Saturday, January 26, 2019

SHS: Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

Matthew 3: 13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

The Jordan River: International boundary between Israel (left) and Jordan (right). From 1948-1994 this portion of the river was conflict zone between the two warring countries and so the river was off limits to pilgrims.

The meandering Jordan River as it wends it way southward into the Dead Sea (West Bank right, Jordan left). Since 1994 Jordan has sought to establish its bank of the river in this area as the traditional site of the baptism (Bethabara beyond Jordan).

Jordan has established an archeological park which highlights the ruins of a Byzantine Church (shown in the mosaic sign) with its focus on a gradual stairway leading down to a portion of the river (which has since shift its course).

The Jordan River flowing into the Dead Sea as depicted in the Madaba Map (the oldest known map of the Holy land)--a 6th century Byzantine floor mosaic of the Holy Land at the time of Jesus that is preserved in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in Madaba Jordan. Notice the two fish swimming in the water. One is swimming northward away from the salt water of the Dead Sea. Directly under that fish (on the west side of the Jordan River) are the Greek words "Bethabara the Place of St. John's Baptizing."

Churches have also been built close to the current course of the river. 

Jordanian Church in the foreground with a hill top Israeli military installation behind. 


Access to the river for pilgrims on the Jordan side.

At this point in its flow, most of the water of the Jordan River has been diverted for agricultural and other uses on both sides of the river. What remains is a slow moving, muddy river with salts, pesticides, fertilizers and other contaminants washed down river.

Not to be outdone by Jordan, Israel has also created a pilgrimage site on its side. Still underway are efforts to clear the surrounding area of the many land mines Israel laid during the war years.

Road from Jericho leading down to the Israeli baptismal site. Churches on the Jordanian side can be seen in the distance.

In 2010 access to to the Israeli side was still not open for daily access like the Jordan site.

An interesting article about the Israeli site (actually in the West Bank)--Qasr al-Yahud and recent efforts to clear it of land mines:

With access to the traditional baptismal site off limits due to it being in the middle of a war zone, Israel sought out a site along the Jordan just south of where it flows from the Sea of Galilee. Kinneret Kibbutz (Israeli communal agricultural settlement) agreed to allow part of its land to be used for the site. Here the water was cleaner and clearer and, since Israel controls both banks of the Jordan, also much safer.

Over time the Israeli Jews of the Kibbutz realized that if they developed the site (called Yardenit) and made it more accessible to pilgrims then it could function as a source of revenue for the kibbutz. Ramps and railings were installed, gift shops, food stalls and rest rooms built, and tiled accounts of the baptism in many different languages were hung along walls on the appraoch to the river.

It is now a heavily visited pilgrimage site--far from the traditional site, but still moving for many who come. Many Christian pilgrims chose to be (re)baptized here (photo). Resident members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been baptized here.

 At the 1989 baptism of the daughter of BYU anthropology professor Ray Matheny

For a fun activity read the Hawaiian Pidgin version of the baptism out loud. Sarah can quote portions of this version with amusing diction. 

King James Version for comparison. Mark 1:9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The three baptismal sites.

Source of map and an interesting article about the various baptismal sites:  

Luke 3: 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

One of my favorite uses a a bible verse in a non-religious setting comes from one of my favorite movies--The Year of Living Dangerously. In this movie about the 1965 communist coup in Indonesia, an Indonesian photographer named Billy Kwan (an Academy Award winning performance by Linda Hunt) is so troubled by the poverty of his people and the neglect they receive from political leaders (Sukarno) that he frustratingly pounds out on his typewriter the words asked of John the Baptist in Luke 3:10. "What then must we do?" or from the KJV: "What shall we do then?"

Watch Billy Kwan pound the type writer while quoting Luke here:

It is a question always worth asking. 

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