Why Jesus Went To Hell and Why God Doesn’t Fit Inside Boxes

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 17:22-31

1 Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

 

Our reading from 1 Peter includes this line, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous and the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which he also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark….” Cue the record scratch. What is going on here? Jesus apparently visited “the spirits in prison” between his death and resurrection? This is definitely one of the less discussed teachings about Jesus at least in the circles I am familiar with. We talk about it, I guess, but it seems to go by pretty quickly. In the Creed we recite every week we say, “he descended to the dead/hell” but I usually think of that as a more poetic way of simply saying, “Jesus really died.” There is a long tradition in the church in which this story is called the “Harrowing of Hell.” For me, the big question is, why does it matter that Jesus went to the land of dead and/or Hell? Continue reading