Scripture: 1 Peter 3:18-22
What a difference translations can make! In my first attempt to decipher this difficult passage, I turned to what was once my favourite: The New Testament in Modern English. After reading this passage several times, the majority of its meaning for me was virtually nil. Question marks that I had scribbled alongside the passage many years before indicated previous perplexities, and the ensuing years had certainly brought little enlightenment! Only after much thought and the reading of several other versions did a smidgen of personal meaning emerge.
My present understanding is as follows: the purpose for the suffering and death of an innocent Christ—so undeserving of this fate—was to bring the unjust to God. This could be interpreted to mean that we, certainly not as undeserving, pure and innocent as Christ, should also be prepared to meet the call to sacrifice at times and to suffer injustice for the greater good or a greater cause.
This passage also states that Jesus died physically, but not spiritually. In fact, He had been able to minister spiritually to humanity even in the ancient days of people like Noah. (But what’s this reference to eight souls being saved through water while the ark was being built? Still perplexed here!)
Peter completes this chapter by making reference to the two major changes for the modern world that began in New Testament times:
- Baptism has become a symbol of our dedication to God, and
- the promise of Christ’s resurrection and authority is now present with us and for us.
Perhaps a little off topic, but there’s something I’d like to add. My old copy of The New Testament in Modern English did provide me with inspiration because therein I re-discovered a meaningful poem I had scribbled inside the front cover years ago. I share it here:
You are writing the Gospel,
A chapter each day
By the deeds that you do
And the things that you say.
Men read what you write,
Distorted or true,
What is the Gospel
According to you?
By Dennis Ruf
Dear God, sometimes scripture is so perplexing—a reflection of the
complexity of our human lives. Help us to be persistent, finding nuggets of
gold that can inform our faith. AMEN