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Jesus' Baptism and New Creation

by Brant Pitre February 07, 2020 0 Comments


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but that’s not all. There’s another allusion to the Old Testament. You might be wondering here, why does the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove? This is something that’s common again to all four accounts of the Baptism, but it is a little unusual. Couldn’t the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire or light from Heaven? Why a dove? That’s a very interesting and unusual thing. And although most people—when they see the imagery of a dove—they just assume that a dove means peace. That’s not actually the primary association of a dove in the Scriptures. It is true that doves that can be symbols of peace in different contexts and different cultures.

But in a biblical perspective and from a first century Jewish perspective, the first time a dove appears in the Old Testament is in the book of Genesis in the account of the flood. In Genesis 8, you’ll recall that after Noah and the ark come to rest on the top of Mount Ararat, and the waters begin to recede, Noah sends out a raven that never comes back. And then he sends out a dove, and the dove brings back a freshly plucked olive leaf. And that olive leaf is a sign of the restoration of creation. That after the waters of death destroy all human life and wipe all of the sin out of the world—that’s what the flood is sent for in Genesis 6. Human beings have grown so sinful and violent that God sends a flood to cleanse the world of sin, and then saves Noah, preserves Noah. After the flood, when the dove comes down from Heaven to Noah with the olive branch in its beak, the olive branch is a symbol of the new creation—that creation has been restored, that new life has sprung up out of the waters of death that were the flood.

If you fast forward back to the New Testament, what happens here? Just as the new creation—life—emerge, the olive tree emerged out of the waters of death after the flood in the Old Testament, so now Jesus (watch this) emerges out of the waters of Baptism in the river Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him in the form of a dove to anoint Him with the Spirit. So what does this mean? It means that Jesus isn’t just inaugurating a new exodus that’s going to have its final destination in the heavenly kingdom. He’s also the beginning of a new creation, which will bring about a new cleansing of the world from sin. And it’s going to be through the waters of His Baptism—as we’ll see—and of our Baptism that sin will be dealt with and that sin will be cleansed. So there are all kinds of images here that are taking place in the Baptism of Jesus.

Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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