Today is Palm Sunday, the day known on the Christian calendar as being when Jesus Christ made his triumphant ride into Jerusalem. It also marks the beginning of the final week in Christ’s mortal life. I grew up in an orthodox family where this week is called “Holy Week”, as each day has a significant religious connection with the Savior. We used to go to church for special services on several of the nights during the week. When I was young, I felt it a poignant way to empathize with the Savior and his disciples. It helped me to more deeply remember the events of the Savior’s last few days on earth and what they meant to me. That, coupled with the many movies about Christ that I had seen over the years, really helped me come closer to him during this week more than any other. It helped, too, knowing that the entire Christian world believed what I did and they too may have felt closer to Him during this week, in their own personal way.
Walk the path that thou hast shown
I had always wondered what it would have been like to have walked side by side as a disciple of the Lord. When he stretched out his arms to the men in the boats and said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” I thought how brave those men had to have been. They gave up their familiar way of life to witness miracles beyond anything they could imagine. But it came with a price. They witnessed the crucifixion of their Lord and Savior as well.
Finding strength beyond my own
Undoubtedly during the final week of Christ’s mortal life, many people witnessed his divinity. It must have been a week of heightened spirituality for all of those who loved him. Miracles took place in the streets. Throngs of people flocked to meet Christ and to be healed by him. Thousands gathered to hear his sermons and learn of a better way. On the night before his crucifixion, the sacrament was first given as a remembrance of the Savior’s pending sacrifice. This was probably the time he was most loved and most followed during his mortality. I’m sure those closest to him were strengthened beyond compare.
Who am I to judge another?
Others hated and feared him, even sought to destroy him. The lawmen of the time feared he would seek political power and overthrow them. Others feared he would never be able to handle the growing throngs of people who sought him out for healings and blessings. Those who doubted his divinity could not comprehend his spiritual power, his role as Heavenly Father’s only begotten son. Christ’s power was beyond their understanding. Rather than being drawn to it, they were repulsed by it. Their fear and hatred led to Christ’s crucifixion.
I would be my brother’s keeper
Still others were probably so involved in their own lives; the miracles of the Savior passed them by. They may not have understood. They may not have seen. They may not have even cared. If they had a friend bring them to one of Christ’s sermons, their eyes may have been opened. For whatever reason, the coming and going of the Savior did not affect them.
Lord I would follow thee
In retrospect it is easy to claim I’d be a disciple of Christ had I lived back then. I have the scriptures and my own personal testimony of his divine role. But had I lived during the time of Christ’s ministry would I have had the faith to be a follower? Would I have feared him? Or might I have been indifferent? Some people were witnesses and did not follow Him. I wonder what made them choose to turn away while others believed. My answer is pure and simple: a testimony of the Savior comes after the trial of your faith.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ makes us a disciple
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said,
“When we hear the transcendent truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope and faith begin to blossom inside of us. The more we fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ, the greater our desire is to follow Him and live His teachings. This, in turn, causes our faith to grow and allows the light of Christ to illuminate our hearts. As it does, we recognize the imperfections in our lives, and we desire to be cleansed of the depressing burdens of sin. We yearn for freedom from guilt, and this inspires us to repent.” (The Way of the Disciple, Ensign Nov 2009)
The apostles who followed the Savior had to leave their fishing nets, their homes, their families, indeed, their way of life in order to follow Him. They stepped into the unknown without as much as a testimony. They had faith in the man who claimed to be the Son of God. Each day with Him proved to be an experience with rich blessings beyond measure. Their hearts were filled by the miracles they witnessed. Even after his mortal life ended, they did not give up their faith. It took root spiritually inside their hearts. As they continued to follow his teachings, the seed of faith grew. Not only did they nurture it, they were able to pass the good fruits of this seed down throughout the generations.
Savior may I learn to love thee
Today, throngs of people still celebrate this week as a sacred week—truly a “Holy Week.” It stirs up in them a remembrance of spiritual truths deeply rooted since their upbringing. Some of these people are devote Christians all year long. Others are awakened by the festivities for the week, celebrate with the masses, then go back to their ways, forgetting about the Savior as they do for the remainder of the year. But for me “Holy Week” has taken a new meaning.
When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was at first surprised that there were no special services set up during “Holy Week”. But it soon became clear to me why. Each Sunday, I would look around and see the number of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in attendance for our worship service. The chapel was full. People were warm and friendly in a humble way, giving me the feeling that Sunday itself was a more sacred, more reverent day than the other days of the week. I felt the distinct presence of the Holy Spirit in attendance with us as we partook of the sacrament, renewing our covenants. Then, the sermons, given by members of the congregation, were always Christ-centered and uplifting. I soon received a calling where I was asked to serve others in spiritual activities, teaching my fellow sisters, and helping the poor in spirit. By the time “Holy Week” came around on the Christian calendar, I had an answer as to why we didn’t hold additional services. Holy Week happens every Sunday for the Latter-day Saint—even every day when a Latter-day Saint is serving her fellow man.
“Ours is not a secondhand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Way of the Disciple, Ensign Nov 2009)
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
“Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will. “We [might] see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. …“The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.” (The Great Commandment Ensign, Nov. 2007)
President Uchtdorf also said:
“Let us remember on this Palm Sunday, during this Easter season, and always that the restored gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has the power to fill any emptiness, heal any wound, and bridge any vale of sorrow. It is the way of hope, faith, and trust in the Lord. The gospel of Jesus Christ is taught in its fullness in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Church is led by a living prophet, authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ to provide direction and guidance to help us face the challenges of our day, as serious as they may be. .” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Way of the Disciple, Ensign Nov 2009)
Lord I would follow Thee
I admire the original twelve apostles—their choices, their faith, their endurance. Theirs was not a second-hand faith. So during this “Holy Week” I reconnect. Not only with my Savior—I reconnect with my covenants. I promise to make my actions reflect my religious conviction as if I stood beside the Savior as the first apostles did then, and as our modern-day apostles do now.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.