Home > Stories About Water > A Few Stories About Water: Playing With Birds in the Jordan

A Few Stories About Water: Playing With Birds in the Jordan

Millennia after Israel crossed the river, another man came walking up to the Jordan. Guess what that man’s name is? Iesous in the Greek. Guess what word is also translated Iesous from Hebrew? Joshua. We call this man Jesus, but he very nearly shares a name with Joshua (it’s not quite as simple as saying Jesus = Joshua, but it’s very similar). So again, sort of, Joshua (Jesus), approaches the Jordan.

Jesus enters the Jordan River and asks John the Baptist to baptize him, and though, as John said, Jesus should be baptizing him, Jesus says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus went into the water, came up out of the water, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove upon him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Some of the same basic things that are happening at the crossing of the Jordan river are also happening at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river. Jesus’ baptism as the Messiah begins His public ministry and marks a transition point, a new stage for God’s covenant people. The Jordan river crossing is essentially YHWH’s fulfillment of His promise of land, Jesus’ baptism marks God’s fulfillment of his promise of a Messiah. The crossing of the Jordan was Israel’s entering into the promised land where the kingdom of God’s covenant people would be established. The baptism of the Messiah was the baptism of the one who would bring God’s kingdom for His covenant people. YHWH tells Joshua that the crossing of the Jordan was going to be an affirmation of God’s presence with Joshua, just as He was present with Moses. God affirms Jesus at the baptism in the Jordan by calling Jesus his son and affirms His presence when the Spirit of God came down from the heavens and rested on Jesus. It’s not the same, but I believe we are intended to see the similarities and to see Jesus as a Joshua-like character who is a major participant in bringing God’s promise to Abraham to fulfillment.

I guess we’ll move chronologically, starting with the story of the flood. The same imagery parallels the parting of the Sea and stopping of the Jordan had with the flood aren’t present in this story, but there is one very peculiar element this narrative shares with the Flood narrative. The dove. In all of Scripture, we only see the dove used in narrative on two occasions: in the Flood story and in Jesus’ baptism.* I’m disinclined to think its coincidental. The dove in the Re-Creation stories is a sign that the world has become new and alive for humanity so YHWH’s image bearers can thrive after God saved them from their own destruction. Jesus is doing something similar.

Thematically, Jesus’ baptism has a lot of similarities to the Flood. The Flood was an act of Re-Creation, Jesus has come to Re-Create humanity in His image. The Flood rid the world of the destroyers and perverters of God’s image. Jesus has come to transform the destroyers of the image of God in humanity into its cultivators. The Flood was designed to undo what went wrong with Creation and fix it. In the same way Jesus purposes to redeem the effects of the Fall and set everything right that is wrong with the world. God’s use of Jesus to purify, save, and redeem humanity is not something completely novel, but something God has been doing since the Flood.

*There are other uses of the word “dove,” but they are not used in a narrative, unless you count the cost of its poop in Kings. Primarily the word “dove” is used for imagery purposes in Psalms, Songs of Solomon, and the poetic prose of prophets.

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  1. November 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I love this series of entries. Thanks for sharing brother.

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