Jesus is not here.
It’s Holy Saturday, Great Saturday (because of “Good” Friday), Black Saturday, Easter Eve. It’s the first time since 1977 that I haven’t done Tenebrae on Good Friday. In my churches where I was the only pastor, I kept the sanctuary bare and silent on this Saturday. There were no activities at church; no egg hunts, no rehearsals, no meetings. Just the sound of me in my office working on an Easter sermon.
Because...Jesus is not here. On this one day. Church history is fun. The church has done some strange things through the years. One of them was the doctrine of the Harrowing of Hell. You would be surprised at how many of the things we believe to be so true and ancient were actually fabricated in the Middle Ages as well as in the last 200 years. But, that’s for another time.
The Harrowing of Hell is one of those beliefs. It is that while Jesus was in the tomb from Good Friday until Easter morning, he went into hell, preached to the souls of Abraham and the prophets and the kings and all of those who had died before he came, and redeemed them to heaven. 1 Peter 3:18-20 says this: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteousness, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey...”
These words are very interesting because they are mostly confusing. But, for a time, the church settled quite nicely in the Harrowing of Hell (prison, you know) as an explanation. This is where in the Apostles Creed used by everyone else Christ “descends to the dead.”
And while I don’t necessarily subscribe to the Harrowing of Hell, I nevertheless find it most fascinating. Fascinating that, for a period of time, Jesus was not here. And it was because he had work to do........somewhere else. And maybe, just maybe, it might not be a bad thing to ponder on this Holy Saturday just what this world might be like if Jesus were not here. What might it be like to be without his love, his power, his grace, and his peacefulness? I do not think we could live for long. I do not think the world could live. It is now dying because of a virus. Because of racism. Because of selfishness. Because of greed. Because of an unholy desire for greatness that is only reserved...for Christ. Because, you know, in some Christian cultures today is also called the Great Sabbath and Joyous Saturday.
There is no prayer, there is no hymn for Holy Saturday...because Jesus is not here. There is just the grim reminder of what the world might be like without Christ. But fear not! All of that will melt away with the dawning of the day of Resurrection. Jesus will again rise and remind us of why we live, why we hope, why we pray, why we sing, and why we believe.
Pastor Rick Moser