The Gospels record that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by his cousin, John. John, who protested, saying “I am unworthy’, relented. And as the water descended upon His head, the Holy Spirit descended on Him and the voice of God the Father was heard by the crowds lining the river, saying, “This is my Son – the Beloved one.”
The area near the site has a cluster of small churches, each built by a different church – Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and others. And we saw the land King Abdullah has donated to the Anglican Church for one of their own.
Walking from the parking area to the river, the landscape looked much like South Texas brush country. I wondered where the feeders were.
But the feeling was different than that of a hunt. We knew we were walking on Holy Ground. When we came upon the site where most agree Jesus was baptized, we were surprised to find a dry hole. The remains of a Byzantine church and age-old steps leading down marked the place. But the river has moved since the Apostolic Era, and we found the Jordan several hundred yards away.
It was Sunday, and we celebrated Holy Eucharist on the shore next to the Jordan, a stone’s throw from the spot where John baptized Christ and the Lord’s ministry of teaching and healing began.
It was a powerful morning. Deeply affecting.
From Bethany beyond the Jordan we drove to Mt. Nebo. The final chapter of Deuteronomy records that God led Moses up Mt. Nebo and showed him the Promised Land.
The contrast between the wilderness of Jordan and the green land of Israel was clearly visible from Mt. Nebo.
I could sense the joy and thanksgiving in Moses’ heart, knowing that the land of milk and honey was just across the river. And the people he had shepherded from Egypt through the wilderness would be provided for in the wake of his death.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims have traveled to Mt. Nebo for centuries, and the Franciscans have assembled a small but excellent museum at the top which tells the story of pilgrimage and habitation on Nebo for almost 2,000 years.
From Mt. Nebo, we made our way back to the very comfortable hotel on the Dead Sea, weary but well.
Many in our group changed and seized the moment of floating in the extremely salty waters of the Dead Sea. And taking a cool, refreshing swim in the pool.
An amazing Sabbath day in the Holy Land.