Scripture explains why Jesus was baptized: To fulfill all righteousness, to set an example for us, and so forth. But we might rightly wonder, why was Jesus baptized in the Jordan river?
Why was Jesus baptized in the Jordan river?
Wouldn’t the water of the Sea of Galilee be just as functional? Or why not a small pond? Or the Mediterranean Sea? Or the Dead Sea? Or any one of the ritual bathing pools so well-known to ancient Jews called a mikveh? Or if He was willing to travel a bit farther, why not be immersed in the mighty and famous Euphrates or Tigris rivers that dominate the lands we now call Mesopotamia?
Why not the Jordan?
It’s waters were not particularly pure. The river is not particularly large. I say this as a Minnesota-raised kid. One river not far from my boyhood home is more than a mile wide at points. Oh, and I’m not talking about the Mississippi. I’m talking about the St. Croix river that flows into the Mississippi.
The Jordan, on the other hand, is only about 15-30 feet wide. For comparison, the Jordan river in the Holy Land is about the size and water quality of the Jordan river in Utah.
The Jordan doesn’t seem particularly special. Functional, yes. But outwardly attention-grabbing, no.
So, for all the options Jesus had for where to be baptized, why the Jordan?
The simple answer is this: The Jordan river provides powerful symbols to teach truth, better than any other river Jesus could have found.
What does the word Jordan mean in Hebrew?
“Jordan” is a Hebrew word that means “to go down.” A related word/name is Jared.
Sure, all rivers “go down”, that is, they flow from a higher elevation to a lower elevation. So the name “Jordan” doesn’t seem like a particularly creative name for a river. Couldn’t all rivers be called “Jordan” since they flow down? Yes, if we were to simply to describe them based on their functional flow.
But there are important reasons why this river was called “Jordan” and why Jesus chose to be baptized there.
What does the Jordan symbolize?
Keeping in mind the meaning of the word “Jordan”, we can see so much beauty, significance, and symbolism all pointing to why Jesus chose to be baptized at the Jordan.
- Jesus showed humility by going down (Jordan) to John the Baptist.
- Jesus showed humility by going down (Jordan) into the waters of baptism and coming forth again.
- Jesus showed humility by going down (Jordan) to the lowest spot on earth to be baptized (where the Jordan river flows into the Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth).
- The Holy Ghost came down (Jordan) in the form of a dove on Jesus.
- Jesus showed humility by condescending (Jordan) from on high. In other words, Jesus left His heavenly abode and came down (Jordan) to earth to dwell among other mortals.
- If we seek to be like Jesus, we too must be humble by going down (Jordan) into the waters of baptism and rising again.
- Jesus went down (Jordan) into the tomb and rose again the third day.
- Because of Jesus’s death and resurrection all of us will go down (Jordan) into the grave and then rise again.
The truths and symbols of scriptures and the gospel are so beautiful.
As we ponder these precious words preserved for us, may we, like Jesus, go down (Jordan) into the depths of humility to experience whatever lessons the Lord has in store for us for our salvation.
Learning at the Feet of the Savior
I hope you found these insights valuable and empowering. If so, you may find more such insights in one of my recent books.
Together with my co-author David Ridges, we wrote Learning at the Feet of the Savior: Additional Insights from New Testament Background, Culture, and Setting to encourage people to ask questions and to use the scriptures and the example of Jesus to learn how to learn and to better understand how the scriptures apply to their lives.
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