Jesus, our Perfect Exemplar, was astonishingly exemplary even in the hours surrounding the awful but glorious Atonement. The intrigue of Pilate and Herod, for instance, who had earlier been “at enmity” but who “made friends together” because of Jesus, presented opportunities for Jesus to “shrink” from going through with the Atonement (Luke 23:12; D&C 19:18). Herod, who had been desirous “to see [Jesus] of a long season,” “hoped to have seen some miracle done by him” (Luke 23:8). Yet Jesus, under heavy questioning from Herod, “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9; see also Mosiah 14:7). Jesus’ integrity and intellect were not for sale! Amid temptation, he maintained his integrity–even in the midst of an opportunity that a lesser individual would have seized to reduce his suffering and to increase the praise of men.
Ironically, when Jesus’ enemies came for him, the Light of the World, they came with lanterns and torches (John 18:3). Jesus, who by then might have understandably been so swollen with sorrow and self-concern that there was no time to think of others, nevertheless restored the severed ear of a hostile guard (Luke 22:5051). Amid irony he kept his poise. He also kept his way, which is not the way of the sword.
Christ spoke only several sentences on the cross. One of them was to insure that his mother, Mary, would be cared for by John (John 19:2527). Another sentence reassured a thief on an adjoining cross (Luke 23:43). He had empathy amid his agony.
Finally, he maintained his consecration in the midst of the deepest deprivation anyone can know. President Brigham Young taught us that in the course of the astonishing Atonement, the Father withdrew both his presence and his Spirit from Jesus, and, further, even cast a veil over Jesus (JD 3:206). Thus Jesus became utterly and totally alone! There then came that great cry of forsakenness! “Nevertheless,” Jesus did not “shrink,” but, instead, “finished [his] preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:1819). Just as he promised premortally, even when he might have reflected a little credit upon himself for the glorious Atonement, meek Jesus, instead, gave all the glory to the Father (D&C 19:19).
We need not apologize for regarding Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We need not apologize for regarding salvational knowledge, revealed by him, as being the most precious. Indeed, in Christ “all things hold together,” for he is perfect in knowing and perfect in doing. And, most marvelously, he has challenged us to become like him (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional, August 1992