By understanding the geography of where biblical events took place we often discover that extra levels of meaning are revealed in the biblical text.
Have you ever considered why Jesus was baptised at Bethany Beyond the Jordan? What is the significance of this location?
Many will know that at this location, just north of the Dead Sea, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land over a thousand years before Christ and will see the connection between Joshua and Jesus, and between the Israelites and the followers of Christ. We see the pattern linking Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land with Jesus leading His followers into the Kingdom.
Yet, there is something geographically significant about this location which didn’t become evident to us until a few years ago when we were blessed to be able to visit this spot.
Having flown into Amman, Jordan, we were picked up by our taxi driver who took us down to the Jordan River. We descended several thousand feet as our driver navigated a series of narrow switchbacks as the road dropped from the Madaba Plateau into the Great Rift Valley and to the banks of the Jordan River, where we eventually arrived at the ancient crossing site, just to the north of the Dead Sea.
It was on arriving at this location that its significance became clear to us. Not only is this site significant because it is where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land, but the Dead Sea and the region surrounding it is the lowest point on the surface of the earth.
We were standing some 1400 feet below sea level. We were at the lowest point on the surface of the earth… you could go no deeper.
But why is this significant? Why is it significant that Jesus was baptised at the lowest point on the surface of the earth?
The Significance of Mountains
To understand the significance of the location of Jesus’ baptism we need to know something about what mountains meant to people in the ancient world.
In the ancient world mountains were considered to be places where heaven and earth met. It is where one could be “closer to God” who dwells in the heavens.
We see examples of God meeting His people in places like Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, the transfiguration of Jesus occurring on a mountain, and Jesus’ ascension occurring from the Mount of Olives.
Mountains were therefore seen as places where heaven and earth were close together.
He Comes Down to Meet Us
With this understanding it naturally follows that the lowest point on earth represents the point where heaven and earth are as far apart as possible. Whilst at the top of the mountain God and the people are close, at the lowest point of the earth they are far removed.
The baptism of Jesus at the location of Bethany Beyond the Jordan was a highly visible declaration, showing that no matter how far man has fallen from the presence of the Almighty God, no matter how grievous the sin, He will come down to us and meet us there.
He will meet us at the lowest point of our lives, and through His eternal sacrifice provide a path to restoration and life.