Matthew 3:16-17: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a Voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”
Talk about high drama! I love this picture, because it so strongly symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection in power and strength, overcoming sin and death. Do you realize that if it were only His death, it would not be any different than anyone else that Rome crucified? There were thousands who died the same way Jesus did. It was indeed His shed blood that atoned for our sin; but it was His resurrection that assured us of victory over sin, Satan, and death. I love Easter. For years, I’ve called it Resurrection Sunday, which has a lot more meaning than the simple celebration of spring.
As far as I know, this event marks the first manifestation of all three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The word trinity is never used in scripture, but the doctrine is clearly taught.
In this beautiful moment, we have the Son showing His obedience to the Father; marking the beginning of His public ministry; establishing the precedent for believer’s baptism; and, finally, receiving the public blessing and commendation of the Father through the Spirit.
The Bible does not specifically say that the Spirit came in the form of a dove, although He certainly could have. Instead, the simile like a dove is used to describe this event. A simile is a literary device of comparison, using the words like or as. It is an apt description of the Holy Spirit. Doves have long represented beauty, grace, purity, peace, and blessing. The dove is, here, a type (picture) of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament rituals, doves could be sacrificed to atone for sin; in this way, the dove is a type of Christ. This subject would be a fascinating word study. . . . .someday. . . .
The appearance of the Spirit was Jesus’ anointing for the work He had to do. The voice of God must have filled the heavens, speaking His love and approval of His beloved Son. John the Baptist must have stood in awe, eyes raised to the heavens as he was given proof positive that this Jesus was indeed the anointed One Whose way he had been born to prepare.
The Bible says that “the heavens were opened unto Him.” No one else was gifted with a view of the heavenly places at this moment; but it is through Him that Heaven is opened for us. Then, the Father’s voice speaks blessing and approval, naming Jesus as His beloved Son. This sentence echoes Psalm 2, the first of the Messianic Psalms. In verse 7, Messiah’s birth is prophesied: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee.”
There is so much more that could be gleaned from these two verses. The Word of God is so deep, so rich, that even with all the books that have been written about The Book, still, there is more to be said. We will never plumb the depths until we are in heaven with Him. And even then, it will take eternity!