With Us in Prison

Circumstances in life can sometimes cause us to feel imprisoned, trapped—by the consequences of our choices, negative patterns of behavior, harmful relationships, bad health, injustices inflicted upon us, the holding of grudges. Ultimately, the stain of sin would cause our downfall and just transfer us from one prison to another. Said the prophet Jacob: “Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man”—meaning our earthly condition of being estranged from God—”must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. … And our spirits must … be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Nephi 9:7, 9).

Enter the convict Bernhardt and his cellmate, Joshua (a not-so-subtle use of an equivalent name for Jesus).

The Parable of the Other Inmate presents two unlikely situations.

First: which of us would volunteer to spend decades in prison without having done something to deserve it? To do it with the purposes of understanding and developing a relationship with an offender? I can say I wouldn’t be quick to sign up, and even were the Lord to require it of me, I would struggle to agree to it.

Jesus Christ never committed the slightest crime, yet He received all the punishment and felt all the pain and anguish.

Second: it wouldn’t make sense for the person advocating for a reformed convict to also be the one who approves said convict’s release. Imperfect societies can’t function that way because that person’s single point of view may be biased, uninformed, or otherwise flawed. Further, the advocate, it could be argued, wants a positive outcome, so he inherently cannot take the place of an impartial judge. Separate people must take on these roles because they have competing interests, and it takes multiple points of view for the uninformed to develop as complete a picture as possible and therefore arrive at a proper resolution.

But Jesus won the right to both advocate for us and judge us.

Fortunately for disciples of Christ, the heavenly courtroom isn’t subject to the same rules and limitations. The One who is both Advocate and Judge is someone who has seen and been through everything, as taught in the scriptures:

  • “he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21).
  • “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11–13).
  • “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

It’s fortunate for us that the One who will make our case is the One who understands us much better than we can understand ourselves. That same One keeps the gate to the Father’s presence and will pronounce whether His own mercy fills the void. If we have followed Christ, we will find that the One who passes judgment in the end is He who has been with us along the way and even walked the road before we ever did.

Perhaps we should find it no surprise that He taught us to visit Him (really, others) in prison—because having committed no offense toward God, Jesus stepped into our worst prisons put together so that He can visit us while we live in them and ultimately provide us with both relief and release.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

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