Saturday, April 19, 2014

Where is he now?

We think about the crucifixion  and we think about the Resurrection, but rarely do we think about what happened in between.
In the apostles creed we say, "he descended into hell" and I always disliked that translation. Being rather persnickety about words it is a bad translation for "sheol" the place of the dead. The place of the dead was not a place of punishment. All dead people went there. We forget that before the resurrection of Jesus no human being entered heaven. Heaven is for God and angels. Jesus's decent into hell was necessary so that all of the just people who lived before might be taken up into heaven.

There is another level on which the phrase descended into hell might also be understood. We talk about going though hell at certain points in our life, and when we repeat those words "He descended into hell" they can be a reminder that Jesus came down from heaven and entered into the deepest part of human suffering. Jesus knows our pain. Jesus is with us in our pain. Jesus still in that sense descends into our hell and so no matter how alone we may feel. The truth is we are never alone.

When we look at the Bronzino painting, we see the hope of the people whom Jesus is going to lift up. Jesus continues to descend with us into the darkest moments of life, and will, if we allow him, raise us out of darkness into light.