Why a Dove?
Immediately after Jesus’ baptism in water, “the holy spirit in bodily shape like a dove came down upon him.” (Luke 3:22) This descent of the spirit may have been comparable to the fluttering of a dove as it nears its perch.
Doves were used by the ancient Israelites for sacrificial purposes. (Mark 11:15; John 2:14-16) The bird symbolized innocence and purity, as is evident from Jesus’ telling his followers: “Prove yourselves . . . innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) It was a dove released by Noah from the ark that brought back an olive leaf, indicating that the floodwaters were receding. (Gen. 8:11) This pointed to the fact that a time of rest and peace was at hand, for it had been foretold regarding Noah: “This one will bring us comfort from our work and from the pain of our hands resulting from the ground which Jehovah has cursed.” (Gen. 5:29) Thus, at Jesus’ baptism, the dove could appropriately call attention to the role of Jesus as the Messiah, the pure and sinless Son of God. And his sacrificing his life for mankind would lay the basis for a period of rest and peace during his rule as king.