Baptism means to dip, plunge, immerse. The River Jordan is not an inviting body of water.
More like a muddy creek, I was taken aback at how narrow, still, muddy, and murky, the river was. I think I expected cool clear water that flowed slowly, taking my sins with it. But, now that I think about it, the narrowness of the river, and the surrounding water plants and reeds, provided protection and privacy for those in Jesus’ day who may certainly have feared persecution if caught following John the Baptist. John, a wild man living in the desert on locusts and honey. He wore camel hair garments and wandered spouting and shouting out messages for anyone who would listen, “Prepare Ye the way of the Lord!”, “Make straight your paths!”
The muddy, murkiness, of the Jordan could account for the many sins that were washed away here by the its banks. If indeed it was clean and clear, it would be harder to explain that here hundreds washed away their sins, shed their old life, were symbolically buried in death like Christ, and arose in the newness of life.
It makes so much more sense for the Jordan to be clogged with the muck and guck that has been washed away and into its slow-moving currents. Many would have to think twice before plunging themselves bodily into that water, polluted by all that is foul and evil.
Matthew 3: 1-2 The Message
Thunder in the Desert!
3 1-2 While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called “the Baptizer,” was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
3 John and his message were authorized by Isaiah’s prophecy:
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
4-6 John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey. People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.
7-10 When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin! And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.
11-12 “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
Acts 2:38 Easy-to-Read Version
Peter said to them, “Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Then God will forgive your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:21 Easy-to-Read Version
And that water is like baptism, which now saves you. Baptism is not the washing of dirt from the body. It is asking God for a clean conscience. It saves you because Jesus Christ was raised from death.
What does it mean to be baptized?
Our old life of sin is gone, replaced by a brand new life in Jesus Christ.
It is a public declaration. In going down under the water through another’s hands, stopping your breath, and rising to breathe again, before others and before God, we place ourselves in the same situation Christ found himself. He was taken by others, taken by death where his breath stopped, yet, rose again to breathe freely. It means we are publicly identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
In baptism we join others who believe in Christ, who in this symbolic act, declare to all that you died alongside Christ, were buried, and now resurrected into new life, a life recognizing God’s Supremacy, Love, Compassion, Mercy, and Grace. What more can an individual show than this act willingly and humbly undertaken before God and all of mankind.
Out of this water we emerge cleansed; we leave behind our sins; we leave those things said, unsaid, done, undone, acted upon, and left for others to do.
I had been sprinkled as an infant. I never knew it. I understand now, that the tradition began because of frequent infant deaths in the past. In performing this act with the support and blessings of the infant’s family, they vow to bring this child up in the church and to teach the child of the Love and Honor due God.
As an adult, I have since felt the tug to be publicly baptized. I found it to be an urging that came out of my trust, faith, and belief, in You, Lord. It came after I knew this in my heart. The decision came after I knew in my heart that I was Yours. It was an important symbolic act I wanted to experience; it was an important moment for me to declare myself totally and absolutely Your child.
At the Jordan, I felt an immense sense of peace all around me. Even the presence of soldiers on either side of the Jordan only solidified the feeling that both countries, Israel and Jordan, wanted to preserve the peace there. It was a Holy Place, and as such should be protected.
Thank You, Dear Lord, for allowing me this opportunity to baptize myself, even if it was a just a sprinkle by my own hands, it helped me participate in scenes and events that happened here over two thousand years ago.
Thank You for the road construction that detoured our tour away from Masada, and towards the River Jordan. It was a blessing for me as I am sure it was for others.
Your paths made straight, not by my hands, but by Yours. Amen
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