1 Corinthians15:1-8 Matthew 27:52-53 July 14, 2013
Where did Jesus go after his crucifixion, death, and burial? We know that Jesus told the thief that the thief would be with Jesus in Paradise that Good Friday. Then we read the Ecumenical Version of the Apostles’ Creed, and we see that Jesus descended to the dead. Some translations of this line say that Jesus went to hell.
Does it really matter where Jesus was after his death and before he rose again from the grave? We know from Rufinus that the “descended to the dead” part was not in the Old Roman Creed, the forebear of the Apostles’ Creed. The line “descended to the dead” did not show up until around 570 AD. So, what does this line say for us today?
We need to go back to the Jewish part of our faith to understand what this line means. “Sheol” was the place of the dead – a place of no light and no experience of God, except in a corner called Paradise. Over time Sheol gained an aspect of punishment involving eternal fire. This changed Sheol to Gehenna, like the valley of Hinnom that is outside Jerusalem’s Eastern wall where children were sacrificed to Moloch and which became an ever-burning trash heap.
We recognize Gehenna now as “Hell,” the place of eternal fire and punishment. Though I need to add that the Greek understanding of Sheol was Hades, a place where the dead went.
Then there is the understanding of Jesus’ soul going one place and his body staying in the grave. That really gets confusing when we realize that Jesus completely God and completely human! Was it the God-part of Jesus that went to the place of the dead, or was it the human-part of Jesus that went to the place of the dead? Since we say that Jesus was completely God and man in the flesh, how would he divide himself to go to the place of the dead and to stay in the grave? No, the Son of God died. He had given up any breath, the spirit, when he died on the cross. Jesus had the power to lay down his life, and he had the power to take it up again. The Son of Man experienced all that we do, including death and the grave. And Jesus Christ added to his experience resurrection, which we now can have a hope to experience!
- Saints were raised when Jesus was raised (Mt. 27:52-53)
- Did Jesus tell the saints about the good news of God’s grace (1 Peter 3:18, 4:6)?
- Something got the saints out of their tombs!
- Jesus got out of the tomb
- We may not read this part of the death and resurrection of Jesus very often, but it gives us hope for good to come our way. Yes, we know that Lazarus and the two others raised by Jesus during his ministry died again. Wouldn’t it be good for all those who follow Jesus Christ to be raised from the dead? But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
- Jesus was raised from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
- Turning point in history – never before happened!
- Jonah – in the fish for 3 days
- Amos tells of a time of restoration (Amos 9:11)
- Hosea says as we return to the Lord, on the 3rd day he will raise us up (6:1-2)
- Any flesh of the sacrifice left on the 3rd day was burnt up in Leviticus 7:17-18 – Jesus’ flesh wasn’t left over – it was renewed! – Complete with the scars in his hands and his side!
- Jesus appeared to over 513 people! (1 Cor. 15:5-7)
- If we don’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, then our faith is futile! (1 Cor. 15:17)
- Jesus helps us in this life, and the life to come (1 Cor. 15:20f)
- Jesus has the keys of Death & Hades (Rev. 1:17-18)
- Got them because he went there (Phil 2:10)
- David hoped in being able to escape the silence of the grave& yet could not bring his child from the grave (Ps. 16:10, 2 Sam. 12:23)
- Jesus is the only one to escape Sheol (Ps. 89:48)
- Jesus came back from the dead. He was not a ghost or a zombie. Jesus walked out of the tomb – alive. If it had been on Saturday, then we could doubt if he was alive. If it had been later than the 3rd day, then we could wonder about it being Jesus, or someone else. But the 3rd day lets us know that Jesus was dead and that it truly was him who met Mary, Peter, and others. Jesus died, but he is not dead now.
We have many questions about what happened in those three days that Jesus Christ was in the tomb. For many of our questions, we will not have answers. Knowing that some saints got out of their graves when Jesus was resurrected gives us hope for our own resurrection.
It is in the resurrection of Jesus that we have our hope. If one man can die, come back to life, and live forever more, then surely God has got good things in store for those who believe in Jesus Christ.
We do not know how Jesus came back to life. We know that he did. God’s power was at work. Jesus was dead, in the grave – like any human. But Jesus is not in the grave now. He is alive! He rose from the grave.
Maybe by God’s grace we too can know the resurrected Jesus in our lives. Then maybe when we see Jesus in the flesh, we will be able to have our questions about the two days in the grave answered. Until then, let us believe in Jesus Christ, the one who rose again from the grave!