Easter 3 – Year A
[NRSV] But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power."
[NIV] But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
[KJV] Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
[CEV] But God set him free from death and raised him to life. Death could not hold him in its power.
[MESSAGE] But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.
[TEV] But God raised him from death, setting him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold him prisoner.
And so the confusion between G*D and Jesus continues – to whom does each pronoun refer? While it may seem here that G*D is the actor who raised Jesus, it is the raised one who becomes the focus throughout the rest of the passage.
This ambivalence about actor/actee also allows a question about why baptism is the appropriate response to G*D's power to raise?
We can look back to see that baptism was a volitional choice that began Jesus' ministry, just as Moses response to a burning bush was volitional. How many other ministry starts are there and why do we get trapped into particular symbolizing of those starts?
I still remember the story of a pastoral acquaintance who heard his call, "I want you to serve me" and only had the experience to interpret that call in terms of ordained ministry. Many years later they thought that perhaps their interpretation was too narrow, that service is a pretty broad category, and it may be time to find another service opportunity.
Peter exhorted folks to save themselves from their "corrupt generation" when it was exactly that generation that Jesus engaged. Baptism, here begun as psychic or spiritually coerced symbolism, will later kill many so many others would simply become baptized, as differentiated from raised.
Yes, shared symbols are important, but they are also limiting. Ahh, to have the wisdom to know the difference.
God grant me the power to accept the baptisms I cannot avoid; to challenge any forced baptism coming my way; and to have the wisdom to know the difference.