The greatest gift

The empty sepulcher represents the greatest gift ever given.

When Mary Magdalene and two other women arrived at the tomb early on the third morning after the crucifixion of Jesus, they found the heavy stone had been rolled from its entrance. The emptiness, revealed in that place of the dead, came to be associated with life everlasting.

Although the three women of long ago wept at the sight of the vacant tomb, we rejoice in its emptiness, particularly during Easter, the season that represents the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Prophet Joseph Smith described the significance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection:

"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121.)

We, in our mortal frailties, may never fully understand the miracle at the garden tomb. The Savior's own chosen apostles didn't understand it at the time. Before Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, where He took upon Himself the sins of the world, the apostles supped with Him a final time. In an upper room in Jerusalem, He introduced to them the ordinance of the sacrament, and gave them counsel. Those final words of instruction were added to countless teachings proffered during the sojourn of their shared ministry.

Among His discourses, Jesus taught them that He would come forth from the grave on the third day. But they did not comprehend the meaning of this. To them, the resurrection was still a mystery.

A throng some weeping and others jeering – witnessed the Savior's painful death. We know of no mortal who actually saw Him leave the tomb. However, the scriptures contain testimonies that hundreds saw the resurrected Savior.

After the cross of crucifixion was lowered, the Savior's body was removed and placed tenderly in a borrowed tomb. His faithful apostles, who later retreated to a closed room, knew nothing of the miracle that transpired on the morning of the third day. Then Mary Magadlene spread the joyous news that the grave was empty, and that she had seen and conversed with the risen Lord.

We read: "Then that same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19.)

Thomas, the apostle who was not present, doubted his brethren's claim that they had seen the resurrected Savior. When, after eight days Jesus came again to them and Thomas saw His hands and felt the wound in His side, he proclaimed, "My Lord and my God." (John 20:28.)

Doubt ended. Jesus taught His apostles the meaning of the resurrection with such clarity that for the rest of their lives they preached it fearlessly.

He sent them into all the world, to preach of Christ, His atoning sacrifice and the resurrection – the coming forth from the grave of the physical body of flesh and bone that could be handled and felt.

Jesus accomplished one of the great purposes of His entire mission: He overcame death. If it were not for the resurrection, imagine the painful answer to the mournful question: "O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55.) If the body remained in the grave, death would, in fact, be victorious.

Some individuals may refuse to believe the doctrine of the Savior's atonement and resurrection, but no one will be able to reject the accompanying gift of resurrection. Because of Him, everyone, believers and non-believers, will be released from endless death, to be judged whether they are worthy to receive exaltation – eternal life with our Heavenly Father – or an assignment to a lesser kingdom.

When a gift is given, an expression of thanks is expected. The best way we may express our gratitude is through keeping the commandments and receiving the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.