Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
I. First, as the brooding of the Spirit of God upon the face of the deep produced order and life in the beginning, so does He impart new life to the soul, and open the eyes of the understanding, that we may behold the wonders of God's law.
II. Again: In the fact that the Holy Ghost descended upon the Lord Jesus in the form of a dove, we are reminded that quietness is often essential to many of the operations of grace. "A very restless person Will never be very godly, and a very godly one will never be very restless. 'Be still, and know that I am God.'"
III. Another point suggested by the text is, that as the dove is an appropriate emblem of love, so the soul which is influenced by the blessed Spirit will abound in love to God, and love to His people. The steeple of an old village church was to be pulled down, in order to prepare the way for some modern improvements, and a long rope was fastened near the top of it, that it might be kept from crushing the building in its fall. Soon everything was ready, and the master-carpenter shouted aloud to the men to pull. As the old steeple began to tremble, and sway from side to side, a beautiful white dove was observed to fly round and round, not daring to go in at its accustomed place, and yet evidently unwilling to depart. She seemed to be aware that a great calamity was about to happen, while a hundred voices shouted, "See that dove!" "Poor thing!" the head carpenter observed, "she must have young ones up in the steeple." Again the workmen gave a vigorous tug at the rope, and the old steeple reeled and tottered. The distress of the poor dove became so great, that every one felt sorry for her, and not a word was spoken. The bird hovered a moment on her wings, and at the instant that the creaking timbers began to topple over, she darted into the steeple and was hid from view. When the rubbish was cleared away, she was found lying between her two young ones — all three crushed to death I The devoted bird was willing to die with and for them, but she could not save them. There was a spectacle of devoted love — love even unto death!
IV. I remark, in the fourth place, that the descent of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, should remind us that gentleness is a distinguishing mark of Christian character in which most of us have very much to learn. Audubon, the ornithologist, relates this incident in his autobiography: "A man, who was once a pirate, assured me that several times, while at certain wells dug in the burning, shelly sands, the soft and melancholy notes of the doves awoke in his heart feelings which had long slumberbed, melting his heart to repentance. So deeply was he moved by them — the only soothing sounds he had ever heard during his life of horrors — that through them he was induced to escape from his vessel, abandon his turbulent companions, and return to a family deploring his absence, and he now lives in peace in the midst of his friends." "I beseech you by the gentleness of Christ," was St. Paul's exhortation to the Christians of Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:1); and, "Gentleness," he assures the Galatians (v. 22), is one of the prominent fruits of the Spirit. Henry Martyn, whose temper was naturally not the gentlest, wrote in his journal, "I walked into the village where the boat stopped for the night, and found the worshippers of Call by the Sound of their drums and cymbals. I did not speak to them on account of their being Bangalees; but being invited to walk in by the Brahmins, I went within the railings, and asked a few questions about the idol. The Brahmin, who spoke bad Hindostanee, disputed with great heat, and his tongue ran faster than I could follow, and the people shouted applause. I continued to ask my questions, without making any remarks upon the answers... The man grew quite mild, and said it was "good words," and asked me seriously, at last, was idol-worship true or false? I felt it a matter of thankfulness that I could make known the truth of God, though but a stammerer; and this I also learned, that the power of gentleness is irresistible. Once more: the dove has always been the type of purity, and the Holy Spirit is the purifier of the heart. When He gains an entrance into it, sin and uncleanness must depart.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,