Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Baptism of Jesus Christ (Denho, Denaha, Theophany, Eedo D' denho)

Sermon / Homily on St. Luke 3: 7-22; St. John 4: 1-42

Mark 1:7-11

The Ministry of John the Baptist

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
"One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Jesus Is Baptized

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
"You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."


8. “Baptizing with the Holy Spirit” refers to the Baptism Jesus will institute and
shows how it differs from the baptism of John. In John’s baptism, as in the other
rites of the Old Testament, grace was only signified, symbolized. “By the bap-
tism of the New Law, men are baptized inwardly by the Holy Spirit, and this is
accomplished by God alone. But by the baptism of John the body alone was
cleansed by the water” (St. Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologiae, III, q. 38, art.
2 ad 1). In Christian Baptism, instituted by our Lord, the baptismal rite not only
signifies grace but is the effective cause of grace, i.e. it confers grace. “Baptism
confers the first sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues, taking away Origi-
nal Sin and also personal sins if there are any, together with the entire debt of
punishment which the baptized person owes for sin. In addition, Baptism impres-
ses the Christian character in the soul and makes it able to receive the other sa-
craments” (”St. Pius X Catechism”, 295). The effects of Christian Baptism, like
everything to do with the sanctification of souls, are attributed to the Holy Spirit,
the “Sanctifier”. It should be pointed out, however, that like all the “ad extra”
actions of God (i.e. actions external to the intimate life of the Blessed Trinity),
the sanctification of souls is the work of all three Divine Persons.

9. Our Lord’s hidden life takes place (apart form his birth at Bethlehem and the
time he was in Egypt) in Nazareth of Galilee from where he comes to receive
John’s baptism.

Jesus has no need to receive this baptism of conversion. However, it was ap-
propriate that he who was going to establish the New Alliance should recognize
and accept the mission of his Precursor by being baptized with his baptism:
this would encourage people to prepare to receive the Baptism which was ne-
cessary. The Fathers comment that our Lord went to receive John’s baptism in
order to fulfill all righteousness (cf. Mt 3:15), to give us an example of humility,
to become widely known, to have people believe in Him and to give life-giving
strength to the waters of Baptism.

“Ever since the Baptism of Christ in the water, Baptism removes the sins of all”
(St Augustine, “Sermon” 135).

“There are two different periods of time which relate to Baptism—one the period
of its institution by the Redeemer; the other the establishment of the law regar-
ding its reception. [...] The second period to be distinguished, that is, the time
when the law of Baptism was made, also admits of no doubt. Holy writers are
unanimous in saying that after the Resurrection of our Lord, when he gave to his
Apostles the command to go and ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’ (Mt 28:19) the
law of Baptism became obligatory on all who were to be saved” (”St. Pius V
Catechism”, Part II).

10. The visible presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove marks the begin-
ning of Christ’s public ministry. The Holy Spirit will also appear, in the form of
tongues of fire, on the occasion when the Church begins its mission to all the
world on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:3-21).

The Fathers usually interpret the dove as a symbol of peace and reconciliation
between God and men. It first appears in the account of the flood (Gen 8:10-11)
as a sign that God’s punishment of mankind has come to an end. Its presence
at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry symbolizes the peace and reconci-
liation he will bring.

11. At the very beginning of his public life the mystery of the Holy Trinity is made
manifest: “The Son is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove
and the voice of the Father is heard” (St Bede, “In Marci Evangelium expositio,
in loc.”). “The Holy Spirit dwells in him,” the same author goes on, “but not from
the moment of his Baptism, but from the moment he became man.” In other
words, Jesus did not become God’s son at his Baptism; he is the Son of God
from all eternity. Nor did he become the Messiah at this point; he was the Mes-
siah from the moment he became man.

Baptism is the public manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and as Messiah,
ratified by the presence of the Blessed Trinity.

“The Holy Spirit descended visibly in bodily form upon Christ when he was bap-
tized so that we may believe him to descend invisibly upon all those who are
baptized afterwards” (St Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologiae”, III, q. 39, a.
6 and 3).

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

See Also:

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7: First Song of the Servant of the Lord

Isaiah 55:1-11: My Thoughts are not Your Thoughts

Acts 10:35-38: Peter’s Address

1 John 5:1-9

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Denaha (the Baptism of Jesus Christ)

The Sacrament of Baptism

The Sacrament of Repentance

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