On Friday, the world watched as Jesus of Nazareth, a preacher from Galilee, died on a Roman cross. He died because he was seen as a threat to both Temple and Empire. He came offering a message of a different kind of kingdom, one that was ruled over by God not Caesar. His message was one of peace, compassion, justice, and grace. This message and this kingdom, unlike the Pax Romana would not come into being by way of the sword. Jesus had come into the world teaching a different way of life, one that even today we find difficult to emulate.
On Sunday, tomorrow, we will watch as the women will come to the tomb where he was laid, and find it empty -- only later to encounter the risen Christ.
Today, we find ourselves living in the middle period, a period about which the text is strangely silent. According to Mark, after Jesus had died, being that it was the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Council, received the body of Jesus from the Romans, and placed the body in a tomb hewn from the rock and covering it with a linen cloth. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid (Mark 15:42-47). The next report comes after the Sabbath has ended -- on Easter morning. For now, we wait experiencing the sabbath rest.
Scripture is silent, but tradition is not. According to the Apostles Creed, "He descended into hell." There have been a number of ideas about what this means, but suffice it to say, that according to all of these accounts, Jesus was busy on this day of rest. So, perhaps, the text for today is this one that comes from 1 Peter 3.
For Christ also suffered* for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you* to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. (1 Pet. 3:18-20 NRSV)
Indeed, as we read in 1 Peter 4:6, Jesus preached to those who are dead, so that having been judged in the flesh, they might live in the Spirit. Tradition calls this the Harrowing of Hell. By whatever name it is called, it comes as a word of hope.
Living as we do, in the in-between time, may we walk in trust, that God is at work, bringing all into an experience of resurrection life.
(image comes from: http://www.icon-art.info/).