Today we set out from Ein Gev toward the Dead Sea. We made stops at Qasar El Yahud (the site where Jesus was baptized), went to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, stopped in at the Ahava factory outlet and spent the afternoon enjoying the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea.
I have been continually impressed during this tour by the theological depth of the comments made by our excellent guide, Avie Gad. He has often shown me things I hadn’t understood before about some of the sites we have been visiting. He has often made connections between the Old and New Testaments that I hadn’t made before. Today was no different.
When we arrived at Qasar El Yahud – the site of Jesus’ baptism, Avie asked that we open our Bibles to the book of Joshua, we read:
“And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.
Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”
Joshua 3:7, 15-17 NIV
So when Joshua crossed the Jordan, the waters parted and the people walked across on dry ground.
Then he had us turn to Elijah’s story and we read:
“The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on. Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.”
2 Kings 2:5-8 NIV
So Elijah stuck the water with his cloak, and the people passed over on dry ground (later after Elijah went up to heaven in a chariot of fire, his apprentice Elisha struck the water with his cloak and again the water parted and he was able to cross on dry ground).
Then Avie had us turn to the Gospel According to Luke. And we read:
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.””
Luke 3:21-22 NIV
So for Jesus – it wasn’t the waters that parted, but the heavens. (Avie Gad taught me that.)
While the prophets are powerful and able to perform miracles, Jesus is different. And he is identified as different in the same place that Joshua, Elijah and Elisha parted the waters. The Heavens part for Jesus in this place of miracles and the voice of God declares that Jesus is His son.
What a beautiful thing to learn in such an amazing place.
This Lent, may God lead you to new learnings. And may the things you discover deepen your faith and strengthen your walk with God.