Brand New’s “Jesus Christ” and Self-Knowledge

In the song “Jesus Christ” (video and lyrics below) Brand New front-man Jesse Lacey is […]

Todd Brewer / 4.22.11


In the song “Jesus Christ” (video and lyrics below) Brand New front-man Jesse Lacey is compelled by loneliness and fear of the afterlife to reconcile what he knows about himself with what he knows about Christianity. He is unflinchingly honest about himself: Lacey lives an erratically lonely life and knows that it will ultimately end alone. He suggests that if his salvation depends on his ability to accept or reject Jesus, then Lacey rightly knows that he will reject him every time. Whatever good he may have in his life, he knows that his “bright is too slight to hold back all my dark” and that “this ship went down in sight of land”. Lacey knows that if Good Friday were to happen again, he would crucify Jesus again. There’s a deeply Christian insight here about the bound nature of humanity and its hopeless estate.



Yet the similarity of Lacey’s self-understanding with Christianity also serves as its departure point. While he knows himself to be a sinner in need of redemption, his self-knowledge alone leaves him in despair beyond redemption. Lacey believes that his opposition to God will lead to his downfall. He is too sinful, too doubtful, and too defensive. It seems that Jesus’ death might not be enough: “this problem is going to last more than the weekend”.

This song demonstrates both the depth and the limitations of self-knowledge. Here, self-knowledge becomes Christian when it is grasped in light of the God who lovingly gave himself for his guilty enemies. The voice of self-condemnation that often masquerades as humility only finds its proper “use” when it has been silenced by another voice.



It is here that I wish I could tell Lacey about the God who justifies the ungodly – and that is really the point! Without word of the gospel, there is only speculative despair that God may act favorably toward us. One may presume that they are loved, but one does not know with any certainty that this is the case until someone says “I love you”. Apart from those three words, we are likely led in the exact opposite conclusion: that our numerous character flaws have finally caught up with us and left us unloved. And this is the good news of “Jesus Christ” – though we know ourselves to be unreliable, insecure, brash, self-involved, such that we have rejected our savior – the gospel comes anyway and reveals the God who overcomes our defensiveness.


Jesus Christ, that’s a pretty face
The kind you’d find on someone that could save
If they don’t put me away,
It’ll be a miracle
Do you believe you’re missing out?
That everything good is happening somewhere else
With nobody in your bed,
The night is hard to get through

And I will die all alone
And when I arrive I won’t know anyone

Jesus Christ, I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
Because this problem is going to last
More than the weekend
Jesus Christ, I’m not scared to die
But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after
Do I get the gold chariot
Or do I float through the ceiling

Or do I divide and pull apart
Because my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark
And this ship went down in sight of land
And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?

I know you’re coming in the night like a thief
But I’ve had some time, O Lord, to hone my lying technique
I know you think that I’m someone you can trust
But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up
So do you think that we could work out a sign
So I’ll know it’s you and that it’s over so I won’t even try
I know you’re coming for the people like me
But we all got wood and nails
And we turn, turn-out hate in factories
We all got wood and nails
And we turn, turn-out hate in factories
We all got wood and nails
And we sleep inside of this machine