So, what was Jesus doing between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning?
This is a question that has been debated down through the ages by many theologians. In our various Creeds, which we confess our Christian faith by, we declare that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, descended into hell, and rose on the third day. We can understand the idea of suffering, dying, being buried, and maybe even rising from the dead (thinking about the number of people who have stated that they died and came back to life). Yet, how do you make sense of the idea of descending into hell?
As it is referenced in the Formula of Concord concerning Christ’s descent into hell, we read these words: It is our unanimous counsel that there should be no dispute over this issue, but it should be believed and taught on the simplest level as Dr. Luther of blessed memory explained this article in a most Christian manner in his sermon at Torgau in 1533. There he cut off all unprofitable, unnecessary questions and admonished all godly Christians to a simple Christian faith.
Luther goes on to explain: For it is enough that we know that Christ descended into hell and destroyed hell for all believers and that He redeemed them from the power of death, the devil, and the eternal damnation of hellish retribution. How that happened we should save for the next world, where not only this matter but many others, which here we have simply believed and cannot comprehend with our blind reason, will be revealed.
In the Solid Declaration of the Lutheran faith, we hear this statement: Within the Creeds Jesus’ burial and descent into hell are seen as two separate actions, and so we are to believe simply that the entire person, God and man, descended into hell after His burial, conquered the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and claimed full victory over the prince of darkness. Literally Christ’s descent into Hades was a parade of triumph.
The fact of the matter is this: Jesus said He was going to die for the sins of all mankind and rise from the dead after three days, and that dear friends is exactly what He did. Christ is alive and our sins have been paid for in full. For you and me that should be the center of our focus and our faith. All else is just a matter of wanting to know not needing to know! Pastor McCarty