“For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead…” (1 Peter 4:6)
What happened to Jesus between Good Friday and Easter? Although we don’t exactly know, today’s scripture suggests that Jesus was raised from the dead before Easter morning so that He could offer salvation to those who had already died.
Christian tradition has called Jesus’ descent to the dead “The Harrowing of Hell.” In order to visualize what Jesus was doing during this interim between Good Friday and Easter, we need to know that a harrow is a farming tool with spike-like teeth that breaks up the hard ground. If we were to look at an Icon of the Harrowing of Hell, we would see Jesus breaking up the tombs of Adam and Eve and then lifting them into their new resurrected life in Him.
Although we may not know if Jesus did harrow hell indeed on the first Easter weekend, I hope we do know that Jesus has been harrowing hell ever since. Many of us have needed Jesus to harrow our hell because we had fallen into some tombs that had shut down our hearts and souls and that had vanquished our dreams and hopes.
On Easter, we need to proclaim that one of the reasons why we believe Jesus was once raised from the dead is that we have met the risen Jesus when He has raised us from the dead many times during our lives. Without Jesus’ resurrection power, some of us wouldn’t even be alive.
If anyone reading these words is in their own dark place, I want you to know that Jesus is coming to you with His harrowing tool. It’s His desire to break up the tombs that have put you in some lonely, lost, anxious, or paralyzed place. It’s then Jesus’ intention to lift you up into new life, new hope, and new possibilities.
This year at Easter, I encourage us to sing many Alleluias. Alleluia that God the Father once raised Jesus from the dead. Alleluia that the risen Jesus has been raising up people ever since that first Easter morning. And, finally, Alleluia that Jesus will harrow any possibility of us descending into any kind of hell as He raises us to eternal life with Him forever.
- Looking back at your life, can you see any times or circumstances when you have felt Jesus lifting you out of your own dark place?
- Looking at your life now, are there any places where you feel like you’re in a tomb—stuck, buried, hopeless, lifeless? How do you need Jesus to harrow your hell so that He can raise you up?
- Once Jesus has harrowed some version of our own hell, He calls us to harrow someone else’s hell. Who in your life might need some hard, resistant, or defensive ground broken up so that you could give them some support, encouragement, or help? What are you waiting for?