The Heavenly Attestation of the Sonship of Jesus
Matthew 3:16, 17
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him…

The singular and thrilling event recorded in these verses is recorded also by St. Mark (Mark 1:9-11)and by St. Luke (Luke 3:21, 22) in an equally full manner, while it is distinctly alluded to by St. John (John 1:32, 33). It is remarkable that, though nothing is said either way, we are left to conclude that the vision was confined to the two only - Jesus himself and John the Baptist. From that time John, who had personally long known Jesus, knew him for certain as the Messiah; and not only heralded the Christ, but could point to him as the Christ (John 1:29, 30). Notice -

I. THE CRISIS AT WHICH THIS GLORIOUS ATTESTATION OCCURRED. The first profound act of public, spontaneous self-humiliation is alighted upon by the visit of a supernatural glorification. Immediately the act of baptism was over, the heavens opened, the Dove sped down, the voice of the Majesty himself of all the universe uttered itself forth, and glory was poured on Jesus.


1. The "heavens opened." We are certainly entitled by Scripture warrant, to say the least, in order to help our weaker understanding and thought, to consider heaven as a place, that place being the abode of God. These helps to human imaginings of the Unknown will not discredit our faith in the Divine omnipresence and in the fact that he is perfect Spirit; but they are needful to our present limitations of apprehension of the dim, vast, uncomprehended.

2. The Spirit descended, and in the form of a dove. No doubt it was now that an enormous accession of the Spirit was made to the human nature of Jesus Christ, And the "bodily form" of the dove was to betoken alike the soft flight and that tenderest gentleness of the Spirit, and the peace and love of him who was now more fully replenished with the Spirit.

3. A voice from heaven speaks. It is here said "a" voice. But the words spoken prove that it was none less than the voice of Heaven, the voice of the majesty of the Father, of the Glory - God himself!

(1) Great is the impression of voice.

(2) Great may be the absolute charm of voice.

(3) Great beside all else is the fixed, distinct certainty of voice, as e.g. compared with vision or with imagination.

God speaks in all creation with ten thousand voices, it is true. But when he speaks with that voice which utters words, the ear hears as in its own right. The words uttered by the voice of God assert

(a) the Sonship of Jesus;

(b) that he is the object of the Father's unqualified complacence; and

(c) because flint might be the complacence of feeling chiefly, by the analogy of human relationship, the voice asserts the Father's perfect approbation as well.

III. THE GREAT OBJECT OF THIS ATTESTATION. It appears to have been vouchsafed for the absolute warranting of the faith of John the Baptist. The simplicity, and what should seem in some light the narrowness, of this object invest it to a very large extent with its greatness.

1. What a testimony of condescending graciousness to that one man! He is to live for Christ, to work for Christ, to die for Christ. And to furnish him with exactly the enough satisfaction of evidence, faith, growing into knowledge, all the grandest apparatus of Heaven is brought into use!

2. What a testimony of real consideration to the world! Is a great trust committed to earthly vessels? Is it a trust of critical and tremendous responsibility? Are men, not angels, the ministers of truth, of life, of salvation to their fellow-men, in the name of Christ? Then alike it is mercy for those who are to be blessed, as for those who are to bless, that into these latter, though they should stand but one by one, and follow one another in narrowest line of succession, the whole force of absolute conviction should be thrown by Heaven's and God's own most approved methods. On this occasion we cannot doubt Jesus himself was refreshed with the vision of open heaven, with the alighting on him of the holy Dove, with the voice of the Father, and the words that voice spoke. But, in that John was the witness, and presumably the only witness hereof, the significance can be but one; and it is plain and most striking. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

WEB: Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him.

The Dove-Spirit on Christ
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