Sunday, January 07, 2007

In the Jordan River

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This Sunday we commemorate the baptism of Jesus. It is not by coincidence that he was baptized in the Jordan River; it is of significant meaning.

The Jordan River symbolizes entry into the Promised Land, and may be the "river of God" referenced in the Psalms. It is the physical barrier (Numbers 34:12) that Israel crossed to leave the wilderness and enter into possession of the Promised Land. Moses was not permitted to lead Israel across. That role fell to his successor. Moses foretold that a prophet like him would arise in Israel (Deuteronomy 18:15). The one who led them into freedom was named "Yahweh is salvation."

In the Old Testament, it was Joshua who led the people through the Jordan River, out of bondage and purification into freedom in the Promised Land. In the New Testament, it was Jesus (same name, but we know him by the Greek form of the name) who led his people out of bondage to sin into the freedom of communion with God in the Promised Land of eternal life. The crossing point is Holy Baptism, and Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. As he was circumcised to fulfil the Torah and participate in his humanity, now he establishes a rite in which we may share his divine life.

The gospels tell us that John was baptizing in the wilderness of Judea in the Jordan river--the area east of Jerusalem. We are told that people from the city were going out to be baptized by him. There were standard fords in which the river was crossed, and it is likely that the place in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized was near (or even at) the crossing point near Jericho that the Israelites used in the book of Joshua.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

If John was baptizing at the southern end of the river near the Dead Sea, would that make him a Southern Baptist?

Christopher+ said...

Isn't it fascinating that John says of Jesus - "I'm not worthy to untie his shoes"? And it was at the same place that the first Joshua met the Commander of the Army of God who told him to take off his shoes because the ground he was standing on was holy.

Timotheos Prologizes said...

Very interesting. I wonder if there are more connections.