November 23, 2023

God’s Spirit Descending Like a Dove

Matthew 3:13-17

At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

—  Matthew 3:16

The fact that the Spirit rested on Jesus “like a dove” at the moment of his baptism is not insignificant. To understand why, we can start by asking where else in the Bible we have come across doves, and what connections we can make between these stories.

Remember how Noah sent out a dove from the ark? It first came back with nothing, and then, after going out a second time, it returned with an olive leaf in its beak (Genesis 8:11). The fresh green leaf in the dove’s mouth signified the beginning of a new era, a hopeful turning of events, the renewed presence of peace and shalom, and the imminent promise that no such dramatic devastation would have to happen again.

The reference to a dove at Jesus’ baptism is a sign that another new era has begun in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, there is finally a hopeful turning of events: the arrival of a peaceful reign and the promise that Jesus’ coming will be pivotal in history. In this event we see a sign that God is recreating the world in Christ, setting things right, and rebuilding so that his purposes can finally be realized.

Lord Jesus, in your baptism we see the sign of God’s new promise and the unfolding of your great plan to restore the whole world to yourself. We marvel at the beauty of how everything holds together in you, and that the Scriptures point faithfully to your perfect plan. In your name we pray. Amen.

About the author — Julia Prins Vanderveen

Julia Prins Vanderveen works and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, Trevor, and their three sons. Julia has served as a copastor with Trevor at a church in Vancouver. She is a campus pastor and a humanities teacher at the Vancouver Christian School.

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