Lectionary Year B
March 12, 2000
I Peter 3:18-22
Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge
(JA) Salient features:
1) worship-setting reflection on traditional material about the redemptive suffering-unto-death and "journey" to the most lost generation of Christ. 2) connecting of the Flood with baptism as type-antitype through deliverance/saving terminology. 3) the latter terminology focuses on a derivative technical term from parenesis - frame of reference of Christian conduct - "appeal into God of an appropriate awareness" which springs from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 4) this One is (exalted) at the "right hand of God" in sovereignty and lordship with a cosmic host "subject" (another technical term out of parenesis) to him.
Smooth translation: (for discussion not for public reading in worship)
because Christ suffered unto death once on behalf of sins
the just One for unjust ones
for the purpose of leading you all to God
on the one hand, having been made to die as regards the flesh
on the other, having been made alive as regards the spirit
in which latter state he also preached having gone to the spirits in prison
to those unbelieving ones when once the longsuffering of God waited patiently in the days of Noah - the ark having been constructed [and] into which a few, i.e. eight people, were delivered through the water, which (water) also now an antitype saves you all with respect to baptism - not a putting away of defiled flesh but the appeal of a theologically directed imagination through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God having gone into the heaven with angels, authorities, and powers having been made subject to him.
What might this text sound like if I heard it as a musical presentation? Certainly not a light tune, but something on the order of great classical proportion and complexity...like Wagner. The stakes are high as this Christological hymn sings - on the order of the rhapsodes "singing" the story of ancient heroes of Homeric epic - the mystery of redemption...the righteous One for the unrighteous ones...as Christ makes the perilous descent into and through the primordial waters of death and separation from God. He journeys to the most lost generation of all us mortals to accomplish the impossible rescue. We watch and listen to the sounds of the struggle in silence as there is not a thing we can do to help. And as we watch and listen only the sounds and pictures right out of the Book of Revelation can compare...the end is cosmic, beyond-imagination sovereignty...and it all has something to do with us...in baptism. Can "baptism" ever become more than a "tune" for us again? Maybe the key is that troublesome "appropriate awareness" or whatever we should understand that "appeal" phrase at the end of v. 21 to mean!
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