In Matthew 27–28 we read about Jesus Christ’s terrible suffering and painful death for all mankind and His Resurrection. Matthew showed how these events and others leading up to it fulfilled prophecy. After experiencing ridicule, trials, and abuse at the hands of Roman soldiers, Jesus Christ was crucified. His body was placed in a tomb. At the dawning of the first day of the week, an angel of the Lord proclaimed the joyful news that Jesus had risen from the dead. Many others were also resurrected shortly thereafter, a manifestation of the truth that the Savior’s Resurrection made possible the Resurrection of all mankind. After His Resurrection, Jesus Christ met His disciples at an appointed place in Galilee and commissioned them to take His gospel to all nations. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was the great crowning event of His life and mission. It was the capstone of the Atonement” (in “Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 15).
Briefly summarize Matthew 27:1–25 by pointing out to your students that in these verses, Matthew recorded the death of Judas Iscariot, Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, and Pilate’s indecision regarding what to do with Jesus Christ. Summarizing these verses will allow you to spend more time studying the account of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Distribute a sheet of paper to each student, and then display a picture of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. You could use The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book , no. 57; see also LDS.org). Ask students to select one of the faithful onlookers depicted in the picture and imagine they are that person. Have a student read the student manual commentary for Matthew 27:35–50. Then read aloud Matthew 27:26–56 to your class, and encourage students to follow along in their scriptures and ponder what thoughts and feelings may have occurred to the person they selected in the picture. When you have completed the reading, allow students several minutes to write what they imagine the person they selected would have said about what they witnessed. Invite several students to share what they wrote with the class.
As you consider the impressions of the Spirit and the needs of your students, you may want to use some of the following teaching ideas to add greater depth to the students’ understanding of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Invite students to look over Matthew 27:26–35 and imagine the physical pain Jesus endured during these events. (To help students understand the brutal practice of scourging, you might use the student manual commentary for Matthew 27:26.) Remind students of the Savior’s statement, recorded in Matthew 26:53, that He could have summoned twelve legions of angels to come to His aid. Then have students read 1 Nephi 19:9–10, looking for further evidence that the Savior allowed the scourging and other painful and humiliating acts to be done to Him. You might ask questions like the following:
Consider this truth: The Savior permitted the scourging and other painful and humiliating acts to be done to Him. What evidence can you find in these scriptures that this statement is true?
What can you learn from Jesus Christ’s example during His Crucifixion? (see also Matthew 5:44).
Write the following question on the board:
Use the discussion of this question to help students better understand this truth: The Savior stayed true to His mission despite the ridicule and scorn directed at Him while He was on the cross. As students give their answers, have a student write responses on the board. The list might look like the following:
Have students look again at Matthew 27:39–44.
What do you find significant about the word if as used in the ridicule and scorn directed at the Savior?
It might be helpful to briefly remind students of the manner in which Satan tempted the Savior in Matthew 4:1–11. Each of these temptations was preceded with the word if (see the student manual commentary for Matthew 27:40–43).
As the Savior hung on the cross, how might His weakened physical condition have made these “if thou be …” statements more difficult to bear? (Temptations are often more difficult to resist when we are physically and emotionally fatigued.)
Write this doctrinal statement on the board: The Atonement of Christ included His suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, His death, and His Resurrection. Then read the following statement to your class:
“[Jesus Christ’s] Atonement included His suffering for the sins of mankind, the shedding of His blood, and His death and subsequent resurrection from the grave” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Atone, Atonement”; scriptures.lds.org).
According to this statement, which events were part of the Atonement of the Savior?
Ask students to search the following scriptures, looking for the connection between the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the Atonement: 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Nephi 11:33; Doctrine and Covenants 138:35. Then ask students:
What did you learn from Matthew’s account and these verses about the relationship of the Savior’s Crucifixion to His Atonement? (Students should be able to explain that the Crucifixion was the culminating event of the Savior’s suffering for sins and that the scriptures speak of the Crucifixion as part of the Atonement.)
As you conclude this portion of the lesson, consider having students turn to the words of the hymn they sang at the opening of class. Give students a few minutes to read the words and to reflect upon what the hymn teaches about the death, Resurrection, and Atonement of Jesus Christ.
You may choose to supplement your lesson with the video “To This End Was I Born” (27:20) from the S&I New Testament DVD. Rather than showing the entire video, which runs nearly half an hour, consider showing only the last 10 minutes, beginning where Jesus was brought before Pilate for questioning.
Ask students how they imagine the disciples of Jesus Christ must have felt at the end of the day when Jesus was crucified. You could list words on the board as the students give their answers: confused, frightened, deep sorrow, feeling like all was lost. Invite students to think about times in their own life when they may have experienced similar emotions.
Have several students take turns reading aloud Matthew 28:1–8. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that show what emotions the women felt. Explain that fear in verse 8 means “awe” or “reverence.” You might invite students to highlight in verse 6 the words, “He is not here: for he is risen.” Then ask:
Based on the information in these verses, what would these women be able to say as they told the disciples what they had witnessed? (The tomb was empty. They had seen an angel, who had told them that Jesus was risen.)
Have a student read Matthew 28:9–10, and then ask the following question:
After the women had the experience described in these verses, what else would they be able to tell the disciples? (As students share their responses, help them understand this doctrine: Jesus Christ was resurrected with a physical, tangible body.)
Explain to students that Matthew recorded the appearance of other resurrected beings to inhabitants of Jerusalem. Have students quietly study Matthew 27:50–53, looking for when the events in these verses took place. (The earthquake and the tearing of the temple veil occurred at the time Jesus died, but the Saints who had been buried arose and appeared to people after His Resurrection.)
Who were the “saints which slept” and “appeared unto many”? (The righteous who had lived before the time of Christ.)
When these Saints rose from the dead, as recorded in Matthew 27:51–53, what truths about the Resurrection were taught? (As students share their ideas, help them understand this doctrine: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ began the Resurrection of all of God’s children.)
Read the following quotation by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) to your students, and have them consider why the words “He is not here: for he is risen” are among the greatest words ever spoken:
“The greatest events of history are those which affect the greatest number for the longest periods. By this standard, no event could be more important to individuals or nations than the resurrection of the Master. The eventual resurrection of every soul who has lived and died on earth is a scriptural certainty, and surely there is no event for which one should make more careful preparation. Nothing is more absolutely universal than the resurrection. Every living being will be resurrected” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 119–20).
Invite the students to discuss what the Resurrection means to them personally by asking:
What difference does it make in your life to know the reality of the Resurrection?
When have you seen the doctrine of the Resurrection comfort someone?
Read together the quotation by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the student manual commentary for Matthew 28:6. Conclude this portion of the lesson by inviting a few students to share how they have gained their testimonies that all mankind will be resurrected.
How would you restate in your own words Jesus Christ’s command to His Apostles in Matthew 28:19–20? (As students share their ideas, emphasize this truth: Jesus Christ commanded His Apostles to teach His gospel to all nations.)
How does this differ from what the Savior taught His Apostles in Matthew 10:5–6?
Help the students understand that the Savior’s mortal ministry focused only on “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), but following His Resurrection, He sent His Apostles to teach “all nations.”
How do modern Apostles fulfill the commission the Savior gave to His ancient Apostles?
Have students take a closer look in Matthew 28:20 and identify the Savior’s promise to His Apostles. Point out that the Lord gave this promise to His Apostles in the context of commissioning them to teach all nations, which implies that the Lord will be with us in our efforts to share the gospel. Then ask:
How has the Lord been “with you” in your efforts to share the gospel?
You might conclude by sharing your testimony of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Testify of how you have felt the companionship of the Holy Ghost as you have shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.