Chapter 16 (of my forthcoming book, “Ahava Adventure – The Four Louis Brothers Trip to Israel”) Nov. 15, 2019 Photos by Steve Martin)
Our goal that Shabbat (Sabbath, Saturday) was to head south down the eastern side of the nation, along the Jordan River, to Ein Gedi, Qumran, and the baptismal site where Yeshua (Jesus) most likely was immersed by John the Baptist, prior to His going forth into His public ministry. For 40 days of fasting and prayer, He spent in the desert.
I had already determined that the lost 4 and a half hours due to the flat tire had eliminated the trek to Masada. But, as the major league baseball team Chicago Cubs and their fans like to say, “There is always next year!”
Immersion, or as it is translated in the Greek, baptism, is more than just getting wet as you are dunked underwater. For the Jews, they have been using the mikveh (immersion pool of water) for centuries, for various reasons. Though I was baptized with a little sprinkling on the forehead when an infant in the Roman Catholic Church, that isn’t what the God of the Universe intended when He instituted baptism. He instructed men and women (and children of proper age) to go down under when they were old enough to know what they are doing, in repentance and acknowledgment of His salvation freely given. For then it is a very special encounter with Him and His Holy Spirit. First, baptism is to occur in water and then later with the fantastic and powerful Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is much, much, more than simply getting wet. It is an absolutely life-changing event for those with understanding and desire to follow the Lord in all His ways. You must go down before you can rise back up.
Three of us had already been baptized in the Yarden (Jordan) River on previous journeys here, at the site just below the Sea of Galilee, the traditional site quite popular with tourists over the last decades. But being this was Lathan’s first trip to Israel, he had not as yet been immersed in the Jordan River. That was about to become history though, and a lasting memory for him.
Upon “discovery” of this new baptismal place in the last few years, named the Kasser-Al-Yahud baptismal site, across the highway from Jericho, many are starting to come here, in tour buses, from many foreign countries. Even across the narrow expanse of flowing water, people from the Jordanian side are also coming to the very same spot for the immersion experience.
This place on the river (which at this point looks like a large stream) quite possibly is also the very location where Joshua crossed over the Yarden, leading upwards of up to 3 million Israelites coming up on their freedom march from bondage in Egypt, before conquering the Promised Land.
Interestingly enough, Joshua, the English name, comes from the Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a) meaning “YAHWEH is salvation”, from the roots יְהוֹ (yeho) referring to the Hebrew God and יָשַׁע (yasha’) meaning “to save”. Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites, and he led the conquest of Canaan. His original name was Hoshea.
Joshua led the Israelites “through” the Jordan waters here. As if they were being baptized. Yeshua (the name “Yeshua” (Jesus) means “salvation”) went under the water here. It thus must be a very important place in the eyes of God.
I had the joy of dunking Lathan once we had arrived, after crossing the desert land between the highway and the country of Jordan, still embedded with land mines buried by the Jordanians prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is now seeking to clear those out, but in the meantime, keep your vehicle between the guard fences as you head that way. I believe that would be good advice!
The streaming water can be a bit cool as it has been flowing down from the mountains north of the Kinneret. It is also murky. Even as I stepped in with Lathan, as the “baptizer”, I felt a bit of a nibble on my toes but couldn’t see the nibblers. Lathan himself took a bit of time preparing for the immersion, not because I think he was fully considering the spiritual aspect of what was about to happen, but because he was reacting slightly to the cool water, even in the desert heat!
Thanks to David Lauka for recording this special time for Lathan. You can watch that video as one of my “Walk With Me’ on YouTube.
We then ventured on to Ein Gedi, to hike the short mileage in the national park to David’s waterfalls as they are now known. David used this oasis in the Dead Sea area as he hid from the searching band of King Solomon. I have videos of that too!
Qumran, the site of the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were “accidentally” found by a shepherd boy looking for his lost sheep or goat in the late 1940’s, was the next stopping point before we started heading up to Jerusalem. Being I had been there several times already on previous tours, the other three went on while I ventured into the gift shop, doing some shopping which I enjoy. Gifts for many friends and family back home!
Of course, what more can you do while in the Judean Desert? Ride the big camels! And for a mere 20 shekels or less, about $5-$7, you can too. There are at least three locations on the 30-mile road to Jerusalem, to enjoy a short ride on humpback. Just don’t get spit at, and more advice – lean way back when you have the dismount. I did not do that my first time, and when I fell off, face forward and hitting my head on the blacktop, it later on film looked worse than it actually was. (I have photos of that too!)
When you come on our Ahava Adventure you too can ride the Dromedary Camel. I guarantee you will enjoy it, especially the rising up and the coming down!
Next stop. Jerusalem! Jerusalem! We are finally heading up to the Golden City of God!