This is a guest post from Ryan Lane.

We are often told that Jesus died to pay the price of our sins.  Yet it seems strange that the unfair death of God’s innocent son could somehow be a good thing to the rest of us.  We try to explain this mystery by telling stories that connect Jesus’ life to our lives.  As Mormons, we usually do this by telling stories about God’s eternal plan.  We tell stories of cosmic struggles between Justice and Mercy or between Sin/Death and Grace.  These are important stories, but sometimes they might seem a little mythological or abstract.  Sometimes when my imagination or my faith is running a little low I get a little tired of trying to relate stories of the creation, the fall, and the atonement to my own life.  Is there some other way for me to connect with Jesus?

Yes!  Jesus and I are connected to each other through the story of human history, the same story that is told in the Bible.  Perhaps we Mormons can learn a few things about Jesus by spending more time telling the story of his life, as found in the Bible.

Jesus’ role in the story of the Bible is to introduce humanity to the New Covenant (Hebrews 8).  The New Covenant had been predicted in the Old Testament by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  Jeremiah said that this New Covenant would not be like the old covenant that Moses received.  In the New Covenant, people would no longer need other people to preach to them about God, because everyone would know God personally.  So, Christ initiated this New Covenant by helping us to know God.

Jesus helped us know God not simply by dying for us, but perhaps more importantly by how he lived.  When we study the life of Jesus, we study the result of a terrible “experiment”. We get to see what happens when God shows up in the world.  The experiment showed that God didn’t fit in very well.  Jesus was always on a different plane from those around him.  The people tried to engage him in discussions about what was important to them, like questions about doctrines, the technicalities of who would be with whom in the afterlife, and how to judge between right and wrong.  But Jesus never really got caught up in the conversation; he always seemed to have his mind on something else.  He was always talking about God and his kingdom. He seemed to have his eye on a different world, a new world.

road-to-emmausThe disciples were excited about this new world.    It filled them with ambition and wonder at the possibilities.  They aspired to be next to him when he came into this kingdom in great glory.  But Jesus said they were missing the whole point  (Mark 10:35-42).  They were thinking of the glory in human terms, as if Jesus were some kind of king of this world.  The kingdom is totally “out of this world”, he tried to explain (John 18:36).   But they never really understood this until Jesus was suddenly killed.  This event utterly shocked them, drained their ambition, filled them with fear, and shattered their all-too-human faith.  In fact, the Number One Apostle was so ashamed and fearful that he pretended he didn’t even know Jesus.

But then three days later, before the light of the morning, a woman Mary went to the tomb of Jesus to wash his body, but it was missing.  She told Apostles Number One and Number Two.  They raced to the tomb, and Number Two got there first.  When they saw that Jesus was gone, they believed but they didn’t understand.  And they didn’t stay either.  They went home, but Mary stayed and cried.  Then she saw Jesus but she didn’t recognize him.  Instead of fearing an apparent stranger in a dangerous world that kills good people unfairly, she asked if he knew where the body was.  (By contrast, shortly afterwards, the disciples were huddled together behind locked doors because of their fears).  But Mary didn’t show fear.  Perhaps she had lost all fear because the worst imaginable thing had already happened, and it had taught her what she truly wanted in life. Her only desire was to find Jesus, wherever he might be. Then she heard Jesus say her name, and suddenly she saw Jesus differently, as if for the first time (John 20:1-18).  She no longer saw him from a worldly point of view.  She saw that the new creation had come; everything was new and different because she was “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5: 16-17 [1]).

giottoThis was the beginning of a “new type of human”; a human who knows God.  In the world, the new humans, like Jesus, resembled “dead men” (Galatians 6:14).[2]  Their worldly ambitions and dreams, and the associated fears, had died with Jesus on the Cross.  That death had been necessary to prepare them to see the new creation that Jesus had been talking about all along: the Kingdom stuff and the God stuff.   Their ability to see the new creation is what made them dead to the old world.  Because they were already dead to the old world, they didn’t fear it but faced it with boldness and courage.

Perhaps, like Mary and the disciples, we too need a massive “faith transition” to understand what Jesus and his message is all about.  Perhaps sometimes our old faith has to die so that a new faith can be reborn.  When this happens we might stop seeing Jesus in a worldly way, as a means for achieving our worldly ambitions.  Perhaps, like the disciples, we have to live through the death of Christ by seeing our worldly ambitions, fears, and even our faith, die on the cross.  Perhaps we need to focus less on the race towards Jesus, and instead wait a little bit longer for him to come to us.    When our old human faith and our fears of other humans are extinguished, perhaps we will start seeing the new stuff, which is the kingdom stuff and the God stuff.  Perhaps we will even come to know God.  But if this wonderful change does happen to us, perhaps it is because we are already a part of the New Covenant, the New Creation, that began with Jesus in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago.


[1] Corinthians 5: 16-17:  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

[2]  “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer