What Happens in Death

On Holy Saturday, the day we usually remember the disciples and their grief, I remembered Jesus. I thought of Paul's teaching in Philippians 2, how Jesus so regarded equality with God a thing not to be grasped that He humbled Himself unto death, even death on a cross. Paul says we are to emulate this humility that leads unto death, and I couldn't help thinking of the death He is trying to accomplish in me as He leads me in this long trek across the grainy wilderness.

I sat meditating on that passage and my own little death for some time, astounded by the connection to this daily reality I have been living, until then a new truth emerged. All at once, like a windfall, it became so obvious that Christ's humility forever exceeds any humility He could even be asking of me in this death knell time. His righteousness was true righteousness, undeserving of death, yet He suffered to die for the love of us anyway. I cannot claim an inch of that kind of righteousness, yet here I kneel, grasping and fighting and kvetching to keep the shards of my life in my fists.

It is fitting that He brought this passage to my attention on Holy Saturday, or Low Saturday, for that is the day Jesus spent inside the tomb. It is the day that, for all intents and purposes, nothing seemed to happen. It is the day He was, truly, dead. A Christ-sized wilderness had sprung up in place of His life, and all that could be seen by the eye was desert and sand and plains devoid of life, leaving us all to grieve in a daze of wonder and confusion.

Yet what happened underneath what the eyes could see? That is where He descended into hell. That is where He overcame death. That is where, in the power and strength of the mighty hand of our God, He gathered the souls of the faithful into His arms and shot His way heavenward.

And that is where life -- the kind you would suffer and die for -- was born. In the seemingly paltry wilderness.