Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22

Christ's Power In And Through Death

Popular Translation

18 Jesus died only once for our sin, like an innocent man who died for the guilty. He did this so he could bring us to God. His body died but, before his resurrection, he was alive in spirit. 19 Then, Jesus went and preached to the spirits of the dead in prison. 20 They were the people who disobeyed God when Noah built the Ark. God waited patiently for them. But only eight were saved in the waters of the Great Flood.

21 Baptism is like the water of the Flood. It saves you, not by washing you clean of dirt, but by begging God to give you a clean conscience. Its power comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 22 He went up to heaven and now is right beside God. All the angels and other spirits in heaven serve him.

Literal Translation

18 For JESUS also suffered (and died) once for sin, the RIGHTEOUS for the unrighteous, so HE might bring us to God, having been executed in the flesh but having been made to live in the spirit; 19 in which HE, having gone, preached to the spirits under guard, 20 to (those) having disobeyed then, when the patience of God eagerly awaited in the days of Noah, as the ark was prepared, in which a few, that was eight lives, were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which (is) a corresponding type, now saves you, not a removing of dirt from the flesh but as a request to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST, 22 WHO is at the right (hand) of God, having ascended into heaven, angel, authorities and powers being subject to HIM.

God is All-Powerful. So, is Jesus the Christ. Why? Because Jesus is God.

This short exercise in catechism logic should be so familiar it is laughable. Yet, many Christians do not swim through the depths of this insight. Jesus the Christ was all-powerful, even IN AND THROUGH DEATH.

3:18 described the Christ's death through a believer's eyes. As the innocent one, he died for us, the guilty, so he could reunite us with his Father. But, then, the verse stopped in his death and led up to 3:19, which described Jesus preaching the Good News to the lost souls in the place of the death (Sheol in Hebrew, not to be confused with hell, the realm of the damned). The author described these lost as those who were washed away in the Great Flood. [3:20]

But, like many other verses in the New Testament, the author used an image or symbol in one analogy to turn to another. In this case, the water of the Flood (i.e., God's judgement) became the turning point to the analogy of Baptism. God used water as a vehicle to condemn the lost and save the few (Noah and his family; Christians). In fact, the water of Baptism gave Christians the only certain thing they possessed: a clear conscience based upon faith in the resurrection. Again, notice the source of clear conscience: Jesus Christ. For from death, Jesus rose to new life, thus revealing his power. Christ now exercises this power from a heavenly throne.

Why would the author of 1 Peter reflect upon Christ's power in death (his "descent into hell" found in the Apostle's Creed) and through death (his resurrection)? He mused on this insight to answer another question. How far are we, as Christians, willing to go to follow Christ? This question was explicitly posed in 1 Peter 3:13. In the 3:8-12, the author discussed what a Christian lifestyle meant: taking the moral high road. In 3:14-17, the author praised those who suffered for the suffering they encountered living out their Christian commitment. Why? Because such suffering meant the believer walked the way of the Lord in a very real way. But, even in suffering and persecution, the Christian has power. For Christ had power in and through death.

The way of the Cross is the path of suffering. But it is also the path of power.

How have you suffered (at least inconvenienced) for your faith? Have you felt the power of Christ in your suffering? How?