Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mud and Salt...Just Add Water (Holy Land #6 of 14)

I have already written about my love for the Sea of Galilee while in Israel, but there are two other bodies of water that will now hold special meaning for me the rest of my life as well. The first is the Jordan River. We went down to the Jordan from the Jordanian side of the border to the place which is most probably the vicinity where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. As we walked from the parking area through the wilderness to the Jordan River, I could just imagine John the Baptist living in among the brush wearing his camel hair clothing and feasting on locust and wild honey.

We finally came down upon the river itself. It was muddier than any water I have ever seen. In fact, by the time I was done being baptized and baptizing others, my white shirt that I was wearing was as brown as could be. I can hardly describe what it was like to let my mind go and try to visualize the Baptist in the water proclaiming, “Repent! Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” Then he baptizes a Nazarene who before this time was virtually unknown among men. As He is baptized, a light from heaven shines down on Him and a dove descends on Him as a voice from heaven declares, “This is my Son, Follow Him!” John the Baptist now knew that this was the long awaited One. In fact, later he would point Jesus out to two of his own disciples and say, “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” These 2 disciples would then follow Jesus instead of John.

This was a special time. Pastor Dan Travis, a friend of mine who was our group leader and did a tremendous job, baptized a couple of ladies who were not from our church and then I asked him to baptize me. The water was pretty cold so he really wasn’t taking people all the way under the water. I told him that I wanted to go all the way down…and I did all three times. What an honor to publicly proclaim Christ through baptism in the same area where Jesus was baptized and the Father revealed Him as His Son.

Even more special that that was being able to then baptize my wife, Laura, and have Dan pray for the two of us. Dan then baptized Pastor Whitie, who is from our church, and who in turn baptized his wife. After that, Whitie and I took turns baptizing those from our church who also desired to be baptized in the Jordan River. For one couple, this was their first baptism since becoming Christians. How wonderful was that! That was by far the icing on the cake for our Jordan River baptismal service. This time the emotion I felt was not one of tears but rather one of celebration. I just wanted to shout!

We then went back to the Dead Sea Spa and headed down to this large body of water that is 33% salt content. All you do is sit back as if you were sitting on a chair and you bob right up. There is absolutely no way you can go under the water. You just float until your heart is content. What a thrill for all of us to be out there as a group floating and laughing. What an incredible shared experience. But the best part was seeing the brilliant red sunset behind the mountains. I do not believe that I have ever seen such a gorgeous sunset in all of my life. From the Sea of Galilee to the Jordan River to the Dead Sea, the waters of the Holy Land are beautiful, naturally and spiritually.

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