This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 21, 2017.
This passage is full of difficulties, allusions to apocryphal literature, and obscure references that make it easy to get lost in the process of interpretation. In fact, if the minister is not very careful, he or she will be found trying to find out who are the spirits in prison, why Jesus preached to them, and how His preaching affected them, among other difficulties. Rather than get lost in these obvious difficulties, it would be better for the minister to focus on what can be readily understood in the passage. By looking at the book as a whole and the context of the passage, the meaning of the passage can be discerned.
In 1 Peter suffering is a very common theme. In the very beginning of the book, believers are encouraged to endure trials and suffering just as the prophets had endured them. Not only does the concept of suffering appear in the opening of the book, but it is also found throughout the text. The word suffering appears twenty times in the book. Further, the author goes out of his way to use the term suffering when it is not necessary. For example, the author uses “suffering” instead of “death” in 4:1 when referring to the crucifixion of Jesus. In 3:18 there is good reason to believe “suffered” is the correct word instead of “died” as some translations use.
Now I Peter’s emphasis on suffering does not necessarily mean that this passage is about suffering, but the context leans heavily in that direction. Verse 13 begins by talking about the harm that could come to the believer and discusses suffering immediately. Not only that, the passage mentions Christ’s suffering repeatedly; and it is followed by another section on suffering beginning in 4:1. If one is to get to the heart of the passage’s meaning one must look at it in the context of suffering.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 7, 2017.
We live in a society that questions authority figures. We consider it a badge of honor when someone successfully challenges “the powers that be.” Although 1 Peter would not encourage us to ignore unethical behavior in organizations, the writer values endurance through difficulty over retaliation toward oppressors. To endure pain is to resist it. First Peter challenges exiles to behave like sheep in a flock under the authority of a shepherd. The book instructs them to maintain respect for human authority figures, especially those with whom they disagree and to endure opposition as a form of Christian mission.
Verses 19-25 are included as part of the instructions for persons who work together in a family business where the authority figure is not a follower of Jesus. Most ancient households were businesses in miniature. In 1 Peter 2-3, there are instructions for all persons (2:13-17; 3:8-22), slaves (2:18), wives (3:1-6), and husbands (3:7), depending on their position in the home workplace. Presumably, Christians will work for someone who does not share a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Just as we learned in chapter 1 that Christians are not to live segregated lives, so in chapters 2 and 3 believers are encouraged to work in environments where they will encounter nonbelievers.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 15th, 2017.
What is a calling? When someone is asked about their calling many times that person will recall a specific time or event as the moment when there was an understanding that this was what God wanted to accomplish in their life. The servant, mentioned here, declared a specific call from God was received while still in the womb (49:1). Not only did this call provide a great sense of confidence for this servant, but there was also a sense of being specially prepared for the mission for which this servant was called.
The special equipping the servant received was a “mouth like a sharpened sword.” Additionally, the servant was “made into a polished arrow” (49:2). The fact that the servant had a mouth like a sharpened sword and was made into a polished arrow could possibly indicate that this servant’s message had the ability to pierce his hearers’ hearts. Regardless, the servant’s ability to communicate the master’s message was potentially effective.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 13th, 2016.
Not unlike the prophets before him, Jesus sees a problem with the status quo. Two chapters earlier he spoke of the demise of the temple as he drove out merchants who’d set up shop in God’s house. In the first four verses of this chapter, the inequity of the status quo is again on display. A poor widow offers her gifts from the depths of her money purse, while the rich toss in the spare change from their own.
The walls of the building were beautifully decorated—tall steeple, fancy chandeliers, an inviting fellowship hall. Yet as is so often the case, humans have a tendency to revere their accomplishments, be it buildings or reputations. The attention to detail as it pertained to the building while neglecting and exploiting the impoverished, signaled a dramatic disconnect from God’s design.