Generally when you ask "What did Jesus do after he died on the cross?" you get a pretty immediate response of "He resurrected!" This is true, but He also did something INCREDIBLE: He completed the human experience.
You see, Jesus didn't just live and conquer the human experience of life; He also experienced the human experience of death. He had to. If Jesus did not experience our life and our death, the redemptive work God intended would not have been complete. Romans 6:23 states:
"The wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
How did Jesus obtain this gift? He humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Jesus had to humble Himself to death because He had not earned death through the fruit of His life. We, on the other hand, earn death from moment one in life. Jesus had to give death permission by willfully accepting the sins of mankind because He had not committed any of His own.
In accepting that sin and experiencing the wrath of God toward that sin (which would have otherwise been toward us in our sin), Jesus was taken by death just like you or I would have been. He experienced leaving this world in sin. He was pulled out of His earthly body, down into the depths of the earth (Ephesians 4:8-10), and as He entered back into that eternal existence, He found Himself where only the best of us would find ourselves after completing a life of 'righteous' works: He was in a compartment of Hades, known as Abraham's Bosom.
Abraham's Bosom was a place reserved for the righteous dead, like Abraham, King David, the prophets, and multitudes of people whose sin was outwieghed by obedience and faith. Yet all of their obedience and faith was still not enough to take them immediately into the presence of God. The price for their sin had not yet been paid, and their life simply was not good enough. Adjacent to Abraham's Bosom was a gulf, a chasm, fixed in its placement and duration (Luke 16:26). Theologians refer to it as "The Great Gulf Fixed" (VERY cool name, I know). On the other side of this gulf, was a place of torment, where the judged dead were tormented for their sinful deeds (Luke 16 again).
Once Jesus arrived, the psalm was fulfilled:
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in."
Jesus then began to preach to those righteous dead and speak about the life He lived and the plan of God that unfolded from the foundation of the world, culminating in His coming and His willfull sacrifice (1 Peter 3:18-20). They believed. Then sinless Jesus, whom death and Hades had no right to hold, did what no other soul in their possession had ever been able to do: He left. They could not keep their grip on Him, nor on those who believed in this new gift He was offering. Together, they left the unbreakable bonds of their sin behind and proceeded into the presence of their Maker, led by the King of Glory.
This wasn't by any means the last thing the eternally resurrected Jesus would do! He is STILL alive and STILL active in the lives of those who call on His name in faith! Over the Sundays and Wednesdays in March, we'll be talking about everything that Jesus IS right now to those of us who believe! Don't miss it! You're invited!