My trip to Israel last month was incredible and really difficult to put fully into words. But I’ll give it a shot anyway. Below is a short video describing the locale (one of many shorts simply recorded on my iPhone for my kids to check out). I say this in the video, but it bears putting in print: The Jordan River was quite ordinary. It looked much like rivers I’ve seen and in some cases canoed in Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. Nothing particularly stands out to make it special except our awareness that Jesus came to his cousin John’s revival at the river to be baptized, which launched his ministry career.
Now for context’s sake, our location on the river is far north of a likely spot for John’s ministry to be taking place. This is because the area we were in is surrounded by trees and other natural greenery. John was baptized persons in the desert wilderness, which would be further to the south, nearer to the Dead Sea. The desert is just outside of Jerusalem (you can see the Dead Sea on a clear day).
The plainness of the Jordan River reminds me of the Christian spiritual journey itself. The journey is ordinary. As Eugene Peterson says, “Anyone can do it.” The significance that marks each spot is due to what God in his grace has done there rather than the attractiveness of the setting. Like so much in our lives, the power comes from God’s entering that setting, usually quite unexpected, and blessing it with his presence.