The little round vial holds about an ounce of water. There’s a silver cross that sits on top of it. And in big block letters just one word: Jordan.
Those who see it might think its just a souvenir of Michael Jordan’s sweat collected between his many retirements.
But it’s my one souvenir from visiting the Jordan River. And it’s a reminder of that particular pilgrimage site in Israel that I visited a couple years ago.
Like lots of places a pilgrim visits in the Holy Land, the exact location of Jesus’ baptism is debated. Some scholars say it’s here; others say it’s over there. But since this is where the huge souvenir store is, and it’s even handicap accessible, this is the place most tourist groups visit. And now we’re in the flowing waters of the Jordan River.
It’s not surprising that history has forgotten the exact location of Jesus’ baptism. People may not have thought it was all that big a deal of a time. But one person certainly knew something was up: John the Baptist. And what an awkward situation John must have found himself in, having to baptize the Lord. Like he said, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” (Mt. 3:14 ). You can certainly feel sympathy for John’s role in salvation history.
So there I am, trying to ignore the tourists snapping pictures while grabbing gallons of jugged Jordanian water, and I’m standing knee-deep in the waters of the Jordan looking up at the sky. I’m one of those guys who, when at a religious site, tries to picture exactly what the scene might have looked like 2,000 years ago. But all I can picture at the time was that Monty Python cartoon-like image in my mind, with clouds parting left and right and God the Father showing up.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t see anything as I looked up to the sky. But it was pretty cool to be there, nonetheless.
Do as I say, and as I do
Why did Jesus need to be baptized, I wondered to myself. This is the Son of God! What purpose would baptism serve Him, who is without sin? I guess I was dozing off during my Baptism 101 course…
Jesus came down from heaven to earth. He didn’t need to be circumcised, but He was circumcised. He had no need to be presented at the Temple, yet He was presented. When He was baptized, He did it not because He had sin which needed to be forgiven. But instead, he did it to cast his lot in with all of us sinners. As an example for His followers. To lead us in doing the Father’s will.
This way we could never be like “Hey, God, you don’t know what it’s like to be down here!” Nope, Jesus did it all. He knows what it’s like.
And after His baptism, we see the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. It was the revelation of God saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17 ).
Jesus did His Father’s will; God the Father was pleased…
And even if most of us don’t remember our own baptisms as a baby, praying this mystery of the rosary helps us reflect on our own baptismal vows. All without leaving the comforts of our own rosary.