One unbelievable opportunity presented to everyone on the tour was to be baptized in the Jordan River. Yardenit, just south of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan exits to head south to the Dead Sea, is a place dedicated to the business (and it really is a business) of getting Holy Land tourists baptized. This is not where Jesus was baptized (there was originally some confusion about this). That’s located many miles down river above the Dead Sea near Jericho. But that’s not really the important part.
A number of our group had not yet been baptized as adults, so for them this was a pivotal moment of professing their faith in Christ publicly. Most people had been baptized, and just wanted to recommit themselves to Jesus and to have the experience of being baptized in the Jordan.
When they presented the opportunity on the boat on the Sea of Galilee the night before, it seemed that there were more people desiring to be baptized than there would be time to baptize. Plus, the logistics of the whole thing were a bit complicated. So, my roommate Jace and I decided to opt out so that those who really wanted to do it could get it done. Truthfully, I didn’t have a desire to smell like fish anyway.
John and Mary asked me to take pictures of them, and handed me their Digital SLR (very nice!). I had fun being their cameraman, as well as taking several pictures of James, Lindsay and Abby, because Kathy MacDonald (James’ wife) asked me to. It was also very powerful to just participate in the worship and watch so many be baptized too. And as much as I’m not a “God is in this place more than that place” person, there was something powerful about all this taking place in the Jordan River. These truly are special places.
One of the things that frustrated me about the place is that there were shops and snack bars galore, all fairly pricy and all selling ridiculous things like bottles of “holy water” scooped out of the Jordan in little plastic vials. Plus, there were (the equivalent of) street vendors approaching me about buying things, and people haggling in the gift shop on prices. I just had that “overturn the tables of the money changes” feeling again. I did laugh when some attendant handed me a discount coupon on the way in. My crack (since they also charge to be baptized) was to ask if this mean that I could get a discount on the cost of baptizm. Ugh!
So overall very interesting. I was a sideline participant, but I still greatly valued the experience. And I was happy to praise God with those who proclaimed publicly a faith and trust in Jesus.