Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

From Genesis (BTCB) by R. R. Reno, commenting on Genesis 7:12 (alternative for Church of England):

The first feature of the flood is that divine intervention prevents sin from spiraling to its conclusion. The destructive power of the water turns back the corruptive power of evil, and in this way the flood prevents sin from descending all the way into nothingness. In an important sense, therefore, just as the garments of skin and expulsion from the garden are punishments that protect human beings from the full force of their sinful decisions, so also does the flood block the realization of the future promised in the covenant of Satan’s lie.

Furthermore, as the use of forty days (or years) throughout scripture suggests, the rains sent by God last for the standard period for purgation and purification: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). This link between purgative destruction and salvation culminates in the saving death of Jesus Christ. Written in a context of persecution, the author of 1 Peter describes the trials of the faithful as tests of fire that purify the soul (1 Pet. 1:7, 22). In these trials, the suffering of Christ serves as an example (2:21). He is the one who, “when he was reviled, . . . did not revile in return” (2:23). The application is clear: the faithful are to resist the temptation to return evil for evil. Like Noah in the ark and Jesus in the wilderness, they should patiently endure affliction for the sake of righteousness.

Yet, there is a decisive twist that distinguishes Jesus from Noah and his ark. Jesus Christ does not endure death simply as a trial; his death brings life. For “by his wounds,” writes the author of 1 Peter, echoing Isa. 53, “you have been healed.” His death took place so “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24). Christ even “went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water” (3:19–20).

It is as if, when the waters begin to rise, Christ leaps from the ark and dives into the destroying flood of death so that he can reach all the way to the bottom and rescue those drowning in the covenant of the lie. Perhaps the imagery breaks down at this point, because Christ and the church are the ark into which the faithful are incorporated. The author if 1 Peter presumes this shift: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (3:21)—although this assertion of allegorical correspondence is itself complex and plays across different aspects of Noah’s story. Baptism is both immersion in Christ’s death (a recapitulation of his dive into the waters of destruction) and incorporation into his risen life (a first draught of the water of life).

©2010 by R. R. Reno. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.