Now it is to be observed that we never read of Jesus being caught up into heaven for a space, like St. Paul or St. John. What we read is, that while on earth the Son of man is in Heaven (John 3:13), for heaven is the manifestation of God, whose truest glory was revealed in the grace and truth of Jesus.
Along with this revelation, the Holy Spirit was manifested wondrously. His appearance, indeed, is quite unlike what it was to others. At Pentecost He became visible, but since each disciple received only a portion, |according to his several ability,| his fitting symbol was |tongues parting asunder like as of fire.| He came as an element powerful and pervasive, not as a Personality bestowed in all His vital force on any one.
So, too, the phrase which John used, when predicting that Jesus should baptize with the Holy Ghost, slightly though it differs from what is here, implies that only a portion is to be given, not the fullness. And the angel who foretold to Zacharias that John himself should be filled with the Holy Ghost, conveyed the same limitation in his words. John received all that he was able to receive: he was filled. But how should mortal capacity exhaust the fullness of Deity? And Who is this, upon Whom, while John is but an awestricken beholder, the Spirit of God descends in all completeness, a living organic unity, like a dove? Only the Infinite is capable of receiving such a gift, and this is He in Whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. No wonder then that |in bodily form| as a dove, the Spirit of God descended upon Him alone. Henceforward He became the great Dispenser, and |the Spirit emanated from Him as perfume from the rose when it has opened.|
At the same time was heard a Voice from heaven. And the bearing of this passage upon the Trinity becomes clear, when we combine the manifestation of the Spirit in living Personality, and the Divine Voice, not from the Dove but from the heavens, with the announcement that Jesus is not merely beloved and well-pleasing, but a Son, and in this high sense the only Son, since the words are literally |Thou art the Son of Me, the beloved.| And yet He is to bring many sons unto glory.
Is it consistent with due reverence to believe that this voice conveyed a message to our Lord Himself? Even so liberal a critic as Neander has denied this. But if we grasp the meaning of what we believe, that He upon taking flesh |emptied Himself,| that He increased in wisdom during His youth, and that there was a day and hour which to the end of life He knew not, we need not suppose that His infancy was so unchildlike as the realization of His mysterious and awful Personality would make it. There must then have been a period when His perfect human development rose up into what Renan calls (more accurately than he knows) identification of Himself with the object of His devotion, carried to the utmost limit. Nor is this period quite undiscoverable, for when it arrived it would seem highly unnatural to postpone His public ministry further. Now this reasonable inference is entirely supported by the narrative. St. Matthew indeed regards the event from the Baptist's point of vision. But St. Mark and St. Luke are agreed that to Jesus Himself it was also said, |Thou are My beloved Son.| Now this is not the way to teach us that the testimony came only to John. And how solemn a thought is this, that the full certitude of His destiny expanded before the eyes of Jesus, just when He lifted them from those baptismal waters in which He stooped so low.