Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16  Job 14:1-14  1 Peter 4:1-8   Matthew 27:57-66

He descended into hell.

So it says in the Rite I version of the Apostle’s Creed, recited for centuries as our affirmation of faith. Jesus, placed in a tomb on Good Friday, did not stay there, according to long tradition. He descended into hell and brought out all of those who had been cast there, beginning with Adam and Eve.

There is no real scriptural support for this idea of a Harrowing of Hell, as it is called from the Middle English, but there are references to his descent “into the lower parts of the earth” and making “captivity itself captive” (Ephesians 4: 9,8). 1 Peter claims the Christ “made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” and “to the dead” (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6). Much of what we understand about Christ’s descent into hell comes from the non-canonical 4th century text known as the Gospel of Nicodemus although earlier theologians like Origen and Tertullian also make reference to Christ freeing the dead from Satan’s grasp.

If we believe that Christ’s death and resurrection overthrew the power of Satan and freed us all from sin, then it is not hard to believe that, while Jesus’ friends and family were grieving his atrocious death and fearing that they might be next, God, meanwhile, was up to something else. All of those who had gone before were being released into new life—not physically but spiritually, brought into the nearer presence of God, while the devil was placed in captivity until the final battle that is yet to come.

As so often happens when we are preoccupied with the cares and concerns of life, God is working all things to our good. In God’s meanwhile, even our worst can become our best. In God’s meanwhile, even death can become life. Even when it seems that all is lost, in God’s meanwhile, all can be restored.

He descended into hell.

Meanwhile . . .

— The Rev. Elaine Thomas

No comments:

Post a Comment