Summary: When Jesus visited the Nephites after he had risen from the grave, he spent three days teaching them. During this time there were many profound truths he expounded on, one of which was the significance of taking bread and wine in remembrance of his body and blood. This article closely examines some of the great lessons Jesus taught the Nephites.
When Jesus appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection he told them, “Behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Nephi 11:11)
There are a number of things we can learn from this verse.
Jesus said he is the light of the world, but what does that mean? The word “light” can have several meanings. In the scriptures “light” can be used to represent righteousness, and “darkness” can be used to represent wickedness. Light can also be used in place of the word truth, and darkness can be used as a synonym for the word “false, lie, or error.”
Therefore, when Jesus says he is “the light of the world,” we can understand him saying that he can enlighten us about what is true and righteous so we don’t go through life ignorant of what is right and wrong. Those who refuse to accept truth, choose to live in darkness, meaning they choose to follow false beliefs and want to live an unrighteous lifestyle.
But notice that Jesus also says he is “the life of the world.” He not only brings light to the world, but he’s the one who also provides life to the world. The word “life” can be used in several different ways as well. For example, Jesus came to make it possible for everyone to inherit eternal “life,” meaning that because of him we have the opportunity to live the kind of life that God lives. In this sense, the word “lifestyle” can be used in place of the word “life.”
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Here Jesus is saying he has come to give “light” or knowledge/understanding/truth of how to have eternal “life.”
At another time Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). Here Jesus talks about how his death and resurrection will save everyone from death, thereby giving everyone immortal “life”.
However, when we read the word “life” we usually interpret that to mean something that is alive. In other words, it’s because of Christ that we are able to live, breathe and be alive on the earth, and that is also an accurate statement. It’s because of Christ that we have our existence on earth. It’s because of his power that plants and animals are alive. In other words, Jesus has the power to infuse life into inanimate objects. This is another way of understanding why Jesus is the life of the world.
Then he said, “I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me.”
To have a greater understanding of this statement we have to go back to the grand counsel in heaven, where our Father presented a plan that would enable us to become just like him. However, as glorious as that plan was, it had a serious drawback. In coming to earth to learn the difference between good and evil, if we were to choose to do evil, even just once, we would become spiritually unclean and consequently be barred from ever coming back into any degree of glory, because nothing unclean can be permitted to live in any part of heaven.
But God had a solution to correct this problem. Eternal law allows someone to take the punishment in place of someone else, thereby satisfying the demands of justice. The question was, who would be willing to be that person?
It’s one thing for someone to pay the penalty for one person, but whoever took this assignment would have to pay the penalty for each and every sin that each and every person made who will ever live in mortality, no matter how small or how great their sins were.
However, there was another requirement this person would have to meet. In order for someone to pay such an enormous price, they themselves had to be without sin because someone who is in debt themselves can’t pay for someone else’s debt, just like someone who is in prison serving a life sentence can’t pay the penalty of someone else who is also serving a life sentence.
And then, something else that needed to be considered was that the price of paying the penalty for everyone’s sins. It would be so severe and hard to bear that it’s beyond words to describe. In fact, no mortal being could even endure the pain needed to redeem just one generation of people, let alone the entire history of mankind, therefore, it would take someone with godly powers to successfully complete such an assignment.
Jehovah, whose name would later be changed to Jesus, willingly accepted this assignment with all of its conditions, He was therefore called the Christ because he was appointed and anointed by God to be our Savior. Thus, before the world was ever created, Jesus willingly accepted to take upon him the assignment to fulfill this very difficult task or, in other words, to drink the bitter cup that the Father required of him.
Then Jesus told the Nephites that not only did he fully drink the bitter cup, but that he had “glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world.” But how did he glorify God by doing that?
The word mortality comes from the Latin root word mort, which means death. Thus, to be mortal means that our physical bodies are capable of dying, or ceasing to function. To live in mortality means we live in a world where all living things are subject to death. On the other hand, when someone is immortal, that means their physical body is incapable of dying.
God has revealed that his work, and what brings him glory, is not just helping his children become an exalted being like himself, but it brings him glory even to help them gain immortality. What this infers is that there is something far grander about having a physical, immortal body than we can fully appreciate in our present condition.
What we have to understand is that our Father in heaven himself had a serious problem with his plan. Someone had to volunteer to be the person who would be willing to pay the needed infinite cost for our sins, but if that person failed in their assignment, then God would lose all of his children. That means they would all become spiritually dead, to live outside of even the least degree of heaven forever.
We have to remember that God couldn’t personally save us, therefore, he had to rely on someone else to perfectly fulfill their appointed duty. If that didn’t happen then God’s entire plan for the salvation of his children would be a complete and disastrous failure. In that case, the whole plan of God to save his children would have been utterly wasted and would have all been in vain.
If that happened, imagine the eternal shame and pain that would cause our Father in heaven. His children had trusted in him and in his plan to exalt them, but instead his plan would have resulted in them being consigned to outer darkness throughout all of eternity.
Therefore, to save all of his children to at least some degree of glory is no small feat to accomplish, even for God. We have to realize there’s no glory for doing something that’s easy to accomplish. Glory only comes to those who have successfully completed something that is inherently difficult. And the greater the difficulty, the greater the glory.
But once Jesus had successfully paid the price to save us, no matter how great the suffering he had to endure, and after he had risen from the grave, he had guaranteed that even the worst sinner would come from the grave with an immortal body. And when that happens, then God is glorified because he has succeeded in bringing to pass the immortality of all his children. This is why Jesus says he has saved all whom the father has put into his hands (John 6:39).
But there was more to this statement by Jesus. He said, “I have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” When we read the word “suffer” we usually interpret it to mean “to experience physical or emotional pain,” and Jesus did endure great physical and emotional pain as he went through the process of paying the full penalty for our sins.
But the word suffer can also mean “to submit to or to labor under.” When Jesus says he has “suffered the will of the Father in all things,” what he means is that he has submitted himself to doing the will of the father in whatever things the Father asked of him. Nothing was too great or too small that Jesus wasn’t willing to do for his Father, and he didn’t do this just while he lived on earth, but he has always been like this from the beginning. This is why he was chosen to be our Savior.
Then Jesus asked his newly called disciples to go get some bread and wine. “And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat. And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude” (3 Nephi 18:3,4).
When the multitudes had finished eating, he told them, “And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7)
We recognize this statement as being part of the prayer that is said over the bread when we partake of the sacrament, but there is a slight difference between it and what Jesus said to the Nephites
In the sacramental prayer on the bread, we promise that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given us, and if we do this then we may expect to always have his Spirit to be with us.
What Jesus told the Nephites was that when we take the sacramental bread what we’re doing is bearing our testimony or witnessing to God the Father, or making a promise to him that we will always remember his son. If we will do that then, in return, God promises that this Spirit will always be with us. One of the differences between the sacrament prayer and this verse in 3 Nephi is that Jesus didn’t mention to the Nephites the need to keep the commandments as a requirement to have God’s Spirit to be with us, but why?
The answer is that we can’t remember Christ without keeping his commandments. This is no different than saying we love the Lord but don’t want to do what he says. The way we show our love to God is by keeping his commandments (John 14:15), and in the same way, if we say we remember the Lord’s body and blood when we take the sacrament, then we show that we remember him by keeping the commandments he gives us.
In other words, when we remember what Christ suffered in order to atone for our sins, then we will want to keep his commandments as an expression of how much his sacrifice means to us. But if we don’t want to keep his commandments then we are choosing not to remember him and ignoring what he suffered in our behalf.
Jesus explained this very principle where we read, “And when the Disciples had done this (eating the bread), Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you” (verse 10). “Therefore, blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you” (verse 14).
The common theme in both the sacrament prayer and 3 Nephi 18:11 is that we’re to remember the body of Christ when we take of the sacramental bread, and in so doing we’re fulfilling a commandment of Christ, and we’re also witnessing unto the Father that we’re willing to do whatsoever Christ commands us. But what is it about his body that we’re supposed to remember?
Have you ever cut yourself? If it’s a deep cut, it can hurt. Jesus wasn’t just beaten with a whip, He was scourged. A scourging whip is one that has about a dozen leather straps where each one has a sharp piece of jagged metal or bone attached to the end of it. When these sharp objects hit the soft flesh of a person’s body, they literally rip off small chunks of flesh.
A normal Roman scourging consisted of being whipped with 49 lashes. Take a moment to think about how painful that would feel if you were hit even one time with such a whip. Then imagine how it would feel if after such a beating you had to carry a roughly cut wooden beam over your raw and bleeding shoulder through the bumpy streets of Jerusalem and up a steep hill.
Then think about how it would feel if someone drove a penny nail through the palm of one of your hands. What the Romans used to nail someone to a cross was more like a railroad spike. Now imagine what it would feel like hanging from those nails with your scourged and bleeding back rubbing against a rough wooden beam every time you moved.
Then Jesus gave wine to the people and said to his disciples, “And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (verse 11).
When Jesus said that when we take the blessed bread, we’re to remember the horrific pain he suffered and endured as the flesh of his body was ripped and torn from the brutal scourging, the mocking crown of thorns, and the nails in his hands and feet, as the price he willingly paid for our sins so that we might not have to suffer for them.
And the same is true when we partake of the blessed water. It’s a time to remember and reflect on how much blood Jesus spilled as he bled from every pore in Gethsemane, from his horrific scourging, from the thorns that pierced his head, and that poured out from the holes in his hands and feet made by the nails.
What Jesus has asked us to do when we take the blessed bread and water is not simply say we’ll keep the commandments he’s given us. It’s not just to ask forgiveness for the things we’ve done wrong during the week. He specifically commands us to always remember and never forget what he did for us. Each time we take the sacrament it’s a time to memorialize in our mind and reflect on his great sacrifice and what it means to us personally. It’s a time to offer him our heartfelt gratitude that is shown through our sincere desire to keep his commandments.
But when we let our mind wander and think about other things while partaking of the sacrament, we trivialize what Christ has done for us. When we spend those few minutes doing something other than remembering him, even if it’s working on our Sunday School lesson that’s shortly coming up in the next hour, we’re expressing our testimony to God, the Father, that Christ’s sacrifice isn’t all that important to us. When we take that time to check our emails, news, or sports during the taking of the sacrament, we’re mocking Christ’s sacrifice. It’s when we remember his body and his blood that he offered so that our sins could be remitted that we’re promised to have his Spirit to be with us.
As we ponder on what Jesus told the Nephites, we come to gain a greater appreciation of and a deeper reverence for what Christ has done for us,
Related articles can be found at The Nature of God