On the morning of our last full day in Israel, we hiked down to the Jordan River. The area we were in was above the Sea of Galilee and the river flows very swiftly there, even though it is only about ten yards wide. It looks a lot more like a mountain river here than the placid waters you see in so many pictures of the Jordan. It took some real effort just to get to the water’s edge. We went through lots of trees and over boulders on our way to the river. When we got to the river we sat on some boulders at the water’s edge and heard the Biblical stories that were centered around the Jordan River. We were told the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan at flood stage, by Jericho. Also, we heard the stories of John the Baptizer and that most of his ministry was done along the Jordan. The waters of the Jordan River always symbolized chaos to the Hebrews, because it was a barrier to be crossed and they were desert people and couldn’t swim.
The last story we looked at was Jesus’ baptism by John which occurs in all four gospels (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:31-34). In all the accounts, when Jesus is baptized, the spirit of God descends on him and hovers over him like a dove. This is the same image and words used in Genesis 1, when the Earth was without form and void and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. In both the Genesis and New Testament stories the world is in chaos until the Spirit of God enters from heaven and gives meaning to the chaos. As Jesus steps out of the water, God is commissioning him to enter the chaos and to make order out of disorder, just like God himself did at the creation.
What is the faith lesson here? If we are honest with ourselves, all our lives contain chaos. We try to make it look like we are handling things well and we are usually unwilling to share our chaos with anyone. We are also usually not willing to enter the chaos of others, because it can be messy, depressing, and time consuming. The key to the Kingdom of Heaven coming on earth for us is to be willing to share our chaos and also be willing to enter the chaos of others.
As we sat there on the river an amazing event took place. One person spoke up and shared with us some of the chaos going on in their life and asked to be baptized for repentance. An immediate response went out through our group and everyone began to share their own battles with the things that were troubling them in life. The whole group was baptized in the river and we ended up staying there most of the morning, sharing and comforting each other. It was a very emotional experience and one of the great community moments of the trip. Our group really bonded together that morning as we entered each other’s chaos. The Kingdom of Heaven came down to earth in our presence there on the banks of the Jordan River in the form of caring people that were genuinely concerned for their fellow man. The lesson we learned was that we have to be willing not only to open up to others but also be willing to step into the problems of the people around us. If we are to be like Jesus, we will have to have a heart for others just like He did. It is a daunting but tremendously rewarding task. Can we be so bold and caring that we are willing to enter into the chaos of life and help restore the order that only Jesus can bring?