In a certain society, Johnny robbed and brutally killed an old lady (a la “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky). A most heinous, brutal crime. According to the law of the land, he should be hanged for this. But his 13-year-old nephew Billy (a fully responsible young boy in that society), as sweet and innocent a boy as they come in that age, asks the judge to allow him to take Johnny’s place. An unusual request, to be sure, but the one that was eventually granted and carried out.
It so happens that on the third day after the execution, Billy suddenly comes back to life. Not only that, but his new life essence makes him immortal. Not only that, his body becomes immune to any disease or damage. Sort of like a superhero, with one exception – he doesn’t hold his powers only to himself. Billy has now the power to impart his amazing new life essence to anyone, for the asking.
As Billy explained, the offer, at its core, is this. When you want to have the life essence of Billy, your life essence is taken out from you, and you experience an instantaneous clinical death. However, the life essence of Billy is immediately placed within you, and you are back to life before you know what happened. Now the center of your being shifts from your physical body to the newly acquired life essence, and your new identity becomes that of Billy.
You still think like you, your legal name is still as it used to be, your personality is just about the same, but the essence of who you are is Billy. The person that you used to be, in its previous constitution, is effectively gone. The new person who is alive, shares its life essence with Billy. The science of that society could trace it all down to whatever particle level, and they actually confirmed that your actual identity on that level is indeed Billy, even though you have your old body, and still look, sound, smile, and walk like the old you. A really interesting twist!
Johnny, in the three days after Billy’s death, kept on thinking with much regret about how he had lived his life, and there were a lot of things that he wished to take back. Having learned about what happened to Billy, he was very joyful and encouraged, and now being a contrite person, he naturally wanted to take part in Billy’s offer. And he did.
Although Billy couldn’t impart his new body to his followers, his imparted life essence had one curious property – it could heal bodily damage of any severity. All you would have to do is think on your new life invisibly flowing to the injured area, knowing that it would always do its job. And it would be as you believed. You could also place your hand upon other folks who didn’t have Billy’s life essence in them, and the power would flow into them and produce healing there. Johnny, having learned about this, was very excited, and made it a point to find as many old ladies as he could, and get them healed, and tell them about Billy, and that they can have that too, 24/7.
Soon, some outsider, not knowing what had been happening in this society, but knowing about Johnny’s strange court trial, ran into Johnny, and recognized him from newspapers photos. Indignant, he proceeded to tell Johnny how what happened during those judicial proceedings was a double travesty of justice. “I don’t care about your private arrangement with Billy”, the stranger kept on railing, “that doesn’t change anything about this case – the murderer walks free, and an innocent person is hanged for the crime he didn’t commit. You call that justice?!”.
Johnny patiently listened, and when the stranger was done, Johnny said: “You don’t understand. I WAS judged, condemned, and died for my crimes”. The stranger looked at him, utterly confused. Johnny asked him “Don’t you know that my crime received due punishment?” The stranger retorted: “But you didn’t die for your own crimes! An innocent boy – what’s his name – Billy – that’s right, Billy died for you, and he didn’t commit any of his own crimes.” Johnny looked at him and said: “You are not really looking at Johnny. I look like Johnny, my legal name is still Johnny, but that’s not my real identity. In all truth – I am Billy”.
P.S. I am not a master storyteller by any means. However, this should illustrate a few concepts in a hopefully somewhat engaging story form (after all, it has a superhero, some mild violence, and a legal confrontation solved with clever courtroom tactics :-)). I told my story to my young son, and asked him to draw parallels, we both looked for and found a few things in the parable that don’t correspond to the truth (e.g., Jesus paid for all sins of all people, vs. just one in the story). Then I asked him a few questions. From his responses, I saw that it helped him understand things more clearly in these areas: “I am no longer just me, but it’s me and Jesus both”, “that’s why when we pray people get healed – it’s Jesus in us healing through us”, “the devil can’t accuse me of not paying the price for my sins – I did pay the price by death, through the body of Jesus”, etc.