Revised Common Lectionary Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
This is one of the passages that some Christians turn to that suggests what some Jewish traditions call “the harrowing of hell,” which implies universal human salvation because of the ministry of Jesus. (That’s a much longer conversation!)
This passage also connects the Flood stories of Genesis to Baptism. I find it interesting that it doesn’t seem to have a typical idea of what “baptismal regeneration” means–almost as though God zaps the water and pow! a new Christian! But baptism is an “appeal to God for a good conscience through Jesus’ resurrection.” Baptism “saves” not because of a property of the water, but based on the authority of God’s faithfulness expressed in Jesus’ bodily resurrection. If God didn’t do that (raise Jesus), baptism as the efficacious sign of salvation doesn’t do anything for us.
There is an ethical dimension to baptism–it is an appeal to God for a “good conscience,” a heart and life shaped in such a way that we will consistently make the thousands of large and small choices that bring us to deep love of God and neighbour, and mature citizenship in the Kingdom/Commonwealth of God.
This Lent, if you want to follow Jesus, to whom his Father has subjected all things, please consider His call to be a baptised citizen of His realm, a visible member of his Church. Baptism is a primary way that we can deliberately make room for Jesus, and display to the world that we intend to give Him all the honour He is due.