Note: This devotion “Going Through Hell” is a three-part devotion based on a sermon I preached at St. Matthew Lutheran in Hawthorn Woods on Palm Sunday 2018.
Jesus Suffered Hell on the Cross
You can keep going because Jesus knows the way! Jesus suffered hell on the cross.
As Jesus suffered physical dying and ultimately death on the cross for six hours on Good Friday, he also suffered spiritual dying and death on the cross.
The words that indicate this are given to us in Jesus’ own voice – one of two places that the Gospels record Jesus’ mother tongue of Aramaic:
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
But that isn’t what the Apostles’ Creed is referring to when we confess that Jesus “descended into hell.”
He Proclaimed Victory In Hell after the Cross
That part of the Creed is a confession that Jesus, after he was made alive in the Tomb before dawn on Easter Sunday, went down into hell to proclaim victory over Satan, sin, the grave, and death itself.
This is a reference to 1 Peter 3:18-19
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison….
The descent into hell, by the way, is part of Jesus’ state of exaltation.
The Lutheran Question – “What Does This Mean?”
And now, a good Lutheran question – what does this mean? Here’s what Martin Luther said about Christ descent into hell: It is part of Jesus being what we called “Lord.” He said that “the entire Gospel which we preach is based on [Jesus being “Lord], that we properly understand this [Second] article as that upon which our salvation and all our happiness rest, and which is so rich and comprehensive that we never can learn it fully” (Large Catechism).
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Let us continue to explore and learn – and then live what we learn – about Jesus our Lord and what he has done for us by dying on the cross, descending into hell, and then rising on the third day from the dead – which is what we celebrate on Easter!
Heavenly Father, thank you for being with me, even when I go through hell in this life. But thank you most especially for my Savior Jesus, who went through hell for me so that I could live forever in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
© 2018 True Men Ministries