It has been about ten years since I delved deeply into the topic of theodicy. I read many apologetical works on the matter. Some were helpful; some seemed to have been written by authors who wanted the reader to be all brain, no heart. In other words, if you can intellectualize it then it won’t bother you. I admit, it is not the “idea” of theodicy that bothers me the most; it is the experience of it. It is not hearing about human suffering; it is seeing human suffering in real time. All my reading in my early twenties did not protect me from the terrible feeling in my gut that occurs when I read the news: our world is a mess.
This is why I appreciate the wisdom of the Book of Job. Deity doesn’t give an answer. Job is not told why he suffered (though the narrator tells us why Job suffered, and a cosmic gamble between the Most High God and an angelic being whose role is to go about the earth as a prosecuting attorney is not comforting). Job is told that Deity is Deity, humanity is humanity, and he needs to embrace that. Many find this answer unsatisfying. If Job has received any other answer I would have been skeptical because it wouldn’t have fit the experience we share as humans.
Holy Saturday isn’t discussed much in Scripture. The Gospel accounts do not dwell on it. Yet it is one of the most important parts of the Christian Gospel: Jesus was buried, dead. Jesus who embodied Life itself had been defeated by Death. If Jesus is defeated by Death then who among us can overcome it?
Although the “Road to Emmaus” narrative of Luke 24:13-35 is presented as happening after Jesus had been resurrected I think it captures Holy Saturday quite well: we were hoping it was he who was going to redeem Israel (v. 21). This line has more potency than many might see in it. I read it as encapsulating the question asked by humans who suffer. If there is a god why is the world this way? Why doesn’t this god intervene? Why does this god allow suffering, sickness, war, and most of all, Death itself? I had hoped that there was going to be a time of redemption. I imagined as a child a “happily ever after,” but then I became an adult. We suffer, then we die.
Holy Saturday is a day when we rethink our commitments. The Son of God, the Messiah, he is dead. Nietzsche’s statement that “God is dead” is far from as shocking as Holy Saturday. If “God is dead” then today is the day. If Jesus is dead then what hope do we have of redemption. If the door between heaven and earth has been shut then we are alone. In the Book of Job the Most High speaks. On Holy Saturday we don’t know if he will speak again, ever, and if Deity speaks what will be said?
Thanks for this, Brian–a great meditation for me to read right now.
“Jesus who embodied Life itself had been defeated by Death. If Jesus is defeated by Death then who among us can overcome it?”
Makes me think–what might his disciples, who heard him claim to *be* “the Life,” be thinking on this day?
I think the Lk. 24 narrative gives us one depiction: we were wrong. We thought, but apparently we were wrong. Scary times I imagine.
Seemingly dead, yes. What’s that bit in the creed ‘descended into hell, according to the scriptures’. Did he really?
That is a curious phrase. I mentioned it last year: http://nearemmaus.com/2012/04/07/holy-saturday-jesus-descended-into-hell/
You are always 2 steps ahead Brian. Thanks for the link.
He was dead alright. Just His body.
I think His enemy felt triumphant and His friends felt it was the end of the world. That’s why for the friends, the resurrection stunned them into a lifetime of great service and sometimes martyrdom and it was what they expected and accepted.
We owe the fathers a lot for their endurance as well as The Lord’s.
It’s interesting the progression from the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday to Easter. For me, as Lent runs its course I get a sense of humanity as humanity, especially my own. This culminates in the event of Good Friday where at the crucifixion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, everything is just horrible. On Holy Saturday, there’s nothing but emptiness. Then comes Saturday evening—Easter Sunday liturgically. On the Easter Vigil Mass, the climax comes when Easter Candle pierces the darkness and the Easter Proclamation is sung; all of a sudden there’s an A-ha! moment. God doesn’t answer the theodicy problem, but God is there at work somehow in the midst of the darkness and someday God will set everything right.
Indeed, our answer is eschatological. The resurrection of Jesus is an apocalyptic act before God’s apocalypse! It may not be the answer we want at times, but it is the answer we need.
Comments are closed.