The Heavens Were Opened

A meditation by Michael Pahl on January 12, 2020, called “The Heavens Were Opened.” It’s a reflection on the baptism story of Jesus in Matthew 3:13-17 and its connection to the Servant Song of Isaiah 42:1-9.

Here is a written excerpt:

“As he came up out of the water,” Matthew’s Gospel says, “suddenly the heavens were torn open and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”

It’s a deliberate echo of our passage in Isaiah 42, which opens with God saying these words:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Jesus is this Servant of God. Jesus is God’s Chosen One, God’s Beloved Son, anointed by God’s Spirit to bring forth justice to the nations. In Jesus the heavens have been torn open and God has come down to earth, bringing sight to the blind, liberation for the oppressed, God’s reign of justice and peace for all.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;

Isaiah’s Servant Song continues

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Jesus God’s Beloved Servant comes in meekness and humility, in gentleness and compassion, for all who find themselves caught up in hostility and violence, guilt and shame, futility and despair, suffering and death—“a bruised reed he will not break.” And this is how “he will faithfully bring forth justice”—through his suffering love in solidarity with the lowly and oppressed, even unto death.

Jesus was washed in the Jordan by John, and nothing will ever be the same.

The heavens have been torn open, and God has arrived on earth.

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