Sixth Sunday of Easter – Epistle

by Crossings

The Suffering That Blesses
1 Peter 3:13-22
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Analysis by Betty Kraft

13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, wh en God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you – not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

DIAGNOSIS: Unblessed Suffering

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Revenge Is Sweet
Blessed are we if we suffer for doing right (v. 14)? Surely Peter is talking about some other world-some other universe. In this world the rule is payback and revenge-and if I can add a little extra to my revenge, so much the better.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Revenge Is Bitter
But that’s precisely the problem. Revenge does not bring anything to an end, but produces another round of payback. Hurt begets hurt; violence begets more violence. Each of us moves to our own corner, alienated from the other. Distrust and anger reign. A not-so-old proverb says, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and soon the world will be blind and toothless.” It seems we are headed in that direction.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Death is the Bitter End of Revenge
Our alienation with each other is a reflection of our alienation from God. Turning from the source of Life, indeed from Life itself, we fall under the judgment of God and our sentence is death. But having made the turn away from Life, we find we are now firmly in the grasp of Death and there is no escape. Only someone from the outside can save us. Only someone stronger than Death can free us.

PROGNOSIS: The Suffering that Blesses

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – The Blessed Sufferer
The one who saves us is Christ. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God” (v. 18). By suffering for our sins, Christ put a stop in the cycle of revenge. For when he suffered and was raised-he did not demand his pound of flesh. Further, Christ suffered in order to bring us to God-to undo the alienation and to bring us back into the loving arms of God. As Paul wrote, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 15:19). In baptism, the filth of sin is not only washed away, but we are joined to the death and resurrection of Christ and the tear in the relationship between God and us is healed. Once again we are joined to Life.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – In Whose Name We Suffer Patiently
Now that we are reconciled with God, we can be reconciled with each other. Following the example of Christ who suffered for the unjust, we can also stop the cycle of violence and revenge. There is another path to justice-the path of reconciliation.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Sharing the Life
Peter is talking about a different world-a world under the rule of God. But this world is not out of reach-through Christ, through baptism one gains access to this world. We are citizens of God’s kingdom living out God’s values in a world torn by violence. It is through Christ that we can patiently suffer unjustly in this world because at the same time we receive a foretaste of the blessedness that is ours in God’s kingdom. Faith in and participation in Christ’s resurrection takes away our fear and gives us a clear conscience. For we are baptized in Christ, “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him” (v. 22).


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