Day 5 - Jesus' Baptism & Temptation

Our journey in the Footsteps of Jesus continued today as we visited the places where two crucial events took place which launched Jesus from obscurity to the center of the public stage: his baptism by John in the Jordan River and his time of testing in the nearby desert wilderness. We visited the traditional site of Jesus' baptism just outside of Jericho and reflected on the powerful statement of Covenant identity the Father gave as he poured out his Spirit on Jesus. We had an opportunity to get into the river and reflect on the meaning of our own baptisms in this special place. Then we headed west into the forbidding Judean desert and hiked to the ancient Monastery of St George, which clings to the cliffs of the Wadi Qelt in the region where Jesus spent his forty days of fasting. After a vigorous hike and a visit with the hospitable monks of St. George's, we moved to a breath-taking desert overlook for lunch and a time of worship. As we gazed out over the desert where Jesus wrestled with the devil himself and came out victorious, we considered what it means to engage in our own spiritual battles by exercising the authority given to us as sons and daughters of the King. As if all this weren't enough, we topped off the day with a visit off-the beaten path to the ruins of Herod's winter palace outside of Jericho. 

It was a joy to celebrate with Margie, our new friend from Australia, as she renewed her baptismal Covenant in the very place where Jesus was baptized!

Our hike down into the dramatic Wadi Qelt led us to the fascinating Monastery of St. George and the countless hermit cells built into caves in the surrounding cliffs.

For over 1500 years the monks of St. George's have retreated to this place of solitude and significance to seek God and engage in the same kind of spiritual warfare which Jesus carried out in this very valley.

When the Gospels refer to John and Jesus going "into the wilderness," it is not a pine covered mountain as I so often pictured, but rather this desolate and harsh desert wasteland where only the hardiest souls can survive!

We enjoyed lunch while taking in the desert panorama, got to hang out with an elderly Bedouin, and then had a time of worship in which we reflected on the authority Jesus exercised in his time of testing in this desert.

To finish off our day we drove to the outlet of Wadi Qelt, near the ancient city of Jericho, to explore the abandoned ruins of Herod's opulent Winter Palace which is now hidden in the midst of humble farmers' fields.