Letters from a Pastor to His People- January 13, 2019
"And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove" (Lk 3:22). What's the significance of the dove?
We know now that the dove is one of the forms or images of the Holy Spirit. But for the crowd witnessing Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, they would not have picked up on this. They simply would have seen a bird flying in the sky that happened to hover above this young adult. The Old Testament made no mention of God being a bird. But there are, however, some Old Testament references to the dove, and I'd like to use these to unpack the dove's significance in the Baptism of our Lord.
Noah releases a dove during the flood to determine if dry land has appeared; if the flood waters have begun to recede (cf. Gen 8:8). It first returns with an olive branch and then, at last, it never returns, indicating to Noah that the land is once again habitable, as the dove is able to settle on it.
Christ is the new man, representative of the new creation. He emerges from the waters, just as that new land upon which Noah's dove settled emerged from the flood waters. Jesus is the new people of God, emerging from water as Moses and the Israelites emerged from the Red Sea waters free from sin.