The Spirit as a dove

In Jesus’ baptism by John, the Spirit descends on Jesus as a dove (Matthew 3:13-17). Why a dove?

In the past, I’ve correlated the description of Jesus’ baptism with the description of Noah’s ark (Genesis 7-8), with the rough picture being the Spirit hovering over the waters (which also ties into Genesis 1). These are instances of a new creation theme, and the apostle Peter confirms the theme in the Noah account (2 Peter 3:5-7).

Today, as I was reading the account of the baptism, it suddenly hit me that the dove fit perfectly and confirmed the correlation between the Noah story and Jesus baptism, putting Jesus in the place of the new heavens and new earth. As the waters receded, Noah sent out a raven, and it returned. Then he sent out a dove, and it returned. He sent the dove again, and it brought back an olive leaf. He sent the dove out a third time, and it did not return. One can picture the new earth breaking through the water and the dove alighting on it.

Jesus “went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.” The dove found purchase, for the waters had receded from the new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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