“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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 1:9-10).
At Christ’s baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him “like a dove.” The dove is a particularly appropriate symbol because it is a graceful bird. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told His disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” The word dove implies a guileless, open-book, “what you see is what you get” heart attitude. Applied to the Holy Spirit, it means that the Spirit himself is pure, open, and honest, and he produces the same qualities in the people he touches. As the dove descended from heaven, even so the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven to bless the people of the earth. Note that the dove rested on Christ, symbolizing the peace that the Holy Spirit brings.
The fact that the dove came directly to Christ shows the personal relationship the Holy Spirit has with each believer. Finally, the dove resting on Christ demonstrates the Father’s divine approval of the Son’s mission on earth. Once the dove landed on Christ, the voice from heaven said: “This is My Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Thus, all three persons of the Trinity were represented at the baptism of Jesus.
This symbol of the Spirit has a great deal to say to us about the effect of the Holy Spirit on our lives. When the Holy Spirit comes: (1) He brings peace to our souls; (2) He comes quietly, without fanfare; (3) He establishes a personal relationship with us; (4) He produces gentleness within, not a harsh and critical spirit; (5) He leads us toward purity, honesty, and a truly “harmless” life; (6) He brings God’s divine approval that we are indeed His children; (7) He leads us toward a beautiful, grace filled Christian life.
Over 300 years ago Isaac Watts wrote a hymn based on this text called Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove. The first four verses spell out our need for the Holy Spirit because our hearts are cold. We seek joy in earthly trifles and try in vain to sing God’s praise. But when the Spirit comes in power, all is changed, as the fifth verse makes clear:
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Come, shed abroad the Savior’s love
And that shall kindle ours.
Spirit of God, as you descended from heaven upon Jesus, descend on me today that I might know the fullness of your power. Amen.
Jesus among the Doctors by James Tissot, ca. 1890.
“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).
What was Jesus like as a boy?
This paragraph offers us the only glimpse we have into Jesus’ childhood. The biblical record moves from his infancy to the beginning of his public ministry at the age of 30 with only this episode in between. While there are many things we would like to know about Jesus as a young boy and as a teenager, this is all we are given.
It’s fairly easy to imagine that a child might disappear for a few hours in the great crowd of family and friends making the long journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth, only to reappear at supper time. That part of the story is understandable. It’s also conceivable that a mischievous boy would hide or even run away.
But that’s not what Jesus did. He stayed behind in Jerusalem to discuss weighty matters with the “doctors of the law.” They were the scribes and priests who spent a lifetime studying the written law and the oral commentary.
Jesus’ reply to his worried mother reminds us about the higher priorities of life: “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). We aren’t surprised when the next verse tells us they didn’t understand what he was saying.
It was a solemn reminder that even as a young boy Jesus was conscious of God’s divine call on his life. At this point, we do not need to inquire into how much Jesus understood about his future destiny. On the divine side, he certainly knew all things. On the human side, he grew in knowledge as he grew up. Even at the age of twelve, he knew he was not like other boys. He was called to his “Father’s business,” and that must be attended to, even if his parents did not understand.
We also must be about our Father’s business. Here is a good question we should ask ourselves: “Am I busy doing my Father’s business? Am I walking in the steps of Jesus?” As J. C. Ryle says, “Never is a church in so healthy a condition as when its believing members aim high, and strive in all things to be like Christ.”
Lord Jesus, help me to follow your example by doing my Father’s business today. Amen.
“He went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:23).
This is the second time Nazareth has been highlighted in this Lenten series. There are a handful of places repeatedly mentioned in connection with Jesus’ life and ministry: Nazareth (where he grew up), Capernaum (the center of his Galilean ministry), Jericho (which he visited more than once), Bethany (where he loved to stay with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), Jerusalem (the center of Jewish life), and the temple itself (the center of Jewish worship).
In this case we are looking at Nazareth as Jesus’ boyhood home. Nazareth was indeed an obscure village. Recently archeologists have discovered the remains of a home in Nazareth from the time of Jesus. Nazareth itself was evidently “a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.”
One of those poor Jews was a carpenter named Joseph. He made his living with his hands, using tools like an ax, a chisel, and a saw. Most likely he was poor all his life. This means Jesus grew up in a blue collar home. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. No doubt Joseph taught Jesus how to spot a good piece of wood, how to measure it properly, and how to make a good cut. I’m sure Jesus spent many hours learning at his father’s side. He knew what it was like to be raised in a poor family. It prepared him for later years when his message would spread like wildfire among the common people of Israel. They loved him because he was one of them.
But his neighbors had no use for him.
They had him in the “Nazareth box,” but he wouldn’t stay there.
The final tragedy is to know Jesus so well that you don’t know him at all. We must not make that mistake or we will be as guilty as the people of Nazareth who did not know they lived next door to the Savior of the world.
Lord Jesus, though you were rich beyond all imagination, you became poor so that you could live among us. Forgive me when I have taken you for granted. Open my eyes, Lord, to see you as you are, my Savior and my God. Amen.
Simeon with the infant Jesus by Petr Brandl, ca. 1725.
“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” (Luke 2:27-28).
Forty days have passed since the birth of Jesus. Here come Mary and Joseph into the temple precincts, ready to present their firstborn son to the Lord. There was nothing to mark them as anything other than another poor young couple coming with their newborn son.
At this point Simeon enters the story. Aside from what we are told in Luke 2, we know nothing about him. We don’t know his background, hometown, education, or occupation. He simply appears on the stage of history as a bit player in the drama surrounding the birth of Christ. After his part is over, he fades from the scene, never to be heard from again. When Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms, he called him “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32).
This is a huge piece of good news. He came to shine the light of God into every nation, every tribe, and every culture. He’s the Savior of the whole world: rich and poor, young and old, black and white, Jew and Gentile, American and Japanese, healthy and handicapped. All people are included in his coming. He didn’t come for a small group. He came for the whole wide world.
I received a phone call from a dear friend who was watching a loved one slowly die. When my friend called me, he made a very telling comment: “At a time like this you realize what’s really important. When you watch someone die before your eyes, you realize that the things of the world aren’t that important. The money and the power and the big career, they all just wash away. At the end the only thing that matters is to know Jesus Christ.”
He’s the Messiah of Israel.
He’s the Savior of the world.
He came for you. Do you know him?
Lord Jesus, nothing is more important than knowing you. Open my heart to welcome you as my Lord and my King. Amen.