Holy Saturday - The Harrowing of Hell 4-20-19





Read
Luke 23:50-56


... This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus...he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, 
and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb...


This scene closes on Friday at sun down. Saturday is spent as Sabbath. We do not know what the disciples did during their observance of this Sabbath. As many people who have faced a traumatic death, even they probably don't remember what they did that day.

One of the more powerful images I have seen for Holy Saturday is a painting by Eugene Burnand called Holy Saturday. The disciples sit around a table looking stunned and hopeless. I can imagine that scene pretty accurately portrays the emotion of the day. Read this article for more commentary on that painting.

No women are depicted in that painting, but we know from the text that they have already prepared their spices and ointments to return at early dawn to properly prepare the body for burial. I imagine that they comforted each other with memories (maybe even had a laugh or two?) and discussed their plans for the next morning. 

The western church doesn't really say much about what Jesus did during that time. We do say in the Apostles' creed that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. Older versions say he descended into hell. But why? The creed moves right to resurrection.

Our Orthodox brothers and sisters have a powerful vision of that descent. They call it the Harrowing of Hell or the Descent in to Hades. It is also called the Anastasis which means resurrection.... but they are not talking only about Jesus'. There are countless depictions of this event.  Most of them feature a smashed down door, often featuring a crushed demon under it. Check out Psalm 24.  
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
Those many pieces of art and iconography ,with their broken doors and locks (and crushed demon), say that even if death will not open the door, Jesus is coming through anyway! 

And, over those pieces of broken door, Jesus is leading people out from the place of death. Some depict Adam and Eve as the first two to be released. He didn't just defeat death to rise again. He freed all of us. 

There is no place we can go that Jesus will not come and find us. Jesus goes to the darkest and deepest places of pain, fear, and alienation and brings us out.

That gives us plenty to think about on Holy Saturday, doesn't it?

+ Joseph, who claimed Jesus' body, did so at great risk. Other gospels suggest he was a secret follower of Jesus. Luke says only that he did not agreed with the council's action to kill Jesus. Why do you think Joseph took the risk?

What do you imagine the disciples did on that Sabbath day? 

+ From what place does Jesus need to set you free?







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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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