Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Did Jesus Literally Suffer for Our Sins?

In essence, I see Jesus as the great and final "scapegoat". If you know about that ancient custom (think about the parable of separating the sheep from the goats), the Jews would take a goat, symbolically load it down with the sins of the people then let it loose in the wilderness - thus symbolizing God's forgiveness of His people.

I see Jesus as the "human" representation of that ancient ritual - the one chosen by God to symbolically carry the sins of the people, be rejected and "cast away" by that people and, thus, come to represent His forgiveness of them. The "addition" in the case of Jesus was the carrying of ALL their suffering - not just the guilt for their sins, but also the pain caused by their sicknesses and simple mistakes. Thus, He became not just their temporary sin scapegoat but their permanent "Savior" and "Redeemer".

Personally, I think it was important to have Jesus be crucified by the Romans, because that was the ultimate expression of their oppression - their great communal pain and suffering and guilt. Honestly, I don't try to understand what he actually suffered in the Garden. I tried that once in the MTC, and I essentially came to understand that it wasn't necessary to understand it to accept it. In effect, I was allowed to see that it's not the actual pain or mechanics that is important; it's the symbolism "embodied" that is critical.

It's one of the aspects of Mormonism that is the most "glorious" to me, but it's also one of the things that I believe is generalized for a reason. Sometimes, the symbolic needs to have a literal alternative to help those who think and see literally, and sometime the literal needs to have a symbolic interpretation to help those who think and see symbolically. I believe this is the ultimate example, so I accept both ways of looking at it as "legitimate" on an individual level - and the literal option as the one that should be taught as the general, default presentation.

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