A journey back to the Jordan, to the place of initial understanding where the voice of God was clearly evident for Jesus, marking the beginning of his public ministry.
Jordan. A name meaning “the descender”; an appropriate fit for this two-hundred mile winding river with its headwaters beginning more than 1000 feet above sea level in the foothills of Mount Hermon, descending through the Sea of Galilee, to eventually landing 1300 feet below sea level into the Dead Sea. The Jordan is the longest and most important river in Israel, nourishing the fertile river valley that surrounds its borders.
While sometimes a disappointment to the casual tourist longing for the grandeur befitting its historical and biblical mention, to the people who dwell there—the farmers and the commoners—the Jordan is the life-blood behind their survival.
Fitting that the Christ would receive his sacred commendation from his Father in that place:
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, 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 lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17).
With those words of consecrated beginning, Jesus began his winding navigation of the waters that would become the life-blood behind humanity’s survival. Sometimes the river’s ride carried him gently; sometimes more violently. Regardless of its pulse, the Jordan River was Christ’s “point of understanding”—his “go to moment” in seasons when he needed a reminder as to the reason behind his journey on this earth.
He couldn’t find that reminder in the Temple, at least not on that day during the Feast of Dedication. What he found in its place were the disdain and mockery of a people who refused to believe the truth behind his Jordan moment. Instead of receiving him as the one true “Light” during this festival of lights, they sought to extinguish his flames through the dousing of stones.
But Christ escaped their grasp. Both spiritually and literally. When they couldn’t “grasp” the truth behind the Truth, Truth removed himself from their grip and found his way back to the one place where life made sense. Where the memory of his Father’s voice and his Father’s love resonated in his recollection.
Instead of continuing in the fray and confusion of man’s attempts at worship and celebratory remembrance at the Temple, Jesus took his worship to the Jordan River and paused with Father God for a time of reflection and renewal. There he would feel the pulse behind his calling. There he would experience, once again, the watery embrace of an earlier remembrance, reminding him of his calling and fueling his heart for a continued obedience.
“…and many people came to him. They said, ‘Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.’ And in that place many believed in Jesus.” (John 10:41-42).
In that place, many believed. In that place, Jesus received an unexpected renewal from his Father for the road ahead. Christ’s escape to the Jordan refueled his “descending” walk to the cross.
Sometimes, like Jesus, the return to the Jordan is a journey we need to make. Not to hide from the calling we’ve received from our Father, but simply to remember his summons and to re-invite the whispers of an earlier season when our initial walk to the cross seemed more clearly defined and, therefore, more readily embraced.
Time has a way of separating us from these moments of beginning understanding. Given enough occasions of misunderstanding—times when the world refuses to acknowledge the worth behind our walks—we become susceptible to our own questions, our doubts, and our relevance as it pertains to God’s kingdom purposes. If the world’s refusal regarding our “baptism” by God is not tended to by the Jordan’s reminder—the time when we first “knew what we knew and believed it to be true”—then we are at risk of forgetting. Of relegating that “calling” to the shadows of a louder, more intrusive voice that forcefully demands selfish pursuit over selfless denial.
The Temple has always been a good place for loud voices. But the Jordan? The best place for God’s whispered reminders.
This is my Son, this is my child, whom I dearly love. With him … with you … I am well pleased.
How long has it been, my friends, since you’ve heard the whispers of heaven’s grace spoken over your well-worn and war-torn souls? Could you, like Jesus, use a trip to the banks of the Jordan to remember, to reflect, and to relive those glimmers of truth when they first filtered past your unbelief to cast their brilliance upon your heart of understanding?
I need the Jordan’s renewal. I need its nourishing “wet” to overflow its borders and to wash me clean of the doubts and confusion that amply cling to my heart because of the world’s refusal to recognize the truth behind what my Father has spoken over my life—
His love and his pleasure regarding my status as his child.
He’s spoken the same over you. May we, each one, know the depth and breadth of such an understanding this night and in the days to come. Thus, I pray…
Thank you, Father, for the Jordan and for all that it means to me. For your Son’s baptism and for my own and for their collective understanding that births new life in me, through me, and most days in spite of me. When I can’t find you in the exterior places that fill my day and when the voices of those places speak louder than the truth within, bring me back to the place of understanding where truth is evident through the whispers of an earlier summons. Your descent into my dismal sin, has allowed me my ascent into your marvelous grace.
“On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, this night, and cast a wishful eye; to Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie. I am bound for the Promised Land.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus to the Jordan this night, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.
PS: This concludes my thoughts on the “Feast of Dedication” as presented in John 10. I hope to do more mini-series in the weeks to come. Truly, this type of the writing is the pulse that continues to push my pen along. May you, each one, know our God more fully this week through the study his Word. It is the greatest treasure we hold. Shalom.