From the site of the cave of John the Baptist (so it is believed to be), you can look across the Jordan River to Jericho. From biblical detective work to archeological evidence, those caring for the Baptism Site at Bethany beyond the Jordan believe that they have identified the bend in the river where Jesus came to John to be baptized.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area is surprisingly dry at this time of year. The river has receded from its 2,000-year-old banks, but a spring still runs through to where pilings from an ancient pilgrim church, adorned with crosses carved into the stone by those baptized there, remain.
The current course of the Jordan River runs nearby. It is already adorned with the churches of various denominations who can claim a faithful presence in the land. The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has its own plans for a chapel and a monastery at the site.
Although the tour on which the Jordan Tourism Board and Jordanian Royal Airlines is hosting us has a few days to run – and many more wonders to see – the climax of this religious pilgrimage must be the Renewal of Baptismal Vows and sharing Holy Communion in and next to the River Jordan, at the site of the Baptism of Our Lord, at the Bethany beyond the Jordan.
As our guide, Rustom Mkhjian, Assistant Director of the Baptism Site Commission told us, this is the lowest place on earth, some 400 meters below sea level; yet it is the place where we reach into the highest heavens.
This week, a group of Christian writers and bloggers are traveling in Jordan, courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board and Royal Jordanian Airlines. A group of seven Episcopalians in included in the cohort. Today, we renewed our baptismal covenant at the Bethany Beyond the Jordan site of the Baptism of Jesus.