Jordan River & Al-Maghtas
spot where Jesus was Baptised
ordan is a modern country, a holy river, and an ancient culture, a timeless
physical and spiritual panorama of prophets, miracles, and human faith.
The very name of the country JORDAN retains the unique baptizmal aura of
river and a blessed land. God's command of righteousness and his promise
of eternal love and peace through faith are deeply etched into the earth
and memories of Jordan. Visitors and citizens daily walk through the plains,
valleys, hills, mountains and streams whose names were forever fixed into
human consciousness by the simple deeds and the profound messages of prophets:
Abraham, Moses, Lot, Aaron, Elijah, Joshua, Jesus, John the Baptist, and
others who walked this land and crossed its river during their missions
on earth. Many of the sites where they performed miracles or reached out
to ordinary people are identified, excavated, protected and easily accessible
to visitors. For a religious pilgrimage or touristic visit to the Holy
Land of Jordan, the Bible is more than a document of faith, it is also
a gazetteer and a virtual road map of ancient places, people and events
associated with this serene and spiritual land.
Meandering through the Jordan Rift Valley is the River Jordan, a sacred
stream of numerous symbols and historical events. The Prophets Joshua,
Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ all crossed it during
their lifetimes. The area alongside the river associated with their deeds,
just 45 minutes by car from Amman is easily accessible to visitors once
again, thanks to new facilities and the impact of the Jordan Israel peace
accord of 1994.
The large loop in the Jordan River opposite Jericho has long been identified
as the spot where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist. It is
called Al-Maghtas in Arabic. The importance of Al- Maghtas returns to the
worlds preparations for celebrating the third millennium of the birth of
our Lord Jesus Christ. In the meantime the Jordanian archeological department
is occupied with the completion of exploring this historical and religious
site. Furthermore, Al-Maghtas is clearly located on the mosaic map found
in Madaba church near Mount Nebo, which was discovered in the middle of
the sixth century.
Less than two kilometers east of the river is another important place associated
with the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist - the settlement of Bethany,
where John lived and baptized. John 1:28 refers to it as "Bethany beyond
the Jordan, where John was baptizing." In John 10:40 it is mentioned as
the place to which Jesus fled for safety after being threatened with stoning
in Jerusalem: "Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where
John had been baptizing in the early days."
This settlement beyond the Bethany has
recently been identified on the south bank of the small perennials stream
named Wadi Kharrar, just east of the Jordan River and opposite Jericho.
It is being excavated, protected, and made accessible to visitors. The
small natural hill forming the core of Bethany is called Elijah's Hill,
or Tell Mar Elias in Arabic. Local tradition for thousands of years has
identified it as the place from where Elijah ascended to heaven. Bethany's
ancient remains include structures
from the first Century AD settlement of John the Baptist, including large
plastered pools with steps for full immersion. The 5th - 6th Century AD
remains at Bethany are those of the Byzantine period settlement, also called
Ainon or Saphsaphas and depicted on the 6th Century Madaba mosaic map of
the holy land.
When Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness after his baptizm (Mark 1:12),
he may well have been in the stark, desolate marl area immediately east
of Jordan River and north of Bethany. He spread his message throughout
Transjordan on several different occasions, including during his last journey
from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matthew 19).