Just a Thought

Marks of Discipleship—Making Good Friday Personal

Easter is my favorite. And not just because it signals the end to a very long, dreary winter. It’s the reminder of unpayable debts paid, the promise of unbearable burdens lifted, the hope of life freely given. For Christians the world over, Easter week represents the best God could offer to His children. In particular, the events of Good Friday—“Atoning Friday with its cross,” as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland describes it—continue to radiate the love of both God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. On that day, the Savior of the world submissively took upon Himself the marks of discipleship. Now He invites us to do the same.

He Carries Our Marks

After the infinite and incomprehensible burden borne in the garden, followed by an onslaught of mistreatment, Jesus was crucified, a word which literally means “to impale on the cross, to drive down stakes, to fortify with driven stakes” (Strong’s Concordance). In an act reserved for the worst offenders and the lowest of slaves, the Savior was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). He suffered nails to be driven through His hands, wrists, and feet. And once affixed to the cross, He bore the added pain of a spear wound in His side.

Jesus willingly took these marks upon Himself as a witness to us of His love and atoning sacrifice. He said, “I [will] not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:15–16). Even in His resurrected body, the Savior retained those wounds as a continual reminder of His love for us.

Thomas wanted to witness this assurance for himself.  When he missed the opportunity to see the risen Lord, he declared, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe,” (John 20:25). Days later, Jesus gave him a personal witness of His love. He said, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

When the resurrected Lord appeared to believers in the New World, He invited them, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14). He wanted those tender children to experience His marks for themselves. Those people were continually before Him as a reminder that He had not forgotten nor forsaken them. The same promise endures for us.

Our Inward Marks of Discipleship

But what of our marks of discipleship? How do we carry His marks continually on us? We can begin inwardly with the marks on our heart. The Savior taught us how. “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20). Elder Neil L. Andersen defines a broken heart as being “humble, repentant, and meek, eagerly receptive to the will of God.” He defines a contrite spirit as “[putting] one’s own interests in the hands of God” (The Divine Gift of Forgiveness 149). These behaviors act as a mark of our discipleship.

We can also internalize, love, and live His commandments. In the Old Testament, Jehovah taught, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). The Apostle Paul commended the people of Corinth for carrying the marks of the Savior “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3). That is the inward mark we should try to retain.

Our Outward Marks of Discipleship: A Symbol

In addition to having His law written in our hearts, we also have the opportunity to put His marks upon us physically. In Old Testament times, the Lord instructed the Levites, those symbolically entering the Lord’s presence as officiators in the tabernacle, to wear outwards marks of their discipleship.

Exodus 40:12–15 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.

Today, many people of faith wear outward marks of discipleship as a symbol of their inner commitment to follow Jesus. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do so as they covenant with Him in holy temples. Here is a good explanation of why sacred temple clothing acts as a mark of discipleship.

In a physical way, endowed members of the Church who hold a current temple recommend put upon themselves marks of discipleship. This sacred temple clothing turns hearts to Christ. It also reminds the wearers of covenants they have made with the Savior to be obedient and claim His promises of healing, binding, and saving.

But what of those who don’t currently qualify to enter a temple? The invitation is always open to begin preparations today to claim this mark of discipleship in the future. If you’re curious about how to qualify to enter a temple, here are some questions you can sincerely ask yourself.

Our Outward Marks of Discipleship: A Measure

Perhaps the truest form of outward marks of discipleship, however, is not what we wear but how we act. The scriptures teach that we will be measured as “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). On the Savior’s last night with His beloved Apostles, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Those seven words summarize the entirety of our ability to put on our outward marks of discipleship. Keep His commandments.

This directive includes exercising faith unto repentance. It includes being baptized by the right authority as Jesus did to “fulfil all righteousness” (2 Nephi 31:5). It continues by being worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And, maybe most importantly, it requires us to keep going, keep living as Jesus taught us to live. The scriptures teach, “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20). This doctrine of Christ helps us do the things we need to do to retain our outward marks of discipleship.

Marks of Discipleship: An Opportunity

This Good Friday, worshippers all over the world, regardless of faith tradition, have an opportunity to show the Savior their marks of discipleship. All are invited to join in a worldwide fast for relief from the negative effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Traditionally Good Friday is set aside to remember the marks the Savior received as He offered Himself as a “great and last sacrifice” to “bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name” (Alma 34:14–15). But on this Good Friday, April 10, 2020, we have an opportunity to show our marks of discipleship to Christ.

We can repent. We can exercise faith. We can pray. And we can sacrifice food and water (or some other meaningful thing depending on personal circumstances) for a time to seek God’s help. As we do, it will be as if we are presenting our marks of discipleship to our Creator to confirm that we remember Him, that we need Him, and that we love Him.  

How Do Your Marks Look?

As you remember the marks in the Savior’s hands, wrists, feet, and side, consider the marks of discipleship you are bearing for Him. Do you have His law written in your heart? Do you strive to be worthy to wear the outward marks of your commitment to Him? And most importantly, are you willing to sacrifice your mortal tendencies (see Mosiah 3:19 and Mosiah 16:5) in small ways everyday—including joining others around the world in a united fast for relief this Good Friday—to show the Lord that you appreciate the marks He bears for you? In the end, Easter is not so much about something that happened long ago (although what happened long ago matters eternally). It’s about what is happening each day, for each of us, as we bear the marks that proclaim our status as disciples of the living Christ.

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