As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.Mark 1:10
There is no greater need that we have as individuals than to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to live as we long to live and are able to overcome the power of sin and guilt and fear within us. Therefore, the primary, elementary, most fundamental need of guilty people is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, when Jesus began to take our place, there was immediately given to Him the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is not the first time Jesus had the Spirit. It is recorded of John the Baptist that he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. And certainly if that was true of John, it was also true of Jesus. He lived by the Spirit during those quiet years in Nazareth. He submitted Himself to His parents, grew up in a carpenter's shop, and learned the trade. And through those uneventful days, Jesus lived by the power of the Spirit in His life.
Then what is happening now, when the Spirit comes upon Him like a dove? The answer is that He is given a new manifestation of the Spirit, especially in terms of power. To use the language of Scripture, Jesus was anointed by the Spirit at this point. In Old Testament times kings and priests were anointed by pouring oil upon their heads, committing them to the function and office in which they were to serve. This is the picture of what is now occurring in Jesus' life. He is being anointed by God through the Spirit with power—power to meet the demands of the ministry upon which He is about to launch.
Do not think of this as something remote from us. All these things that happened to Jesus can happen and, indeed, must happen to us. That is the whole thrust of this teaching. He was taking our place; therefore, what happened to Him must happen to us. That is why Jesus, standing with His disciples after the resurrection, said to them,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (Acts 1:8). The Spirit of God must come upon us.
This is not so that we can perform dramatic acts, but, rather, so that we can have a new quality of life that is beautiful and resistless, yet quiet and gentle. Notice the symbol of the kind of power that is given here—it is a dove. Athletic teams sometimes use birds as emblems, signs of their power and ability. We have the Falcons and the Eagles—even the Ducks. But did you ever hear of a team called the Doves? No team would ever use a dove as a symbol of its power. A dove is a gentle, non-threatening bird, one that does not fight back and yet is irresistible.
This is the power that Jesus is describing—the power of love, of course—love that can be beaten and battered down and put to death and yet can rise again, until it wins the day—that amazing love Jesus released. The greatest force in the world today, without a doubt, is love. And yet it is the kind of power that does not threaten or break apart or destroy; it gathers and heals. It is rejected, turned aside, and beaten down; yet it rises again and again. So the dove is an apt symbol of the new life our Lord came to teach.
Lord, fill me with the Holy Spirit. May the Spirit Manifest through me the power of love.
What power is symbolized by the dove at Jesus' baptism? How does it compare with the power promised the believer by which we can daily demonstrate His love?