I’m not exactly sure what my expectations for the Jordan River were, but I was surprised by the narrowness of the river, the murkiness of the water and the strong sulfuric smell as we made our way to the riverside.
In studying more about this important biblical site, I’ve learned what a vital role it had in the founding of Israel. Joshua led the Israelites through the Jordan River as they entered the Promised Land. It was after crossing through the Jordan that the Israelites looked back to the Exodus, the wilderness, and finally crossing the Jordan that they saw the means by which God had made them his people and set them free.
It was also in the Jordan River where John baptized Jesus.
Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. – Matthew 3:13-15(NLT)
Webster defines baptism as an act, experience, or ordeal by which one is purified, sanctified, initiated, or named.
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; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17(ESV)
For us, baptism is symbolic of our washing of sins by being plunged into water and coming into a new life as a follower of Christ when we are raised from the water. Just as crossing the Jordan was a defining moment for Israel and a defining moment in the ministry of Jesus, baptism is a defining moment for us as it demonstrates the beginning of our Christian pilgrimage, or walk with Jesus as our Lord.
People still go to the Jordan River to be baptized.