1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Key Points

Baptism saves

  • The First Letter of Peter uses the imagery of the flood and the covenant with Noah as a symbol of Baptism.
  • This letter was written to encourage Christians in the face of persecution.
  • Today’s passage presents Christ’s death and resurrection as the true reason for deliverance from sin and death.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor

Pastoral Excerpts

The work of Jesus Christ

This portion of Peter's epistle finds its unity in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The text reads like a condensed resume of our Lord. If, as has been suggested, “a Gospel is a passion narrative with an extended introduction,” then here in 1 Peter 3 we have the heart of the gospel. Helpfully, Jürgen Moltmann has said, “The death of Jesus on the cross is the center of all Christian theology." In these few verses we follow Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, and ascension—all the while keeping a dual focus on what effect this activity has on us. It is as if these verses answer the seeker’s question, “Who was Jesus, and what does he mean to me?” There is cause and effect at work here:

  • Jesus suffered/we are made righteous before God.
  • Jesus was put to death/we are saved from our sins.
  • God saves/we are baptized in water.
  • Jesus was resurrected/we must do good.
  • Jesus ascended into heaven/we (and all things) are subject to him.

SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.

Sermon Writer


SOURCE: Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.


1st Sunday of Lent (B)


The Power of the Resurrection

by Michal Hunt

In this passage, St. Peter links the death and resurrection experience of Noah and his family when they passed through the sin cleansing waters of the Great Flood over the earth with Christian baptism.

Death not victorious

The words “put to death in the flesh” in verse 18 affirm that Jesus indeed died as a human being.  However, St. Peter writes, death was not victorious over Christ because “he was brought to life in the Spirit.”

Peter refers to Jesus’ Resurrection in the new and transformed glorified life in which He was free from the weakness of a natural human life (see 1 Cor 15:45).

Jesus descended into Sheol

Then, St. Peter testifies that like all humanity before His Resurrection, Jesus descended into the netherworld or the grave that is Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek.  Sheol/Hades is not the Hell of the Damned, and it will continue as a state of purification until the return of Christ and the Final Judgment (Rev 20:14; CCC 1030-32).

From Abel’s death, all humanity was imprisoned, awaiting the coming of the promised Redeemer-Messiah, in Sheol.  However, their condition was not the same.  Sinners were being purified of their sins, and the righteous were in the company of Abraham (in “Abraham’s Bosom’) waiting for their liberation (see Jesus’ description of Sheol in Lk 16:19-31).  Under the Old Covenant, there were no eternal blessings or judgments. Heaven was closed since the fall of Adam (CCC 5361026).

Jesus preaches the Gospel

Descending from His tomb to the “prison” of Sheol, Jesus preached the Gospel of salvation to those who waited since the first human deaths in salvation history.  He even preached to those souls who died in the time of Noah (1 Pt 3:18-20).  Sheol/Hades is the poorly translated “hell” of the English version of the Apostles’ Creed (see CCC 633 and 1033).

Waters of the great flood

St. Peter wrote the event that saved those members of Noah’s family in waters of the Great Flood when they experienced a renewed Creation, prefigured Christian baptism.  In Christian baptism, the faithful are saved through the spiritual waters as they receive the gift of new life and become a new creation through water and the Spirit (Jn 3:3-5).

Opening of the gates of Heaven

Peter testifies that Jesus then led those who accepted His Gospel of salvation out of the “prison” of Sheol and into the gates of Heaven, opened for the first time since the Fall of Adam (CCC 5361026).  The Catechism teaches:

CCC 633: “Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, hell, Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek, because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.  Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into ‘Abraham’s bosom’; ‘It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell [Sheol/Hades]’ (Roman Catechism I,6.3).  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.”

CCC 635: “Christ went down into the depths of death so that ‘the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’ …” (see Jn 5:25; Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9).

Christ at the right hand of God

At the time of His liberation, Christ has gone into Heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (1 Pt 3:22b).  Since that time, the gates of Heaven have remained open to those made righteous, washed in the atoning blood of Christ Jesus (see Rev 4:1; CCC 1023-1029).

SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.


1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Paul Schlachter

Noah’s ark prefigured baptism

Points to consider

  • This short homily from the early church begins with Christ, and I will pause briefly at the mention of the Lord’s name.  With that, it jumps right to the message: Christ suffered for sins once.  I need to be prepared, knowing where this is leading, or else I will make it sound like “He was once a suffering man.”
  • God declared a covenant, according to the first reading, in response to universal suffering.  Now I hear of the suffering of one, Christ, placed at the front and center of this reading, as he is of our Lenten observance.  He suffered that he might lead you to God.
  • The days of Noah and the building of the ark are also remembered here.  But what a wonderful commentary on a positive result of the Deluge: a few persons were saved through water.
  • It is a time of complete conversion, following his example.  He was brought to life in the Spirit.
  • And now we all must look upon Christ, the final measure and criterion of our inner and outer lives: both the sinful people who drowned in the great flood and all of us who are baptized in water, gaining a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Key elements

  • Climax: This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.  I must remember to read the exotic word ‘prefigured’ as a verb, not an adjective.
  • The message for our assembly: No matter how long ago we were baptized, it saves us now.  We are freed, if we work in harmony with our redeemer, from a life of servile fear before those angels, authorities and powers subject to him.
  • I will challenge myself: To declare the apostle’s bold words with the same assurance.
SOURCE: LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Hope in God’s fidelity


Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

For some Christians suffering persecution, the author of 1 Peter offers hope by placing their sufferings in a larger context. That includes the fidelity of God, the similar sufferings of Jesus, the power of the risen Jesus, and our share in that power through baptism.

The Historical Situation

The original audience of this letter were persecuted Christians. The author, fortunately writing from relative safety, wanted to bolster their faith. To do this, he tries to remind them of their place in a larger history, remind them of God’s providence in that history, and help them see their present sufferings in a larger context.

Our Liturgical Setting

It’s the beginning of the season that culminates in our solemn remembering of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, and the season that culminates in the joyful baptism of our new members, and the season of self-examination. And all the things we pack into Lent are packed into this reading.

Proclaiming It:

Say slowly and carefully the sentence, “Put to death in the flesh, he [Christ] was brought to life in the Spirit.” Don’t rush or you’ll make it sound like “Put to death the flesh.” Though folks might well expect to hear that on the first Sunday of lent, that’s not what Peter is saying.

What of this odd picture of Christ going “to preach to the spirits in prison”? Some scholars say this verse is behind the phrase “He descended into hell” in the Nicene creed. The older New American Bible translation (1970) mercifully divided verses 19-20 into three discrete sentences. And it gives this footnote, beginning with a memorable understatement: “There are various interpretations of this verse. It probably refers to the risen Christ making known to imprisoned souls his victory over sin and death.” Our current translation runs together verses 19 and 20, and is the more obscure for it. As a lector, this puts you at fourth and fifteen on your own twenty. (International readers, that’s a metaphor from American football, meaning “in a most unfortunate situation.”) Sometimes you just have to punt. (Football jargon for “give up and hope for a better chance another time.”) God will provide.

But you can speak clearly the much more important water imagery here. Peter says the flood prefigured baptism, which saves you now. Had you ever thought of your baptism when you heard or thought of Noah? Well, now you certainly have. Try to get your listeners to do the same.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org


1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Catholic Productions
YouTube player

The Salvific Power of Baptism

Does Baptism have the power to save? Or, is it merely a sign that has no effective power. What does the Bible have to say about this? Check out this video with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more.

Joe Aboumoussa
YouTube player

How is Christ the new Noah?

A brief overview of how the Flood narrative points to the saving work of Christ and His Church.

Related Scriptures:

  • Isaiah 54:9-10: Though creation pass away like the days of Noah, God’s love for his people and promise of peace will not be shaken.
  • Matthew 24:38-39 The Flood prefigures the Second Coming and General Judgement.
  • Hebrews 11:7: Noah’s faith leads to an inheritance of righteousness.
  • 1 Peter 3:18-21: The flood prefigured Baptism which saves by communicating the power of Christ.
  • 2 Peter 2:5: Noah was a herald of righteousness and was saved from trial.
Higher Things, Inc.
YouTube player

Noah, the Ark, and Baptism

Pr. Buetow talks about baptism and Noah and the Ark in today’s video short.

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