What does Matthew 3:16 mean?
ESV: And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
NIV: As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
NASB: After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him,
CSB: When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him.
NLT: After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.
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:
Verse Commentary:
Jesus, the Messiah, in His first recorded public appearance in Matthew, finds John the Baptist somewhere along the Jordan River and asks the prophet to baptize Him. John resists and then agrees to participate (Matthew 3:13–15). Some interpreters see this as the moment Jesus formally began His mission on earth, culminating in His sacrificial death for the sins of humanity, followed by resurrection and ascension Christian baptism certainly serves as a symbol of death, followed by resurrection: a new beginning.

God the Father immediately responds to Jesus' baptism in a powerful way. As Jesus emerges from being fully immersed in the water of the Jordan River, the heavens are opened. Jesus sees God the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and coming to rest on Him.

It's unclear from this descriptions in the other Gospels whether only Jesus saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descend. This might have been witnessed by everyone present. Or, perhaps it was only perceived by Jesus and John (John 1:32). Luke does specify that the Holy Spirit took solid, bodily form (Luke 3:22). However, the phrase "like a dove" can either refer to the visual appearance of the Spirit, or to the manner in which the Spirit descended. As such, it's not explicitly clear that the Holy Spirit looked like a literal dove.

Regardless of such details, the Spirit coming to rest on Jesus served as a powerful confirmation that Jesus was being empowered by God. That confirmation is made even more explicit in the following verse.
Verse Context:
Matthew 3:13–17 describes Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist. Jesus arrives at the site of John's baptismal ministry somewhere along the Jordan River. John resists, but Jesus insists that His baptism is meant to fulfill all righteousness. As Jesus emerges from the water, He sees the heavens open, and the Holy Spirit descends to rest on Him in a dove-like form. The voice of God the Father declares that Jesus is His Son and that He is pleased with Him. Jesus' ministry is both confirmed and revealed on earth.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew introduces John the Baptist as a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. He is the voice crying in the wilderness as he prepares the way for the Lord. John calls the crowds who travel to hear him to repent from their sins. The kingdom of heaven is close! He also warns of God's judgment, specifically on Israel's spiritually-barren religious leaders. Finally, the Messiah he has been speaking of arrives and insists that John baptize Him. When he does, the heavens break open, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on Jesus, and the voice of God the Father says Jesus is His Son and that He is pleased with Him.
Chapter Context:
Matthew's story of Jesus jumps forward several decades from the moment when His family settled in Nazareth. This passage finds John the Baptist preaching about repentance in the wilderness and baptizing those who are willing. Crowds come from all around to hear John preach in the look and style of Elijah, including Israel's religious leaders. John warns them of God's coming judgment on those who do not truly repent. Jesus arrives and insists that John baptize Him. As Jesus emerges from the water, the heavens break open, the Holy Spirit descends to rest on Jesus in dove-like form, and the voice of God declares that Jesus is His Son. After this baptism, Jesus will be led into the desert to be tempted by Satan, in chapter 4.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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