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Holy Saturday A 2nd Reading

1 Peter 4:1-8

Scott Savage

On Holy Saturday we are in the middle of the three days at the center of the Christian faith. Our confession that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again assume Holy Saturday but betray a certain negligence. It’s understandable that Holy Saturday remain difficult to speak of. But that 1 Peter 4:6 states that Christ preached to the dead, assumes a Holy Saturday theology at work. The Christian life is Holy Saturday.[1] Having died and risen with Christ in baptism, we live suspended in between the ascension and return of Christ. Though it is conquered through the resurrection of Jesus, death persists. Holy Saturday keeps us tethered to the cruciform life of discipleship and the hope of resurrection and new creation to come. Holy Saturday reminds us that we are in between, still reeling from the powers of Sin and death.

In this sense, we are resident aliens, as Peter says (1 Peter 1:1). Because Christ suffered in the flesh, so should we. The call to take up arms should make us pause, especially in light of the call to suffer. I can’t help but think about that scene in Fight Club where Tyler Durden gives them all homework to start a fight with a total stranger and lose intentionally. Arming ourselves with the life of the spirit is for the sake of a patient love that bears much, covering a multitude of sins. The end (telos) may be near and judgment next, but the fights we pick, so to speak, will leave us, for all practice purpose, on the losing end as we bear the desires of the gentiles at our own expense, perhaps covering their sins in our bodies, letting them run to exhaustion in our flesh just like Jesus. Harink says, again, “In the very act of refusing to give our bodies to the rulers of this arm, we arm ourselves with the intent to suffer.”

Peter reveals what this countercultural life looks like in contradiction to the Gentiles. The church should desire, or will the life of the spirit marked, as Peter says, by sound judgement (sōphroneō) and a sober spirit (nēphō). The former having to do with the mind and the latter with the emotions. It’s a holistic way of being present, unlike the gentiles who will an instant gratification of pleasure and carrying on without regard for the other and selling out to whoever can get them what they want in the moment no matter the collateral damage.

Doug Harink says, “In Christ the messianic community is delivered from consuming without end, from dead time, by first being consumed by an end beyond itself, by being interrupted, arrested, and taken up into God’s judgment and reconciliation in the cross, and by receiving in Christ the living food and water that fills our hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. Thus delivered, the messianic community becomes a stranger to greed and violence.” [2]

It is, of course, not just any kind of suffering that matters. It is a suffering that results when the powers of this age are called into question. Lest we jump too quickly to 1 Peter 2:13, which says to submit yourselves to ever human institution, we cannot forget 2:4, which refers to Christ as the living stone that was rejected. Hauerwas and Willimon say, “The overriding political task of the church is to be the community of the cross.” [3] Holy Saturday makes us remember that after the crucifixion and before the resurrection, Jesus really was dead and that there was a reason his own people rejected him and Rome saw fit to have him die a capital punishment. There was something truly offensive about kingdom of God revealed in Jesus, enough for him to suffer for it. It is to that form of offensive to which we are called.