Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Unpredictable weather can always dampen one’s plans, and some of our adventures were washed away this day! The average rainfall for the desert of Jordan is roughly 4 inches a year. Unfortunately, during our visit to Jordan, the skies poured down on the Red Sea area, making the roads unsafe to travel, so there was no Red Sea for us. However, life is always full of blessings, allowing more time to enjoy the sites we visited and our two days at our five-star spa hotel!

We were blessed to celebrate Mass on the Jordan River’s banks and renew our baptism vows near the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. 
Over the years, there has been a controversy between Jordan and Palestine concerning the exact location of the site of Jesus’ baptism.  During the late sixties, the banks of Jordan became a battle frontline laden with mines.  In 1994 a peace treaty was signed, and most of the mines were removed. Removal of the mines on the banks of the Jordan side opened the area to excavation beginning in 1996. Baptism ponds and church remains were found in a place that was once a clean, clear water tributary of the Jordan. In 2015 Bethany over Jordan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the site of the Baptism of Jesus, thus quieting but not ending the dispute.

Our priest preparing to celebrate Mass on the Jordan side, the green vegetation behind him is Israel.

The area is peaceful and calm except for the flies annoying us. I once heard flies are the devil attempting to distract us from our goal… hmm… We were seated in a covered area that protected us from the blaring sun, yet the stifling air was melting us. Father began Mass and called down the Holy Spirit. I felt a wave of air bring a moment of coolness that shooed away the flies. Toward the end of Mass, we renewed our baptismal vows, rededicating our lives to God in the very area where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, thus consecrating the sacrament of baptism. Here Elijah was taken into heaven. Here Joshua entered the Promised Land crossing the Jordan. Here Jesus opened the way to heaven by entering into this water. Here Jesus invited us to participate in His victory over sin and death. Here He called us to our own personal holiness and to share our faith as His disciple. Here I renewed my baptismal vows as a child of God. Today we walked away from this site reminded of our freedom from sin and our incorporation into the Church because of the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our desire for a more intimate relationship with God was strengthened, and our desire to turn away from the stirrings of the enemy and hear God’s desire deepened. 

After Mass, we took a moment to put our feet in the waters of the Jordan and then walked over to the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Mable steps leading to the cruciform baptismal pool

The archaeological sites reveal the remains of five churches built on this site as memorials to Jesus’s baptism. The mosaic map of Madaba, the oldest known geographic floor mosaic, indicates this as the site of Jesus’ baptism.  Marble steps discovered and recently preserved closely match what was described over 1400 years ago. These facts verify this as the spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone that our guide allowed us to walk down the marble steps to the cruciform baptismal pool. This honor is generally reserved for dignitaries, Mums the word okay.

This was a goosebump day. A stirring reminder of God’s infinite love for us. A day that will be with me always. 

God is Good all the time. All the time God is Good!

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