirm people in every corner of the globe.
Over 80,000 people have died from the disease. That represents 80,000 families temporarily separated by the veil and likely thousands of people mourning the sudden departure of a loved one.
Truly, the world needs a Savior—a Savior who understands our fears, our sicknesses, and our sorrows. Jesus Christ made this possible in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The prophet Alma declared, “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).
In the Garden, the Lord took upon Him our infirmities. His bowels are filled with mercy. He knows how to succor us according to our infirmities, including COVID-19. President Nelson promised “He will respond to the pleadings of His people.”
4. The Power of a Crowd
On Sunday, the crowds praised the Savior with shouts and acclamations as he entered Jerusalem. Just five days later, the crowds called for Christ to be crucified in response to Pilate’s question (Luke 23:20–23).
There is a common phrase, “There is power in numbers.” As shown during Holy Week and the Savior's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, that power can be used for good, testifying of the coming of the Messiah.
This Good Friday we will unite in numbers to petition the Lord for good. In doing so, we will also unite with other faiths that traditionally fast on this holy day. Christian author Richard J. Foster wrote of the wonder and power of group fasts as he shared an example from British history:
“The king of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by the French in 1756. On February 6 John Wesley recorded in his Journal, ‘The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquility.’ In a footnote he wrote, ‘Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted’”
On Good Friday, we will collectively call upon the heavens for relief from COVID-19, and as John Wesley wrote, “surely God heareth prayer.”
5. The Bridegroom Is Taken from Us
In the New Testament book of Matthew, the Lord instructs his disciples on fasting and teaches, “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast” (Matthew 9:15).
On Good Friday, the Savior was crucified. The bridegroom was taken from them. The crowds at Calvary experienced enveloping darkness (see Luke 23:45).
In some ways, it may feel like COVID-19 has taken the Lord from us. We currently do not worship in meetinghouses and the houses of the Lord, the temples, are currently closed. In some ways, we may feel that we are enveloped with darkness as the pandemic affects nearly every country with no definite end in sight.
So we will fast, and as we fast I believe we will feel that the Lord and our Heavenly Father are still very aware of us. Elder Holland explained that the Savior Himself is the sole person who will walk this road alone.
“One of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so,” he said. “Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: ‘I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you]’ (John 14:18, see also John 14:23)”.
This Good Friday fast gives us an opportunity to remember we are never alone. The Savior and our Heavenly Father hear us and will not be left unaided.
6. Watch and Wait
After the Lord’s death, His followers awaited His prophesied Resurrection. His mother and Mary Magdalene visited the tomb the night of His death (Matthew 27:61). The next day, the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to command guards to protect the tomb so others would not steal his body and claim he had risen (Matthew 27:62-65). On Easter Sunday, both parties would be amazed at the appearance of the risen, resurrected Lord.
It was a miracle. As we live the law of the Fast, we witness miracles in our own lives.
“I bear witness of the miracles, both spiritual and temporal, that come to those who live the law of the fast,” Elder Holland said. “I bear witness of the miracles that have come to me.”
As we see these miracles, and as we celebrate the resurrection of the Savior, the Easter exclamations of “Hosanna” and “Hallelujah” will be the book-ends of our week.
As Elder Gong said, “The sacred events between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are the story of hosanna and hallelujah. Hosanna is our plea for God to save. Hallelujah expresses our praise to the Lord for the hope of salvation and exaltation. In hosanna and hallelujah we recognize the living Jesus Christ as the heart of Easter and latter-day Restoration.”
Good Friday truly is, like President Nelson said, “the perfect day for our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to hear us!”
Lead image: Shutterstock
Because of the Christ on Calvary, we can know that the creation, Fall, and Atonement are all part of an eternal plan for our progress and joy. Because of Him, we understand that no matter how many people give up on God, He never gives up on us. Enhance your celebration of Easter by learning from witnesses on two continents and across multiple dispensations in Brother Brad Wilcox's newest book, Because of the Christ on Calvary. Available now at DeseretBook.com.