Along the muddied banks of the Jordan, thin reeds the color of sage reached toward the sky, bending gently in the breeze. A silver mist clung to the water’s surface, and as the sun pierced the clouds, the haze glistened in the morning light. I would have preferred solitude, being alone with my thoughts and reflections. But there were other travelers standing along the water’s edge this morning. They had come, like me, to pay homage to this sacred place, and all that had transpired here.
There was a surreal sense of calm and tranquility in the air. And human voices had faded to muffled whispers, as if to acknowledge the respect and silence that the river demanded. The only other sounds were those created by God Himself. The fluttering murmurs of the birds in the trees, and the gurgling melody of the water as it made its journey to the sea.
I leaned against the cold steel of the railing, a modern-day boundary built along the river’s edge. The bright blue paint that covered it symbolized a contrast of the new vs. the old. A reflection of our world today vs. our beginning. I watched the flow run steadily past me, carrying leaves from the palms that dotted the banks. And there were deep furrows etched along the surface, like scars on an ancient warrior.
It was narrower than I had imagined, hardly 20 yards at its widest point. And the eddying stream was the color of burnt jade, dark and murky. The ripples spun and turned along their path, and as I reflected on all that the Jordan had witnessed over the centuries, I was suddenly struck by my own frailty and insignificance.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it must have been like. As the warmth of the sunlight touched my cheeks, I began to see it unfold before me:
There to the south, in the shallowest part of the river, stood a man. He had appeared one day ‘walking out of the desert wearing clothing of camel hair and a leather belt.’ His name was John. He was gaunt, with hair the color of wood smoke, and a beard tangled and twisted as a fisherman’s net. His face was dark as tarnished bronze and chiseled with wrinkled lines of age. And even from a distance I could see his deep-set eyes gleaming in the sunlight.
On the shore behind him, a small fire burned steadily, sending wisps of blue smoke curling into the air. Huddled near the flames, seeking shelter from the morning chill, sat two of his followers. These men had left the lives they had known, committing themselves to his teachings, and to the God he had been sent to prepare the way for.
I peered through the slate colored mist and could see a second figure suddenly emerge from the opposite bank. He was tall, clad in a simple alabaster robe that hung to his sandaled feet. Hair, the color of cinnamon, fell to his shoulders and I could see his mahogany eyes shining brightly in the sunlight like a candle flickering in a gentle breeze. I knew instantly who He was, and I felt my heart race. I watched Him as He stepped into the river and made His way across to the other side where John stood. Waiting.
When they came together, He gently caressed the man’s face, like a father’s loving touch of his only son. Then they waded toward the middle until dark streams of water swirled around their waists. And I watched as he baptized HIM, just as he had done to so many others before Him.
As our Savior’s head emerged through the surface, a dazzling beam of light suddenly cascaded through the clouds ‘like a dove’ sailing toward the earth. And a thunderous voice came down from the heavens shaking the ground around me. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Wind gusted across the surface of the Jordan, churning a pale blue mist into the air, before disappearing, as if it were sucked into the clouds. And as quickly as it had departed, calm once again settled over the ancient river.
Slowly the images in my mind began to fade. My eyes fluttered open and I squinted into the morning sunlight that filtered through the trees. There was a sweet smell in the air, like that of honeysuckle, and I took a deep calming breath, awestruck by the moment. I knew I would never be able to fathom what it would have been like that day. Had I been standing there in the shallows when the Holy Spirit spilled down from heaven, the beauty would have been like none ever seen by human eyes.
Below me, the dark water flowed tirelessly. Always moving. Relentless in its journey. This river had seen many extraordinary miracles over the centuries. Sins had been washed away. New lives had been formed. Like so many of us in our modern world, there would have been people who had lost their way. People who had stepped into the water, broken and full of despair, only to emerge with joy and peace in their hearts. Free of the bondage of sin.
I knew this moment along the Jordan would remain with me for as long as I lived. It would always be a reminder of the power and glory of God. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude that He had blessed me with the opportunity to be a witness to one of His greatest creations.
“Be still and know that I am God” —Psalms 46:10
Bob Blundell is a freelance writer living in the Houston area. He has had previous work published in magazines such as Liguorian, Testimony, The Living Pulpit, Reachout Columbia, and Halo.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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