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

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

First Song of the Servant of the Lord

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.


42:1-9. The Lord, who revealed his power by creating the world (40:12-31) and
showed his determination to save mankind by his intervention in history (4l:1-29),
now announces a new stage in his plans (v. 9). To advance them he will give a
special mission to the “servant of the Lord”; in the prophetic text, this personage
plays the key role in making known and putting into effect the salvific plans of
God. Four passages over the course of chapters 42-55 speak of the servant and
his mission; these passages may originally have made up a poem of their own.
These oracles are usually called the “Songs of the Servant”. Most biblical scho-
lars see 42:1-9 as being the first song or, rather, the first stanza of that poem.
The other three passages are: 49:1-6; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12. They combine
to make a very beautiful poem, but they raise difficult questions as to style and
content. They have been the subject of a great deal of commentary, and the
identity of the “servant” is still a matter of debate. Those who consider the four
passages to be parts of the one poem take it that the “servant” in each is one
and the same person and has one and the same mission. Scholars who do not
regard the four passages as originally part of a single poem interpret the person
and mission of the servant as being different in each.

There are basically three theories as to who the servant is. One theory is that he
is a particular individual — a king of the house of Judah, or the prophet himself or,
Of course, a future Messiah, who will redeem Israel The second theory is that the
servant is a collectivity he stands for Israel, or for some group within Israel. The
third theory argues that the servant is meant to be depicted ambiguously — that is
in a way that allows him to be interpreted in both of the ways mentioned previous-
ly — as a person of significance but someone who can symbolize all Israel.

In this first song (vv 1-9) the servant certainly comes across as a figure of mystery:
v. 1 gives him very special universal transcendental attributes, Verses 2-3a show
his humility but they are followed immediately by verses saying that he is some-
one able to “establish justice in the earth”, to be “a light to the nations’ someone
who can “bring light to the nations” and “open the eyes that are blind arid set cap-
tives free...”. The “servant” can do all this because the Lord has “put his Spirit on
him” (cf. v. 1), that is, he is someone chosen by God and he has the help of the
Spirit of the Lord to carry out his mission to teach his Law to the very ends of the
earth. So, these words could be describing the prophet’s own conviction that he
has a mission to perform — to proclaim the word of God; a mission that he did not
seek but, rather, had given to him. But the servant could also stand for the whole
people of Israel (cf. 41:8) — for in the same way were the people chosen by God
to bear witness to him before all mankind concerning the Law they had received
from the Lord.

The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles without attempting to discover exact-
ly who this servant was originally (or whom he was meant to stand for) interpre-
ted the main features of the servant as being a prophecy about Jesus, in whom
the Father is most pleased, and who, in the unity of the Holy Spirit is truly the
light for all nations and the liberation of all the oppressed. For example, in the
accounts of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and of the Transfiguration, the
voice of the Father refers to those features: This is my beloved Son with whom
I am well pleased (Mt 3:17); “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Lk
9:35). The Gospel of Matthew, which makes a point of showing that the Scrip-
tures find fulfillment in Jesus, explicitly quotes vv. 2-4 of this oracle of Isaiah to
show that in Jesus is fulfilled the prophecy of the servant, who was rejected by
the leaders of the people and whose quiet and kindly teaching would bring the
light of truth to the world (Mt 12:15-21). And later in his Gospel, when St Mat-
thew recounts the passion and death of our Lord (cf. Mt 27:30), he again makes
the link between Christ and the servant.

The expression “light to the nations” (v. 6) seems to find an echo in what Jesus
says about his being the light of the world (Jn 8:12; 9:5) and also in the “Bene-
dictus” of Zechariah (Lk 1:78-79). There is an evocation of v. 7 in Jesus’ reply to
the messengers from John the Baptist who ask him whether he is he who is to
come (cf. Mt 11:4-6: Lk 7:18-22); cf. the note on 29:15-24. And so St Justin will
say, commenting on vv. 6-7: “Everything that is said here, my friends, refers to
Christ and to the peoples who have been enlightened by his presence” (Dialo-
gus Cum Tryphone”, 122,2).

The Church in the Second Vatican Council acknowledges her duty to strive to
use every opportunity to show that Christ is truly, the “light of the nations” (v. 6):
“Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered
together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires by proclaiming the Gospel to every
creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men a light brightly visible on the
countenance of the Church (”Lumen Gentium”, 1).

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

Acts 10:35-38: Peter’s Address

1 John 5:1-9

Mark 1:7-11: Baptism of Jesus

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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