May 30, Thursday
Well done good and faithful servant…even with this small bit.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…he didn’t deserve it but God gave it; he didn’t have the chance to do it…so I did it in his place.
When it came time to be baptised in the Jordan, I said yes to the opportunity but then I thought no, after all I had already been baptised, so I said no; until God whispered in my ear “Do it for John” and I was reminded of John in his last days, how he reconciled with God and how I wished I could have been baptised in his place during a church service just a few weeks after he died.
This day, God reminded me of that day and I said yes; baptism, in the holiest place to do it... the Jordan River. This day, I was baptised, a dedication to God symbolising baptism for John.
So, I said yes, and I am sure I saw the heavens open up; I heard the words well done good and faithful servant, with you I am well pleased… and then I swam there, in that amazing river, where Jesus was baptised by John; amazing grace, how sweet the sound…grace from God, love from me.
From this holy place we head out towards the desert, along the highway following the river past groves of mango trees and the rolling hills of the Jordan valley, we are following the route of the Patriarchs, past Samaria to the edges of the Judean desert; passing fields of sunflowers, palm trees and freshly plowed dirt, fertile and red. We pass by the area patrolled by the Israeli army day and night and on further still into the Judean desert, we look up to the mountain where Jesus was tempted for forty days and then further, into desolation, to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea heading on to the Qumran.
Qumran, the ruins of the Essenes, a Jewish sect, that believed their faith had been corrupted, they come to this place and become obsessed with building pools, spiritual washing and the writing of God’s word. It is believed that John the Baptist spent time here with these people, being influenced by their washing and their teaching; to this day seminaries teach the ways of the Essenes. It is here in the Qumran where a Bedouin shepherd boy discovers the Dead Sea scrolls, contained in jars in the depths of a cave, the writings of the Essenes, the oldest scriptures of the Bible ever found…in a cave, in the mountains of the desert, high above the Dead Sea.
Back on the bus we drive on through the mountains of chiseled rock, surely chiseled by the hand of God, His handiwork; bars of hard, hard, desert sand, cut and wedged and dry and hot; so hot that the air is hazy, the heat rising up and filling the air itself. Below you can see the canal, the waterway ribboning its way to the aquamarine blue of the Dead Sea; beautiful, sparkling, and trimmed in white…salt.
Overlooking the Dead Sea is the Hotel where we stay for this night…the night of the hottest day! We trek down to the sea and float there in the mineral water basking in the joy of it, feeling the weight of it and taking in the wonder of it; water so heavy we float away as if in a lounge chair floating on air.
Taking the shuttle back, we make our way to the beautiful pool of our hotel and we find ourselves swimming and chatting about the wonders of our day, sights and ideas shared, discussion and thoughts talked out amongst us, friends coming together by the way of this trip, a shared faith…and in this water; baptised in friendship.
I love that.