Two thousand years ago, Jesus was having quite the week.
He’d inaugurated his final moves amid palm branches and a cooperative donkey, completing the day by turning the Temple upside down with a whip and an army of skittish lambs and turtle doves. As the week rumbled downhill, public sentiment, so magnetic at the outset, reversed polarity and turned on him with savage precision. The Passover meal he’d longed to celebrate with his disciples was marred by a slick traitor counseled by Satan himself. His prayers clenched to match the tension in every sphere, shedding prophetic blood before the real suffering would begin. His enemy, searching for the lowest blow, pressed Judas to express the vilest betrayal with the most intimate of gestures. The mock trial played dress-up with the truth while clamping its ears and shutting it out. Beating and slicing and ripping and splaying ensued, pounding out a sadistic cadence painted rich with blood. Mocking hearts, spitting tongues, and glaring eyes were eclipsed by heaviness beyond all comprehension as the sin of the world crushed his body, soul, and spirit. An earthquake announced his death, and his corpse was placed in a fresh tomb.
He had an appointment to keep with Mary Magdalene (and the rest of us) on Sunday morning, but what was he doing all day Saturday?
To be honest, we’re not exactly sure. What we have are two compelling clues.
The first clue was offered to a thief on a cross. “Today,” Jesus promised his criminal comrade, “you will be with me in paradise.” So we do know Jesus embraced the thief on the other side.
The second clue comes from Ephesians 4:7-10, which reads,
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)“
What does this mean? What’s it referring to? Some have taken this to mean (along with several other references) that Jesus descended into Hell or Hades to announce his victory and reclaim the keys to death. I think there is merit in this interpretation. It sounds an awful lot like Jesus descended as low as he could go (hades, hell), then ascended as high as he could go (paradise, heaven), to establish his Lordship in the heights and depths of all creation. To reclaim the full spectrum with power and authority.
On Sunday morning, when the second quake announced his resurrection, he strode from the grave, Lord of heaven and earth in every sense of the word.
Lord of my heaven, Lord of my earth.
Lord of my heart, Lord of my weakness, Lord of my sin, Lord of my dreams.
Lord of my words, my gifts, my life.
Lord of all.