When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we say these words:
I believe in Jesus Christ,
God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was … crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living
and the dead.
‘He descended to the dead … he ascended into heaven.’
Please, do not ever get used to that! Don’t take it for granted, not for even one moment.
‘Jesus descended to the dead … Jesus ascended into heaven.’ Jesus went to the lowest depths, through a terrible death to the grave. And Jesus is now at the right hand of God. Jesus is Lord! I repeat: don’t take that for granted.
Jesus descended to the dead.
Jesus died, really died, on the cross. In his death, he identified himself with sinners—and with the victims of sin. He identified with those who suffer for their own sins, and with those who suffer because of the sins of others.
He did that so that when we suffer, he shows us that he is with us. Jesus is one with all people who suffer.
It doesn’t really matter what our suffering is. It may be the suffering of a failed marriage, of poverty, of unemployment.
It may be the suffering of grief, mental illness, disability or loneliness.
It may be the suffering of people locked away indefinitely in detention centres through the policies of successive Australian governments.
Christ suffered for us, and Christ suffers with us here and now. In the hells we endure here, he is with us. He has descended to the dead, to those who are dead in their own sins and those who are dead inside through the sins of others.
Jesus descended to the dead so that the dead may have hope. So that we may find the way, all the way back to the Father.