Editor’s note: Two weeks ago, I wrote about my son’s LDS Young Men / Boy Scout leaders, and the impact they are having on my son. At their week-long campout, daily devotionals focused on how men can and should be a combination of “velvet and steel.” It was the first thing my son mentioned when he was debriefing me on his campout…obviously something that stuck with him and had an impact on him. It’s also something that showed in his demeanor and behavior. I’m so grateful for good men who are willing to give of their time and talents and testimonies to have an influence on my son. One of his leaders kindly consented to share the “Velvet and Steel” devotionals. My son was asked to share some of these thoughts on how the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was the perfect example of the perfect balance of “velvet and steel.” More posts will be shared this week.
Today, the focus is on Jesus Christ and some of His characteristics and behavior that reflect the “steel” side of priesthood service and what it can mean to be a righteous man. The first post in this series can be found here.
• As a boy, Jesus was strong—in spirit and wisdom. Born a helpless babe like any mortal child, he grew, “and with his growth there came to him expansion of mind, development of faculties, and progression in power and understanding.”
• As a boy, Jesus was taught to work. “Beyond question he was trained to labor, for idleness was abhorred… and every Jewish boy…was required to learn and follow a practical and productive vocation—to be chosen by the age of twelve.”
• Jesus often went into the wilderness where he could freely commune with God. Most notably, after being baptized, he went away to fast and pray. He remained forty days, ”with the wild beasts of the desert.”
When he was hungry and weak, Satan came to him, hoping that in his weakness he could succeed in tempting Jesus to sin—and thus fail in his essential role of atonement for mankind. Knowing that Jesus was hungry to the point of starvation, Satan said unto him: “if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Jesus displayed the steel of his character, as well as his understanding of Satan’s evil intentions and responded, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Failing to succeed in taking advantage of Jesus’s hunger, Satan decided to appeal to the temptation of power. With Jesus standing atop the Temple he suggested, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written, he shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Jesus gave not the least consideration to this, for by this time, he fully knew the power he possessed and realized he needn’t prove that power to anyone, especially not Satan. He replied, “It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Failing to succeed regarding either Jesus’s deep hunger or the temptation to demonstrate his power, Satan then sought to tempt him with wealth and property. As Jesus looked over the land with its wealth of land, property, flocks and fields, Satan proposed, “All these things will I give thee, thou wilt fall down and worship me.” The temptation of such wealth has led lesser men to sell their souls, but not Jesus of Nazareth. He dismissed him saying, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
Jesus is the greatest example of choosing the right, of using his agency aright. He was capable of sinning, but he courageously faced temptations and righteously chose to dismiss them.
• Jesus was a man of action. He counseled his followers to be not hearers only, but doers of the word. In the Sermon on the Mount, he concluded his teaching by likening “the man who hears and acts to the wise builder who sets the foundation of his house on a rock; and in spite of rain and hurricane and flood, the house stood. He that hears and obeys not is likened to the foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and when the rain fell, or winds blew…behold it fell, and great was the fall thereof.”
• Jesus performed many great miracles, yet condemned those who would not believe except they witnessed such miracles. In Cana, he turned water into wine. In Capernaum, he cast out devils from an afflicted man. In the towns of Galilee, he healed the sick including a man, “full of leprosy.” Once again in Capernaum, he forgave the sins of a man afflicted with palsy, thereafter healing his illness. At the pool of Bethesda, he healed the cripple. He healed the centurion’s servant and raised the young man of Nain from the dead. He stilled the furious storm that threatened his disciples, commanding the sea, “Peace, be still.” He cast demons into the swine in the land of the Gadarenes. He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. He healed the woman who merely touched the hem of his robe. He restored sight to the blind—and loosened the tongue of the dumb. He fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two small fishes, after which twelve baskets of remaining food were gathered. He walked on the waters of the stormy sea. He cast out the devil in the daughter of the Greek woman, who notably was not a Jew, but a Gentile. He healed many in the land of Tyre and Sidon, including a man who was “deaf and defective of speech.” He fed the four thousand with seven loaves and a few little fishes, leaving seven baskets of uneaten food. In Bethsaida Julias, he healed a blind man. He healed the son of the man who pleaded, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” He provided money to pay tribute though the mouth of a fish. He healed the blindness of the man who was felt to have been cursed for his sins or those of his parents—of whom Jesus clarified, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” He healed a woman who had suffered for eighteen years with an infirmity that atrophied the muscles that bent her body grotesquely. He healed the ten lepers, as he “passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.” He restored Lazarus to life, four days after being entombed. He restored sight to the blind man, Bartimeus, near Jericho. He cursed the showy, but unproductive fig tree. He healed the sick and afflicted in the Temple, after he cleansed it a second time.
To his apostles who failed in the attempt to cast out the evil spirit of one so afflicted, he counseled, that they had failed “because of their unbelief” and then taught, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
To the Pharisees and the Sadducees demand that he show unto them a sign, he said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”
• Twice, Jesus cleared the Temple of the money-changers. Upon entering the Temple the first time, Jesus observed that the sacred halls of the Temple were occupied by stalls of oxen, pens of sheep, and cages of doves and pigeons—and heard the boisterous sales pitch of the sellers and money-changers. “Hastily improvising a whip of small cords, he laid about him on every side, liberating and driving out sheep, oxen, and human traffickers, upsetting the tables of the exchangers and pouring out their accumulations of coin. To all the greedy traders he thundered forth a command that made them quail: ‘Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.’”
The second time, three years after the first, was only four days from his crucifixion. This he knew, but no despondency over his fate curtailed his righteous anger at the desecration of the Temple. He cleared the courts again by casting out all “them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” He challenged the desecrators saying, “Is it not written, my house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves!” His indignation was followed by an amazing calm, during which he invited the blind and lame to come forward to be healed.
• Jesus was stern and inflexible in the presence of hypocrisy, and unsparing in his denunciation of persistent evil-doers. In the matter of alms-giving, he warned against ostentatious and hypocritical displays of giving. To those who prayed to be seen or heard, he said “Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” He cautioned against unrighteous judgment, suggesting that the “beam” in one’s eye needed removal before the speck in their neighbor’s eye.
He called attention to the deep hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, pronouncing multiple Woes. He said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! All therefore whatsoever (these hypocrites) bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not.” Continuing, he said, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
Further, he railed against them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more a child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? “
Regarding the vanity and pious pomposity of the scribes and Pharisees, he said, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries.” Concerning the titles they coveted, Jesus counseled, “But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.“
When he was faced with the prospect of death at the hands of Herod, he courageously replied, “Go ye and tell that fox, behold I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
He reflected in word and action the righteous anger of his Father in Heaven. He said, “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting; whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”
• Jesus lived a life of sacrifice—and taught sacrifice as well. A young man inquired of Jesus, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus counseled him to keep the commandments, to which he replied that he had done so throughout his life. Jesus then said, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” This was hard counsel to be sure. The scriptures say, “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. “ The path of discipleship clearly called for personal sacrifice of the disciple’s will to that of the Lord.
He presaged his own ultimate sacrifice saying, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
• Jesus freely associated with publicans and sinners. From the ranks of the detestable publicans (tax-collectors), he called the apostle Matthew. He acknowledged the sincere repentance of Zaccheus saying, “This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is son of Abraham.” He often chose to dine with publicans and sinners, bringing about the judgment of the scribes and Pharisees. These asked Jesus’s disciples: “Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners?” Jesus overheard the question and responded, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
• Jesus ordained apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel. The purpose of their ordination was specified—“that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” After many months of his personal tutelage, they were now called as preachers of the gospel and individual witnesses of the Christ.
• Jesus was fearless in attesting to be the Messiah. In his hometown of Nazareth, he read from the book of Isaiah at the request of the rabbi there. He read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” The scripture he had quoted was one that everyone recognized by all as specifically referring to the Messiah, for whose coming they waited. Jesus followed his reading by stating, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” The congregation and rabbi marveled, saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Many felt this was blasphemy—and from that point sought to kill him.
After his arrest the high priest, Caiaphas, demanded, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered, “Thou has said: nevertheless I say unto you: Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” It was a clear affirmation from the mouth of the Savior; he was the Messiah, the literal Son of God. To this, Caiaphas rent his clothes, saying “He hath spoken blasphemy.” “What think ye?” he asked the elders of the Sanhedrin. They answered, “He is guilty of death.”
The next day he was tried again by the elders of the people, the chief priests and the scribes. Once again, the central issue was whether Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Asking him this, he replied, “Ye say that I am.” Once again, the charge of blasphemy rang out against the Savior.
When brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, the issue was whether Jesus represented a political menace, whether he would rally the Jews to insurrection against the Romans. The discourse between them led him to the conclusion that Jesus was no threat. He pronounced, “I find in him no threat.”
Jesus was then brought before Herod, who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod questioned him, but Jesus chose to remain silent. This brought about intense mocking before the Savior was returned to Pilate without any assent on Herod’s part regarding the Sanhedrin’s death sentence. Pilate reminded to the people that during the Passover season one condemned prisoner could be pardoned—and suggested that Jesus or Barabbas, a convicted murderer might be released. He asked, “Whom shall I release unto you? Barabbas or Jesus which is called the Christ?” The people cried, “Barabbas,” to which Pilate asked, “What shall I do with Jesus?” The answer was to crucify him. Pilate was stunned and, in act of denying responsibility for the decision, washed his hands, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.”
• Jesus fearlessly faced charges of Sabbath-breaking. Scribes and Pharisees accused him of breaking the Sabbath because he healed the sick on that holy day. Jesus replied, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” This incensed them more, as it once again attested to the fact that he was the Son of God.
• Jesus patiently bore the disloyalty of some of his disciples when their commitment failed them. After one notable sermon at Capernaum, many found his doctrines to be too hard—and some who had expressed discipleship abandoned Jesus. Some of his apostles also wrestled within themselves, prompting him to ask, “Will ye also go away?” Peter responded for all the apostles, when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
On the occasion of the Last Supper, he recognized full well the traitor, Judas Iscariot, who would betray him. As the supper proceeded, Jesus remarked, “Verily I say unto you, one of you which eateth with me shall betray me.” Each apostle, fearing an inadvertent betrayal, asked “Lord, is it I?” Judas Iscariot, knew full well that he was the betrayer, but he also asked, “Master, is it I?” The Savior promptly replied, “Thou hast said.”
Judas, after the Lord’s deep suffering of body and spirit, came forth saying “Hail, Master.” Then, giving the sign by which he identified for the temple guardsmen and Roman soldiers, he kissed Jesus. Jesus responded, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” The irony of this act of supposed friendship being employed to enact the arrest of the Son of God was indeed the height of hypocrisy.
As prophesied, the normally stalwart apostle, Peter, denied the Savior three times before the dawn after the arrest. Although Jesus knew this would happen, the reality had to be as heart-rending to him as it proved to be to Peter, who “went out into the night, weeping bitterly.”
• Jesus faced the certainty of his fate voluntarily and with resolute courage. As they approached the time of his atoning sacrifice, he said: “Behold, we go to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” In spite of this, he entered Jerusalem, riding on the back of a humble donkey. He did not skulk or hide, but rode into the city triumphantly. The multitude that greeted him shouted “Hosanna to the son of David: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest! This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee!”
In Gethsemane, he said to Peter, James, and John: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” He knew the enormity of the load he was about to bear, even the sins of the whole of all humanity—for all time. He fell on his face and prayed, saying “O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” An angel appeared from heaven, strengthening him, but then, the enormous burden of the sins of the world fell totally upon him. The scriptures record, “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” The Savior of the world bled at every pore—for each of us.
After the intense pain of Gethsemane, the Savior’s situation continued to be one of accusation and affliction. He was spat on, then was blindfolded and beaten. He subsequently was scourged, mocked, and had a crown of thorns driven into his head. He was forced to carry his own cross until he could no longer bear it; thereafter a man named Simon from Cyrene was forced to wrestle the burden to Golgotha.
At the ninth hour of his agony on the cross, it is apparent that like unto Gethsemane, the Savior endured the loss of his Father’s support, if only momentarily. He pleaded for a return of that divine sustenance, crying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Shortly thereafter, he realized Heavenly Father had fully accepted his atoning sacrifice and that he was no longer forsaken. As James E. Talmage wrote, “He exclaimed in a loud voice of holy triumph: ‘It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He then exercised his final act of mortal agency: he gave up his life.