THE Baptism of jesus
The River Jordan is particularly associated with the ministry of John the Baptist, the well known preacher from the Judean wilderness, wearing a ‘camel’s hair’ garment and living on a diet of locusts and honey. The name John means ‘Jehovah is gracious’ and Jesus rated him so highly that he said ‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist’ Matthew 11:11.
A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
Seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foresaw the coming of John the Baptist and his life’s purpose: ‘A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’. Isaiah 40:3.
John himself declared , “I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.
THE BAPTISMAL SITE
As his fame spread, large crowds came from Jerusalem all over Judea to hear this radical preacher’s message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. They were then baptised in the River Jordan, near ‘Bethany across the Jordan’ on the east side of the river. This was in the territory of Perea but the exact location is not known. In 1994, Jordanian archaeologists unearthed the remains of two Byzantine churches on east side and, on the other bank, there is a 4-5th century Greek Orthodox Church which also claims to be located where Jesus was baptised.
At the height of John’s ministry, Jesus travelled down from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John but he tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
This key event marked the start of Jesus’ world-changing ministry and his subsequent 40 days of fasting in the nearby desert wilderness of Judea.