“O Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”

After the notable events of the Feast of the Tabernacles, which took place in the autumn, Jesus left Jerusalem to avoid being taken by his enemies. He escaped to the east, toward Jericho in the Jordan valley near the place where John had baptized. He apparently stayed in this neighborhood through the winter months, and “many resorted to him.” (John 10:39-42). Here he awaited his inevitable return to Jerusalem.

One day when Jesus was traveling near Jericho, “a certain blind man sat by the way side beginning; and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.”  When told that Jesus of Nazareth passed, he began to cry out, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”  This is the quintessential cry of everyone who repents, who feels the despair of incapacity or the sting of sin. These are the same words Alma the Younger cried when he was “in the gall of bitterness, and encircled about by the everlasting chains of death” because of his sins (Alma 36:18): “Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me.”

The crowd told the man to “hold his peace,” but he persisted; “he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” Eventually Jesus stood and asked the man to come near. “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” (Luke 18:35-41)

Thus the Lord deals with everyone who deeply needs and persistently cries after him.  Jesus indicates as much with his parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-5)  “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” he begins, and tells the story of a widow who persistently petitioned a certain judge for justice, and was finally rewarded because the judge did not want to be wearied by her “continual coming.”  How much more will God respond, says Jesus, to those who “cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”

So the blind man asked the Lord for his sight.  “And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God” (Luke 18:42-43). The reward of those who persistently and deeply cry out to the Lord is always “sight.”  Undoubtedly, the first person the once-blind man saw was the Lord himself–and this is the result for those who protractedly seek after him through the darkness and difficulties of life.  When Alma the Younger cried out in his anguish, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me,” he was immediately bathed in “marvelous light” and saw “God, sitting upon his throne . . . and my soul did long to be there” (Alma 36:20, 22). As a commentator has said,  “In one way or another, sooner or later, all mortals will plead, as Alma [and the blind man] did at his turning point, ‘O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me.’  Thus we are blessed with enlarged perspectives.” [1]

Saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will enable us to see Him and to embrace Him, which is the very essence of the Atonement. The blind man’s saving faith in the Son of David was demonstrated by his resolute appeals and his determination to follow Him upon receiving the light. In the same way we can all have saving faith in Him.

Jesus’ days in the Jordan valley were drawing to a close when he received an urgent appeal from his friends at Bethany, Mary and Martha. Their brother Lazarus, “he whom thou lovest,” was sick. His immediate response: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:1-4). Instead of setting off immediately for Bethany, he waited, abiding “two days still in the same place where he was,” demonstrating again that the higher purposes of God dictate the timing of the Lord’s action in our lives.  “The glory of God,” we are told in Moses 1:39, is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  For that greater purpose Jesus tarried near Jericho, and after the two days had passed began the climb up the steep Jericho road toward Bethany. By this time, Jesus knew, Lazarus was already dead and in his grave. “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there,” he said to his disciples, “to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (John 11:15).

Upon his arrival at Bethany, he went to the grieving family of Lazarus. This was a faith-filled household, dear to Jesus. This was the place, according to President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “which seems to have held for him the most of peace, the most of sympathy, understanding, and love, the most of home, the home to which, in the hours of his sorest trials he turned, after his neighbors and kin, unbelieving and cruel, had rejected him.” [2]   Martha met him, saying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

Martha had pleaded for Jesus to come and save her brother from death, but apparently in vain. It took Him so long to come! She had watched Lazarus breathe out his life, tenderly wrap him in his grave clothes, and prepare the body for burial. She had seen the stone rolled in front of the tomb. She had mourned in her home for the customary period, while friends and visitors tried to console her. And yet Jesus, her ultimate consolation, did not come. Nevertheless, through her pain, Martha maintained a mature faith in Jesus Christ. She knew the power He held, but she also knew that His power would be exercised only in conformity to the will of God. She knew that Jesus and His Father are one in purpose and will. So she knew there was still hope.

“Thy brother shall rise again,” Jesus said to her. “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” she replied. Then Jesus taught her a remarkable truth: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”  (John 11:25-26)

In this brief passage is contained the twofold essence of the Atonement of Christ, as President Joseph Fielding Smith explains.

Here are two thoughts expressed which have appeared confusing to many, yet his meaning is plain. As the resurrection and the life, he had power to bring forth from their graves all the children of Adam. In giving to those who believed on him the power that they should never die, he had no reference to the mortal or physical dissolution, but to the second death, which is banishment from the presence of God. This second death, from which the righteous are freed, is the condemnation of those who are consigned to immortality outside of the kingdom of God. [3]

First, Jesus Christ is the resurrection from temporal death, as President Joseph F. Smith teaches:

Jesus Christ himself is the true and only true type of the resurrection of men from death unto life.



. . . As he rose, and as he preserved his identity, even to the scars of the wounds in his hands and feet and side . . . he was indeed himself, the Lord crucified, buried in the tomb, and raised again from death to life. So it will be with you and with every son and daughter of Adam, born into the world. We will come forth out of the grave . . . and these our bodies shall rise and our spirits shall enter into them again, and they shall become living souls, no more to be dissolved or separated, but to become inseparable, immortal eternal. [4]


Secondly, Christ is “the life,” meaning eternal life, in that he saves us from spiritual death, which, as President Smith points out, “is a more terrible death than that of the body.”

When [Adam and Eve] partook of the forbidden fruit they were cast out and banished from the presence of God . . . “Wherein they became spiritually dead, which is the first death.” And it was impossible for Adam in that condition to extricate himself from the position in which he had place himself. He was within the grasp of Satan . . . And if there had not been a way of escape provided for him, his death would have been a perpetual, endless, eternal death, without any hope. . . . Somebody else had to reach down and help him up. Some other and higher power than his had to bring him forth out of the condition in which he had placed himself: for he was subject unto Satan and powerless and helpless in and of himself. . . . Through [Jesus Christ] we are raised not only from the dead, but are also redeemed, or may be redeemed, from spiritual death, and be brought back into the presence of God. [5]

We must understand the declaration of Jesus in John 11:25 in this way: He is not only the resurrection–that is, Savior from physical death, but also the “life”–that is, the Savior from spiritual death.

“Yea, Lord; I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27). This was Martha’s answer to the Lord’s question: “Believest thou this?” Her straightforward testimony, proven through trial, was about to be confirmed in a marvelous way. The Lord has made an unequivocal promise to people like Martha who pass through sorrow with unshaken faith: that in His own time their losses will be restored, their tears wiped away, and transient pain turn to eternal joy, “for after much tribulation . . . cometh the blessing” (D&C 103:12).

To seal the truth of the doctrine he had just taught–that through Him comes resurrection and life–Jesus commanded that the stone be rolled away. At this point, He paused and thanked his Heavenly Father for the sign that was about to be given: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41-42). Through this prayer, Jesus reveals the truth about saving faith, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie has pointed out: “This is the absolute ultimate in faith–to know our petitions will be granted because they accord with the mind and will of the Lord.” [6]

Then Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The onlookers must have been astonished as “he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes” (John 11:43-44).   This sign of power set a seal on the doctrine that Jesus had taught and foreshadowed the miracle of resurrection and life that Jesus would enable for all people. Thus he demonstrated that faith in Him is truly faith unto salvation.

Elder McConkie says this of saving faith:

But working by faith is not the mere speaking of a few well-chosen words; anyone with the power of speech could have commanded the rotting corpse of Lazarus to come forth, but only one whose power was greater than death could bring life again to the brother of Mary and Martha.  Nor is working by faith merely a mental desire, however strong, that some eventuality should occur.  There may be those whose mental powers and thought processes are greater than any of the saints, but only persons who are in tune with the Infinite can exercise the spiritual forces and powers that come from him.

Those who work by faith must first have faith; no one can use a power that he does not possess, and the faith or power must be gained by obedience to those laws upon which its receipt is predicated. . . .  And then–when the day is at hand and the hour has arrived for the miracle to be wrought–then they must be in tune with the Holy Spirit of God.  He who is the Author of faith, he whose power faith is, he whose works are the embodiment of justice and judgment and wisdom and all good things, even he must approve the use of his power in the case at hand.  Faith cannot be exercised contrary to the order of heaven or contrary to the will and purposes of him whose power it is.  Men work by faith when they are in tune with the Spirit and when what they seek to do by mental exertion and by the spoken word is the mind and will of the Lord.” [7]

Lazarus, Martha, Mary, the blind man–these were ordinary mortals who exercised a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They waited patiently for Him, called on Him without ceasing, and submitted to His will in all their trials–and ultimately the light broke and the stone was rolled away.  May we all seek a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


[1] Cheesman, Paul R., Monte S. Nyman, and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds. Book of Mormon Symposium Series. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1991, p. 8.

[2] Clark, J. Reuben Jr. Behold the Lamb of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1962, 291

[3] Smith, Joseph Fielding. Doctrines of Salvation. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956. 2:266

[4] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 1998, pp. 90-91.

[5] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 1998, pp. 96, 98-99

[6] McConkie, Bruce R. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:407

[7] McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 191-192.