Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday: devastation, anguish, hell

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand
(Jn 19:41f).

The Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the hope of Israel, the long-promised Saviour is dead. He lies lifeless in a tomb. For Christians, after the intensity of the Last Supper and the Passion, this is usually a low-key day of quiet expectation and preparation for tomorrow. And it's going to be a scorcher, so mow the lawn, go for a pint of warm English beer and get the barbeque out.

It is a much misunderstood day, seemingly of no great spiritual significance. Jesus is buried: we are left wondering and waiting. But for the Lord, it was the day he descended to Hades and conquered eternal death.

Most of the Church has forgotten the Harrowing of Hell; those who remember tend to half apologise for it. Certainly, ‘hell’ is not a helpful translation: Jesus was in Hades (ᾍδης) or Sheol (שאול) – a place of peace for some and torment for others. Following the trauma of the crucifixion, Mary was distraught, the disciples were weeping, Judas was hanging, and the Romans, Pharisees and Saducees were rejoicing. But Jesus was descending to the place of departed spirits to preach the Good News and liberate the captives.

The Apostles’ Creed says so (‘He descended into hell’ [BCP]); Aquinas affirms this in his magisterial Summa Theologica (IIIa, q52); the idea is found in some of the earliest writings of the Church Father: Irenaeus, in his tract Contra Haereses (5,31,2) says the Lord ‘tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth” (Eph 4:9)...where the souls of the dead were...’; and Tertullian, in A Treatise on the Soul (60), wrote: ‘With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself.’

The event is referred or alluded to numerous times in Scripture (Acts 2:31; Eph 4:8-10; 1Pt 3:18-20), and many consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) relevant, and also Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross – ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’ (Lk 23:42f).

Here is not the place to discuss the diverse interpretations of these scriptures and expositions: it is not news that Christians disagree, not least on the soteriological implications of a ‘second chance’ of repentance after death. Whether or not this was the point of salvation for Adam and Eve, Noah, David... cannot be known this side of Glory. What we do know is that the Lord wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4): He wants all to see his image, repent of their sin, take on his likeness, be pure, holy, perfect. He wants everyone to know Him and to love more.

On this Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent, let our faith be made stronger; let us be more assured that sin and death are conquered; let us know a little more of the light through the sometimes impenetrable shadows. Whether the Harrowing of Hell is literal or figurative, corporeal or spiritual, it has a message for all of us today: the highest response to evil is to free people from it. Let us rejoice that our Redeemer lives.


Anonymous Dick the prick said...

Your Grace

Amen to that.


23 April 2011 at 10:04  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

It has strong connotations with Hel of the Old Norse and Hades of the Greeks, don't you find YG.

Here we have clear reference to the Subterranean Spirit Realm.

Philipians-2.10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth

23 April 2011 at 10:49  
Anonymous len said...

This time must indeed have been a time of utter desolation and uncertainty for the Disciples. Their leader,their teacher, had been crucified, the disciples scattered, a time of fear and uncertainty.
Jesus had told the Disciples what must happen to Him, but had they really understood?
It would see that evil had triumphed, that God`s plan for redemption had failed, Satan had thwarted God`s plans, all hope of man being redeemed had disappeared into the Tomb.
But God had used all the evil intended against Jesus to bring about the greatest good ever intended for Humanity........The Resurrection.

23 April 2011 at 10:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautifully crafted, inspiring, reassuring comment. May the risen Lord Jesus be with you and yours this Easter-tide. "On the third day, he rose again"

23 April 2011 at 11:40  
Anonymous Caedmon's Cat said...

If Christ descended to Hell following His death on Good Friday, why then did He say to the penitent thief, 'Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise'?

I don't hold to the view of his literal descent into Hell after death; when I see the words 'He descended into Hell' in the Creed I understand from them that He endured Hell in His desolation on the cross (hence the call: 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?'). Separation from the Father was the outcome of the sin He was bearing for us - and on our behalf. That's hell.

23 April 2011 at 11:49  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Listen to Keith Green's song "The Victor" & Rejoice at the victory of Jesus our Lord!.
Dr Cranmer. May God Bless you for your presentation of the gospel this week. An inspired work that I pray will bring many souls to the salvation, joy & everlasting life that Jesus Christ alone brings.

23 April 2011 at 11:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mithraism taught the resurrection of the body--Mithra will descend upon earth, and will revive all men. All will issue from their graves, resume their former appearance and recognize each other. All will be united in one great assembly, and the good will be separated from the evil. Then in one supreme sacrifice Mithra will immolate the divine bull, and mixing its fat with the consecrated wine will offer to the righteous the cup of Eternal Life

23 April 2011 at 13:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

23 April 2011 13:04

Mithraism is recognised as developing its myth after christianity, just like other mystery religions that appear to 'share' superficially similar but different beliefs on atonement and Christ figure... A world of difference IF you study them. Read history.

23 April 2011 at 14:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a life-death-rebirth deity, Horus/Osiris became a reflection of the annual cycle of crop harvesting as well as reflecting people's desires for a successful afterlife, and so the legend became extremely important, outstripping all others. The legend's ventures into both life and afterlife meant that religious rites associated with the legend eventually began to take on aspects of a mystery religion, where initiates were said to be able to partake in Horus/Osiris' resurrection, purging themselves of past ills, and entering a new life.

In Greece, the Demeter-Persephone death-resurrection cult at Eleusis, had a similar nature, and began at approximately the same time. Many centuries later this led to interest in the Egyptian cult by the Greeks, including Plato. Eventually, a derived form of the Egyptian cult, having been infused with Platonism, spread to areas of Greek influence, particularly during the Hellenistic era of control over Egypt. As the cult referred to foreign gods, the forms of the cult in Greek nations were adopted to describe suitable local deities and merged and expanded to include elements from the local cultures. This produced a collection of closely related versions of the cult, whose central deities had been deformed to be similar to the Egyptian cult, and were by the 1st century BC collectively known as Osiris-Dionysus.

23 April 2011 at 16:38  
Anonymous non mouse said...

With sympathies for Your Grace's sensitivity to heat. Perhaps, though, it has enhanced the prolepsis that encourages our deconstructors to show their true selves - graceless as ever!

Thank you, also. For this Communicant, your
'sound and light' today defines the synthetic moment that enables our Redemption. Your texts interweave in illustration of the point (the cross-section) where Christ transmutes evil to good, death to life, darkness to light.

Overall, despite pagan influences, a sense of stillness pervades our town. Somehow, a dent appears in the general arrogance, and doubters look sideways at Christians...

They remind me of the solemn duty to uphold Judaeo-Christian Law, to bear the burden as Christ, the Cross, and His mother showed.

23 April 2011 at 18:00  
Anonymous MrJ said...

If propositions such as some above (after the first at 10:04 and before 18:00) may be considered anachronistic to the extent that they fall short of the reasoning in the given link to "Question 52. Christ's descent into hell", the resonating simplicity of the quoted words of the Gospel of John may be helpful to all: they laid Jesus in a "new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid".

23 April 2011 at 22:06  
Anonymous len said...

“There is little notice of the Persian god [Mithra] in the Roman world until the beginning of the 2nd century, but, from the year AD 136 onward, there are hundreds of dedicatory inscriptions to Mithra. This renewal of interest is not easily explained. The most plausible hypothesis seems to be that Roman Mithraism was practically a new creation, wrought by a religious genius who may have lived as late as c. AD 100 and who gave the old traditional Persian ceremonies a new Platonic interpretation that enabled Mithraism to become acceptable to the Roman world” (Article entry: Mithraism 2004 edition)
(If Encyclopedia Britannica is correct, then Mithraism has not inspired Christianity for the Gospel accounts of Jesus were already written by then.)
If Satan cannot kill God`s plans (which he though he had done by crucifying Christ,) he then tries to contaminate the Truth by mixing truth with error.
Hence all the Pagan death/rebirth myths.
Satan cannot create anything all he can do is twist and distort the Truth, he is a master of deception for those willing to believe him.

24 April 2011 at 01:19  
Anonymous len said...

Once we have swept away the the rubbish that religion has produced,all the lies and deceptions of the enemy, all the attempts to discredit and trivialise the Gospel,all the attempts to intimidate those who believe ,(whether this be direct threats of violence or the more subtle forms of intimidation in the West) the Truth about Jesus lays bare for all to see.
That is why Jesus was crucified PUBLICLY for all to see.This was no myth hatched behind closed doors.

Jesus said "Jesus "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14:16)

And all who hear this message and respond will be saved.

24 April 2011 at 07:38  

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