|1 Peter 3:18-22
18For 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, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when 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.
21And 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, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
Read that again. When I read this passage, I think, “Wait, what? I don’t think I get what this is trying to say.” The good news is that if you wonder this, too, we are in good company. Martin Luther once wrote this about the passage: “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.”
Even though the passage is difficult to understand, it has a simple effect on me: it ultimately leads me to the cross. It reminds me of the suffering, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. It reminds me that Jesus literally would have done anything to bring us to God, including dying a most gruesome and horrible death and going to the most horrible place after dying. Jesus is our bridge to God, and through his death and through the waters of baptism he has paved that bridge for us.
As Christians, we should want to share that good news with everyone. We want everyone, whether near or far from us, to know about that bridge. For hundreds of years RCA missionaries have been leading people to the bridge. Millions of people have been baptized, saved, and have crossed that bridge. What are you doing in your own life, through your own relationships and your own community, to bring people to the bridge?
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Thank you for forgiving our sins. Help us to find places to share that same love with others. When we do find those places, please give us the words to share and the actions to live out, so that we may help bring others closer to you. Amen.
Scott Engelsman is the RCA development coordinator for Global Mission, mission supervisor for Europe and parts of the Middle East, and the supervisor of disaster response.