A few days ago in Grave Questions, I asked the question, ‘If Jesus spent time in Hell, but Hell exists outside time, does that mean part of Him is still there?’
This just in: No frickin’ way.
I have my friend Jim Newman – a fellow WordPress blogger – to thank, at least partially, for this little slice of epiphany. He responded quite eloquently to my Grave Questions post with one of his own. In A Strange Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, Jim acknowledges that the question is an interesting diversion; a masochistic, yet fun exercise in speculative reasoning (masquerading as deductive reasoning), but make no mistake, it’s quite absurd.
(A quick aside: The above paragraph is cheekily and cheerfully paraphrased from Jim’s very kind post. I urge you to read the real thing for yourself – his words on the aforementioned subject are expressed far better there than my rehash, for one thing. But his reflections on what a Jesus-Judas meeting in the Grave might be like are well worth the price of admission on their own. Particularly if you found any value in my recent opus about Jesus Christ Superstar, The Gospel according to Tim [and Andrew].)
But enough about my blog, let’s get back to Jim’s blog, where he talks about my blog: Jim is, of course, quite right when he gently implies that my Grave Questions are absurd.
The Bible makes it very clear that Jesus’ victory over death was complete and final – not partial, not temporary. So it is entirely inconceivable (as Jim quotes Vizzini [Wallace Shawn] from The Princess Bride) that the Lord of Heaven would need to keep a foot (or even a toe) in the Other Place. (FYI, I tried to find another word, but all of the numerous synonyms for ‘inconceivable’ fall short.)
I think I knew this all along, but I deliberately decided not to ‘go there’ before Easter Sunday, because I wanted to spend some time in this uncomfortable, unsettling notion as the last few hours of my Lenten journey. Now that Easter is here (Easter is not just one day – it’s a season that lasts until Pentecost on May 27), I’m ‘going there’ with gusto!
The original Grave Question remains an interesting and nagging paradox for my intellect (such as it is), but so what. The commandment isn’t ‘Understand the Lord Your God with all your intellect,’ after all.
And what seems like a mysterious, non-sequitur paradox to me in this life will undoubtedly become liberatingly, laughably, obvious in the next. (To illustrate, I’ll trot out Rob Bell’s awesome example from Everything is Spiritual again: The occupant of a two-dimensional universe would declare that a circle and a rectangle are mutually exclusive. But in a 3D reality, a cylinder is a perfect circle from one angle and a perfect rectangle from another. Paradox resolved!)
I’m not meant to know how it all works yet. I’m meant to trust that it all works and be OK with not understanding.
And really, would I be happier if it did all add up? Or would Heaven cease to be Heaven if a puny, carbon-based life form could fully fathom its mysteries?
I don’t know how, but I know that Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed. (Fully and completely.) Hallelujah!
Peace be with you.