A 1 harrowing time
One of Easter’s necessary events is the descent of Jesus into Hell—to the souls in Hell or to the dead. A 2 harrowing experience. The as yet un-resurrected Jesus went from his horrific death on the cross to the depths of Hell. No matter whether a physical location, state of mind or spiritual condition—Hell was not a welcoming place. Turns out that Jesus time in Hell was not only a 3 preaching engagement or a victory lap. To wrap up the task of redemption, Jesus had some harrowing work to do.
Harrowing may sound fairly benign until you understand that, over centuries, conquering armies have used harrow-like devices to completely eliminate all evidence of defeated foes’ cities, farms or livelihoods. A harrowed civilization was completely crushed—indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape—and rendered lifeless.
This was part of Jesus’ task, to finish off Satan and his evil intentions. Jesus pulverizing the Prince of Lies into the Loser that the Devil would forever remain. Jesus burying the supposed authority of The Accuser by the power of his self-sacrifice on the cross. Jesus obliterating the identity of this malevolent being as a supposed ruler in God’s world. 4 Harrowing as this work must have been for Jesus, his presence in the Devil’s own lair was even worse for Satan.
Why think about this now? Sometimes I forget that our seemingly eternal battle against evil has already been won. Sometimes I get weighed down by what looks like the triumphal echoes of hate and selfishness in these times. Sometimes I want to give up. That’s when it’s vital that I look for the Spirit’s presence that equips me to carry on with Jesus’ harrowing.
I can remain part of God’s continuing deliverance from evil.
1 In medieval times, Jesus’ descent into Hell was known as “The Harrowing of Hades.”
2 In Medieval Europe, even earlier in the Babylonian era and in farming technology today, the harrow has been an implement used to lightly till and smooth the soil after it has been plowed. “Harrowing” is the act of dragging discs, spikes or chains over the plow-loosened soil, breaking clods apart and preparing the ground for seeding.
3 I’m aware how 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6 characterize this creed-worthy task. I’m reaching back into the theology of the Medieval church, though, for this reason: The contexts of those times seem to match our own. We can learn from that history.
4 This agricultural-term-turned-theological-bright-spot takes on an emotional cast in our times. With this adjective, we describe life experiences that are traumatic, wrenching, distressing, painful or even tortuous. Perhaps this harrowing is what Satan had feared for eons, something he realized in Jesus’ presence: Now Satan had been completely defeated for all times!!