I have a running conversation with my 8-year-old about why Jesus died. I don’t buy the theory of “God was mad at me and therefore had to kill somebody, so he killed Jesus.” So there are approximately zero Sunday School pamphlets out there to help me in this conversation with my son. But the Chilean miners have come through for me. As they are being rescued today, after 10 weeks almost half a mile underground, I have an object lesson on the Cross.
Like the miners in Chile, we have been trapped in darkness. Because of our alienation from Papa and from each other, because of the resulting pain, because of all the destructive things we do to deal with our pain, and because of our powerlessness to change our situation, we have been trapped in this dark place called DEATH. It’s bigger than just physical death, but that’s the kind of death my son understands. He knows that we are all going to die someday, and that we can’t change that. Jesus used the Greek myth of “Hades” to talk about this ‘place’ we call Death. In our house, we just call it “Death-Jail.”
“Death-Jail” is the where all people live; it’s where the entire universe lives. I’ll die sometime in the next 60 years. The earth and sun will die in about 5 billion. The universe itself will freeze to death eventually. It’s just the way things are.
If Death-Jail is where we are, then Death-Jail is where God needs to go if he wants to rescue us. And that’s exactly what he did. It’s no accident that the Creeds talk so much about Jesus “descending” and then “ascending.” He came down to where we are; he descended into the human condition of birth, life, and death. He dug all the way down to the deep mine where we were trapped.
Then, in his resurrection and ascension, he came back up out of the mine. He went to Death-Jail and then busted out. But he didn’t come out alone. He brought us with him (Eph 4.8-9). And he took us with him all the way to the right hand of the Father, where we now sit with him, receiving all the blessings of heaven (Eph 1.3).
By first coming down to where we were, he was able to bring us up to where he is.
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins…. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2.1, 4-6).