John 1:32 (NASB):

John testified saying: "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.

The above quote from John the Baptist is referring to what we read about in Luke 3:21-22, when the Holy Spirit "descended upon {Jesus} in bodily form like a dove."

Was this external sign of the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus merely for others (such as John, as stated in verse 33 of Chapter 1), so that they may believe God's spirit was upon Him, or did Jesus somehow receive a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit at this moment?

4 Answers 4


There is a parallel account in Matthew 3:16-4:1

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. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Spirit descending on Jesus - for man's belief or deeper purpose?

Both. It prepared Jesus to be tempted by the devil.


Let us be very clear - we find in 1 Peter 2:21 -

The Messiah also suffered for you and left an example for you to follow in his steps. For to this you were called ...

Also in 1 John 2:5, 6 -

By this we know that we are in Him: 6Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.

When it comes to the many ways that Christians are called to imitate Jesus, one of the many ways was: Jesus was led by the Spirit Matt 4:1. The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact, the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18).

Thus, many of the NT people were "filled with the Spirit" precisely as Jesus was, Luke 4:1. See Luke 1:15, 41, 67, Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31, 6:5, 7:55, 9:17, 11:24, 13:9, 52, Eph 5:8, etc.

Thus, Jesus, while being fully God, used no power not available to the disciples but depended on the father. Jesus even promised that the disciples (which includes all Christians) would do even greater things than Jesus, John 14:12.

  • Given He voluntarily εκενωσεν Himself Ph2:7, suppressing His divine attributes, it was of utmost importance that He rely on God for anything and everything supernatural. +1 Mar 24, 2021 at 21:54
  • @NihilSineDeo - I fully agree - good point.
    – Dottard
    Mar 24, 2021 at 21:58

We are told Jesus was 'filled with the spirit'.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness Luke 4:1

This is odd if he is God. Either he is God or he is not. The bizarre concept of him 'emptying himself' of being God is beyond belief or logic and certainly beyond the text. Seeing as we are never told he was God, then we must look for some reasons why he is receiving the spirit. Because with God, there is always a reason!

If we take this verse as truth, then we have a clue.

he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God Heb 2:17

There is not a chance that Jesus can be made like us if he is God!

in every way, in all things, like unto his brethren, like His brothers - as other versions put it. (does God have brothers or brethren?)

And then this,

"Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing John 5:19

I can do nothing by Myself; I judge only as I hear. And My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30

There's a huge clue. Jesus seeks not his own will (how can he be God and have another will?) but the Father's. How does he seek God's will, how does he deny temptation - every time, how does he learn obedience??? By being at one with God, having God's spirit dwelling in him. Not as a gift or deposit like most other men - Jesus was filled up! Luke 4:1

He says through Luke 10:22

No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son

That's how close they were. That's how reliant Jesus was on God for his success because only God, through His spirit in Jesus, could avert disaster.

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Heb 5:7

No, receiving the spirit wasn't just for show. Certainly that was a benefit for those who witnessed this event, but Jesus depended on it to stay alive, sinless and holy, till his last breath. Jesus had no power inherently - he had no opportunity to wield his own power - for he had none. Every time he needed, God provided.

but the Father, as He remains in Me, does His works John 14:10 John 5:30 again

Jesus said he was a man (John 8:40) that's all he said he was as the son of God. How could a man do what he did without the holy spirit providing his every need of truth, love, wisdom, passion, humility, obedience, patience, looong-suffering? Acts 2:22, 17:31, 1 Timothy 2:5

Jesus needed the holy spirit to fulfil his mission. He needed this presence of God to fight the evil forces, beginning it seems, with his temptation. Without this life force of good within him, we would have failed day 1!


In John 1:32 (NASB), John the Baptist testifies about seeing the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This event is also described in Luke 3:21-22, where the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove. The question is whether this external sign of the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus was solely for the benefit of others, particularly to provide evidence to John and others that God's Spirit was upon Jesus, or if it signified Jesus receiving a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit at this moment.

To address this question, we can delve into the Greek grammar and related scriptures. In Luke 2:40 (NAS28), the phrase "καὶ χάρις θεοῦ ἦν ἐπ᾽ αὐτό" translates to "and the grace of God was upon him." Examining the verb "ἦν" in the context of Exodus 20:21 is elucidated by 1 Kings 8:12, evolving from a simple meaning of "to be" to a deeper sense of "to dwell" or "to inhabit." Thus, in Luke 2:40, it implies that the grace of God dwelled fully in Jesus.

Following this understanding, at the moment of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, the human aspect of Jesus, that is, his personhood and carnal nature, became entirely submissive to the will of the Holy Spirit. This divine act symbolized a profound alignment and unity between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, signifying a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit being bestowed upon Jesus.

In summary, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus in the form of a dove was not merely an external sign for others to believe but a significant moment where Jesus received a complete indwelling and alignment with the Holy Spirit, representing a profound infusion of the Holy Spirit into his being. This event marked Jesus' complete submission and harmonization with the will of God, exemplifying a deeper purpose beyond a mere display for observers.

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