Saturday, April 7, 2007

Meditation on the Middle Day

If John's gospel carries the "historical" timeline, today is the day when his followers would have gathered around the Passover table, recalling the story of the Exodus, the blood of the lambs smeared on the lintels and the passing by of the Angel of Death. Yet today is a day that Christians don't remember well. There are no services, there are no stories, there are no rituals. It is the day betwixt and between, the middle day, when Jesus' body lay in a tomb not his own. It is the day that Jesus is dead.

The early Christians, however, all seem to agree on the import of this day, a day that they understood to be the one in which Jesus battled the powers that rule this world. Whether apostolic Christian or Gnostic Christian, today was understood to be the day that Jesus fought with the Devil or the Archons. And tomorrow would happen because he could not be overcome by them.

This belief was founded on a couple of passages from the Pauline corpus, particularly 1 Corinthians 2:6-8
"Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory."
and Colossians 2:14-15
"erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it."
and Ephesians 1:20-23
"God put this Power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."
When I read these passages anew today, I think of the Nag Hammadi texts, the Concept of Our Great Power, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, and the Apocalypse of Peter, which talk about various aspects of the story of the Powerful Jesus conquering Death and the rulers of the Abysses, particularly Hades. In one of the variations of the Gnostic story preserved by the writer of the Great Power, Jesus is crucified by the Archons, the powers who rule this world, and his soul is taken to Archon who rules Hades. By doing this, they brought judgment upon themselves, since they tried to detain a spirit that was undetainable. When the Archon Sasabek discovers that "the nature of his flesh could not be seized, he screams out,
"Who is this? What is it? His word has abolished the law of the aeon. He is from the Logos of the Power of Life!"
Jesus' escape from his grasp, is the moment that he conquers Death, and he rises to God, as the text says,
"The archons searched after that which had come to pass. They did not know that this is the sign of their dissolution, and (that) it is the change of the aeon. The sun set during the day; that day became dark. The evil spirits were troubled. And after these things he will appear ascending. And the sign of the aeon that is to come will appear. And the aeons will dissolve. And those who would know these things that were discussed with them, will become blessed. And they will reveal them, and they will become blessed, since they will come to know the truth. For you have found rest in the heavens. Then many will follow him."
So this is the struggle of the middle day, and the hope for tomorrow - that Jesus will be victorious in his battle with the rulers and the laws by which they govern their creation, laws that the rulers broke when they tried to retain a soul that was not lawful for them to seize. It is a day that looks forward to tomorrow.

1 comment:

nbta said...

Matt.12:40, Jesus says that he would be in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. How the Christian faith has created Good Friday and Resurection Sunday as 3 days and 3 nights is so strange to me. Since Passover is an 8 day event and since Scripture shows us so many pictures of Jesus coming in the middle of events, how did they ever come up with this?