In Jesus baptism a remarkable sight is witnessed by all in attendance. Matthew 3:16 says, “And when Jesus was baptized, … the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.” There are three allusions from the Old Testament that we should recognize with the vision of the dove.

First, the hovering over the waters is the same as the “coming to rest on” of Matthew. Genesis 1:2 says that the “Spirit of God hovered over the waters.” I’d argue that this is the prelude for what is to follow. It’s an acknowledgement of God’s divine hand at work in creation to bring about the world as it is which finds its climax in the creation of man. Something wonderful is about to happen in all creation. So too is something wonderful about to happen with the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry at His baptism.

Second, the dove from the Ark came back with an olive branch. It signified that the flood, God’s wrath on man’s sin, had subsided. The rainbow was then given as an image to remind us that God would never again destroy the earth with a flood again. The dove carrying the olive branch pictures God’s wrath being spent and God extending his peace once again to man. Jesus was prophesied by name in Isaiah 9:6 as “…The prince of Peace.” The dove marks this truth at His Baptism.

Finally, the name Jonah means “Dove.” Jonah was the prophet that preached repentance to a people who heard and responded. God showed mercy and did not bring his judgment upon them. Jesus, as well as John, preached a message of repentance. Those who respond to Christ’s message and turn to Him in faith find forgiveness and escape the wrath the come.

Through faith in Christ we become a “new creation.” Through faith in Christ, we can have “peace with God.” Through faith in Christ we escape judgment and receive his grace and mercy.

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2)