Our departure from Nazareth this morning included another glorious morning with the sun rising over the Jezreel Valley in a light mist. The theme of our drive to the south was Samaria and “the land of milk and honey.” We traveled through the valley, passed the Harod spring of Gideon fame, and turned south through Samaria to the Jordan River Valley. The landscape changes rapidly going toward the Judean wilderness.
We arrived at the baptismal site associated with Jesus’ baptism, Bethany-on-the-Jordan, and we were able to take time to talk and think about baptism, and to celebrate God’s amazing grace right there at (and in) the Jordan’s waters. We also got to see an Orthodox baptism taking place nearby, performed by a bishop with much pageantry–incense and all.
Our next stop was Jericho, including both the modern city where a certain old sycamore tree is located, and the Old Testament city associated with Joshua’s arrival in Canaan. The Mount of Temptation where Jesus is thought to have gone right after his baptism to be tempted is visible from the site also. From Jericho it was a short drive to the Dead Sea for floating in the strange mineral-rich waters, packing on the valuable mud, and generally laughing ourselves silly at this ancient “fountain of youth.”
The Lord blesses us every step of the way. There is so much to see, learn, and understand, and we’re looking forward to visiting Qumran, Masada, and Bethany tomorrow!