Today we focused on the two defining events which mark the beginning of Jesus' public ministry: his baptism in the Jordan River and his forty days of testing in the nearby Judean desert wilderness. We started off the day with a visit to Qasr El-Yahud, the traditional site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan river across from Bethany beyond the Jordan. This site has been closed to us for decades since Israel and Jordan have technically been "at war," but in light of the 1994 peace treaty, the Israeli government finally opened up the site and it is beautiful.
We are excited that Mike Breen has joined us for the rest of our journey to teach the Covenant and Kingdom aspects of what we are experiencing. Standing on the edge of the Jordan, Mike shared insights about the baptism of Jesus, pointing out that the Father's words over Jesus are the basis of our own identity as the children of God. With that powerful Gospel declaration ringing in our ears we went down to the waters of the Jordan and a number of our group renewed their Baptismal covenant where Jesus was baptized. Our son Luke and his girlfriend Taylor renewed their baptisms, which was especially moving for me and Pam!
After joyful laughter, some tears, and lots of toweling off, we left this peaceful spot and headed into the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world, Jericho. We went off the road to find the nearly hidden ruins of Herod the Great's winter palace, which straddled the outflow of Wadi Kelt, one of the countless desert canyons that open up onto the Jordan Valley. Then we headed up into the desert wilderness where Jesus spent the six weeks following his baptism fasting and preparing for the spiritual battle ahead of him.
Hiking down into Wadi Kelt brought us to the ancient monastery of St. George, inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks and renowned for its hospitality. Some of us went off the beaten path and hiked through the rugged dry creek bed of the Wadi in search of the spring that feeds the two Herodian aqueducts build to bring water to his Jericho Palace.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a stone ampitheater overlooking the Judean desert pondering Jesus' time of temptation in this incredibly desolate place. We finished off the day with worship and more great teaching from Mike on facing the temptations of appetite, ambition, and approval. Tomorrow we leave the holy city of Jerusalem and head north to the beautiful shores of the Sea (lake) of Galilee. More from there later ...