Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage – Lessons from the Jordan River

Note: In January 2011 my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I sensed while on this life changing trip. You can read about the entire trip in the devotional book Touching the Footprints of Jesus.

As a Baptist, one of the things that fascinates me about biblical history was the importance that the ancient Jews placed on baptism. Many people falsely think that baptism was a “Christian” invention. In actuality, baptism had been a part of Jewish religious life for generations before Christ ever walked the earth. During Christ’s time there were a number of Jewish sects living in isolation that practiced regular ritual baptism. There were pools and rituals baths found all over the nation that provide evidence of just how important baptism was to the ancient Jews.

Though who think that John the Baptist created the concept of Christian baptism should realize that he simply borrowed a very familiar concept from Jewish history and gave it a new meaning. He took what had become a “ritual” and gave it new purpose. When Jesus Himself appeared one day and asked John the Baptist to baptize Him in the Jordan River, the rite became even more important to those who followed Jesus. The Apostles then refined the idea of baptism as they wrote the New Testament, making baptism the outward expression of inward faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Baptism has now become a key component of the Christian faith where as very few Jews practice it any longer.

Though the actual place of Jesus’ baptism is no longer accessible to the public, just down the river from that
spot is the Jordan Baptismal Center where thousands of Christian pilgrims come each year to be baptized. On the morning we toured the center we were blessed to watch 25 Nigerians be baptized. They sang songs as they went in the water. They shouted praise as they came out. Their faces shined brightly with the love of Christ throughout the entire experience. Afterwards, they filled up bottles of water from the Jordan River to take home with them. I was moved by their passion and appreciated the depth of their faith. Standing on the banks of the Jordan watching those Nigerians experience such a powerful worship experience, I wondered why we Americans do not show such passion about our own Christian faith. I fear that we Americans think we are too “sophisticated” for such outward displays of inner spirituality. But watching those Nigerians that day, it was clear to me that we Americans have lost something important. Perhaps our lives would be a little happier if we were a tad bit less sophisticated.


  1. I like this.

  2. Maybe we need some Nigerian missionaries to come to the US and share the Spirit with us?