Take His Hand and Rise Up!
Gratitude for the Atonement
Jesus testifies that the sacrifice that will be made when He atones and is crucified for our sins will be the very thing that saves us, spiritually speaking. At one point in His ministry he testifies about his mission as Savior and Redeemer. The multitude turns away from from him, saying,
“This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:66-69).
Peter and the other apostles knew what I know in my own life to be true: there is no other source that matters more, or has given me as much as the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Peter’s testimony of the Savior stayed with him even after Jesus’ death. In Acts chapter 4, Peter, “being filled with the Holy Ghost said, ‘Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, there is no salvation in any other [name], for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8,10,12)
Defining the Atonement
Yes, the atonement is the thing I am most grateful for, but because it is something so deeply personal that sometimes is only understood by the spirit, it can be hard to qualify what, exactly, the atonement is, how it works, and what it does. There are scriptures that do a good job describing the atonement on an academic level like in Isaiah 53:5: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Or in Alma 7:11 – “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”
But until we learn how to make the atonement a part of our lives and experience it for ourselves, it is very nearly inexplicable in human terms to someone else.
What It Means to Me
To me, the atonement means having access to a redemptive power in my life I would not have on my own. It means that while I know I am expected to work hard and be a better version of myself every day, being the best version of myself is impossible without allowing the power of the atonement and the Savior’s healing touch in my life. It means that no matter what challenges I’m facing in life, or even if it feels like smooth sailing, there is always room for improvement and growth.
And regardless of where I am, there is always the hand of Jesus reaching out to me, inviting me to rise up, to be better, try harder, improve my life, and the lives of those around me.
I am going to turn to the scriptures to find common ground for all of us to better understand the atonement. Each of the following scripture accounts are about accepting the Savior’s invitation to rise up. Sometimes slightly different words are used, but always, the image of his outstretched hand, extended in love and accepted in faith, is there.
John 5:2-9 – we read about the man at the waters of Bethesda who has waited for years to be healed when the “angel troubles the waters,” but has no way of getting to the water himself, nor anyone to take him into the water. When Jesus heals him, he says, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”
John 8:3-11 – when the woman who was taken in adultery is taken to Him for judgement, He says to her, “Go, and sin no more.”
Mark 5:24-34 – to the woman with the issue of blood, who had suffered for 12 years with her disease He says, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
Mark 5:22, 35-41 – When He brings Jairus’ daughter back from death, He tells her, “Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.”
John 11:11-43 – And when He calls Lazarus forth from the grave after being dead for four days, He calls, “Lazarus, come forth.”
Each one of these examples can be related to us at different points in our lives. Sometimes we need a little help and assistance to get up on our own two feet like the man waiting for a miracle at the waters of Bethesda. Sometimes we need Him to remind us of his power of not only to forgive us, but to shield and protect us from prying and judgmental eyes of others and of society as He did for the woman taken to him for judgement. Other times we find comfort in the reminder that our faith, no matter how small it may seem, is enough, when coupled with His power, to make us whole of whatever ailment we have carried around with us for years.
Still other times, we need His tender voice telling us to not give up, but to keep fighting the good fight, and to remember that we are still alive, as in the example of Jairus’s daughter. It may feel like we have nothing else to live for or give on our own, but with His help, we can come forward out of the most discouraging moments of our lives.
Finally, Lazarus, who was raised from the dead after having been dead for four days. Besides being perhaps one of Jesus’ more sensational miracles, I see in this a great parallel to our own lives. Simply due to the fact that we are mortal beings having a mortal experience, we are all spiritually dead in one way or another. More than simply enjoying the story of a rare miracle, I look at the account of Lazarus as an invitation from the Savior to come forth from whatever spiritual near-death situation we are in, because no matter how dead we feel, as long as we’re here, there’s still hope. It is never too late for any of us to extend our own hand and grasp the Savior’s.
We cannot discuss the atonement without talking about the two most important events that make up the physical act. In Matthew 26:39, we are told about the physical toll the act of carrying our burdens took on Him: “And he went a little further, and 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.” We also know from New Testament accounts that so great was the pain and suffering he endured, an angel was sent from heaven to support him through those late-night hours.
He suffered greatly, and did so willingly, so that we would not have to suffer. From His own first-hand account of this act, we read in Doctrine and Covenants 19:18, “Which suffering caused myself to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit…”
“[He] suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.” (Alma 7:11, 13) Three times He prayed, “Father, thy will be done.” [See Matthew 26:39–44]. The cup was not removed. In humble, faithful prayer He was strengthened to go forward and fulfill His divine mission to prepare for our salvation, that we might repent, believe, obey, and obtain the blessings of eternity.” (Carol F. McConkie, “The Soul’s Sincere Desire,” October 2016.)
And then He rose up off His face to face the soldiers who had come to take away His life.
The next morning, surely exhausted after his all-night ordeal, He trudged through the street, bent over by the weight of His cross. But then, He rose up and was lifted upon the cross. Explaining why He allowed this to happen, Jesus said, “My Father hath sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, and being lifted up by men, even so should men be lifted up by the Father.” (3 Nephi 27:14)
President Henry B. Eyring taught: “It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. … And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience.” (Henry B. Eyring, “Adversity,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2009, 24.)
In His final demonstration of the acts He requests us to do, He rose up from the dead – to an eternal state of living. He was resurrected so that we might all be lifted up.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Christ’s victory over death ended the human predicament. Now there are only personal predicaments, and from these too we may be rescued by following the teachings of him who rescued us from general extinction.” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, ed. Cory H. Maxwell (1997), 287.)
This brings us back to the invitation extended to each of us, no matter our circumstance, to rise up. “Many were healed physically from ailments and suffering during the Savior’s ministry, but real joy and happiness were not always realized. People may be healed but not lifted. Happiness does not come from physical, social, or economic success.
“[but] How beautiful in the eyes of the Lord are the spiritually well, those who have been taken by the hand and lifted up and made spiritually whole. How beautiful in the eyes of the Lord are those who take the time to lift the needy hand. Peace of mind only comes to us when we are spiritually healed. True joy comes from within. Freedom from a troubled soul is a worthy goal of all.” (Marvin J. Ashon, “He Took Him by the Hand,” October 1973.)
In the other healing stories I shared earlier, the invitation to rise up, change, and be made whole were given to individuals, and accepted individually. We do not know the post script of those individual accounts. There is one final story I’d like to share. In Luke 6:5-10, we read the story about the man with the withered hand. It was the Sabbath day, so the scribes and Pharisees were doing what they did best – watching Jesus to see which of their many laws he would break.
“But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Luke 6:8, 10.)
We are all like the man with the withered hand. The Savior calls us forth from the crowd, knowing what ails us, what our troubles are, how we ache, and the desires of our hearts. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, or what society says about our needs. What matters is that we all have the need to be made whole. And so, for all to see, He touches us and heals us.
I try to count my blessings, but I find that I am unable to count to infinity. And so I thank Heavenly Father each day for the gift and power of the atonement, for not only the birth of his son that we commemorate each December, but for the invitation to accept his outstretched hand, rise up, and be made whole.
Will you accept the invitation to rise up?