The Spirit Like a Dove

“After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

 I love this story of Jesus’ baptism by John at the Jordan River. I have been to the place where traditionally it is believed this event actually occurred. The river is not very wide there, probably the size of the Swannanoa River that runs near my house. I can still picture the place.

As Jesus submits Himself to John to be baptized, God, the Father, does two very important things:  He sends the Holy Spirit to rest on Jesus, and He proclaims to all who will hear, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.

The apostle John uses an interesting phrase to describe how the Spirit came upon Jesus. He says it came “like a dove and rested on Jesus.”  There is only one time in the gospels where Jesus speaks of a dove.

As He was sending out His disciples, He says to them in Matt. 10:16, “Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and as harmless (or innocent) as doves.”  This is a clear picture for us.

Jesus didn’t say to be as bold as an eagle or as swift as a hawk. He referred to the gentle nature of a dove. I imagine He was thinking about the Spirit descending upon Him at the Jordan River on that day. There’s a key for us here.

The Spirit has similar qualities of a dove. The dove speaks of purity, meekness, and innocence. It speaks of gentleness and compassion. Jesus is saying that as we go out to do His work, we are to do that work in a particular way–the gentle, meek, pure nature of the dove.

Jesus modeled these qualities as He went about His work here on earth.

Isaiah speaks of Jesus in this way in Isaiah 42:1-3

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations.He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.

God put His Spirit on Jesus.  He went about bringing justice to the nations, but He did that work in a gentle, humble way. He didn’t break a bruised reed. He wouldn’t put out a flickering candle. These are the qualities of the dove.

By the Spirit, Jesus had the Father’s power to bring justice, but also the Father’s loving character as He did it. We need the same dynamic in our own lives.

The disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high.” Jesus wanted them to have power AND to be filled with the dove-like influence of the Spirit.

We need power too, but we also need to wield that power in a manner that reflects the Father’s loving heart. The Spirit wants to do this for us. He not only gives us anointing for ministry, He also works every day to conform us into Jesus’ nature and character.

This is the Spirit’s role: giving us power to do the Father’s work, while giving us the servant-hearted nature of Jesus as we do it.

As we spend this month learning about the Person of the Holy Spirit, let’s surrender to His transforming and empowering work in our hearts. Yes, we need His power, but just as importantly, we need Him to work those dove-like qualities into our lives.

Come Holy Spirit. Have your way among us.

Pastor Tom

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