In my writing group today we did a variety of writes.   One of them was running with the idea, taken from the Apostle’s Creed, that Jesus “descended to the dead.”  If all goes well, I will have three very different writes on this subject to share.  The first of them is mine:

I’m pretty sure I’ve never really understood even what I meant when I affirm, in the creed, that Jesus descended to the dead.

To begin with, I have no clear picture in my mind of what Jesus might have experienced in his death and resurrection.  Was there even a moment when Jesus, in death, had no awareness?  Would that mean that the second person in the Trinity ceased to exist for that period of time?  Or did he transition seamlessly into an eternal framework?  (And for us, how would that be experienced if we were, for example, sleeping when we died?)  Or, I have always imagined the godhead, though not Jesus incarnate, as somehow existing outside of time.  Is there an eternal, coexistant aspect of the second person of the Trinity that has always existed, even as Jesus lived and died, truly, as a human being?  And what would it mean, even, to say that?

I think we probably don’t have the words.

On one level, I do think (and affirm) Jesus was fully human in his incarnation.  But that itself is an inexplicable mystery of faith.  How can someone in their person encompass the fullness of what we mean when we say they are God, and the limitations which we mean when we say they are human?  I try to make sense of this in my own mind by imagining Jesus as a human person, who yet somehow was tuned in to what I would want to call the heart of God, so that he could feel God’s response even as he acted (and even made mistakes) in his human life.

But I know this is really not an adequate explanation.  It’s just the best way I have yet of trying to think about this.

Back to the original question.  In saying that Jesus descended from the dead, I believe we are saying that like all human beings, he really died.

I just don’t know what I think I mean when I say that.

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