The River in the Bible - First in a series
Baptism in a river began the days of Christ's ministry. John who baptized him did not understand his role in this revelatory event. (Mat 3:13-15) But he understood his mission.
“Make his paths straight!” cried John. (Mark 1:3) The hearts and minds of the hearers were the paths. Many of them cleared a way for him to enter, by repentance through baptism in the Jordan River.
As a rite of God, baptism was given to John — the son of a priest — to perform in the Jordan, outside, not in the Jewish place of worship. The explanation for that is given: Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. (Luke 3:2)
In other words, Annas and Caiaphas were not about to let God rule in the Temple. This was the same son and father-in-law team that passed Jesus off to Pilate, with Caiaphas noting it was expedient for one man to die for the people. (John 18:14)
John was not interested in expedient ventures. He said to the religious men who came to him to be baptized, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mat 3:7) Yet for a time he stayed alive on locusts and honey.
Despite his strange way of life, the weight of his authority and witness overwhelmed his enemies even after he was beheaded. When Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees, “By what authority doest thou these things?” he countered, “I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.” But they would not, being afraid of the people ...for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. (Mark 11:28-32)
Christians argue about baptism and the Bible speaks of different types of baptism; but we can all say from what we know, the Lord was baptized in a river, and it was not a baptism of repentance. (Acts 19:4) Something is here to ponder.
Deep in the heart of Judaism there was a simile of God as a river, and as other natural wonders to which he promoted comparison, that we might perceive his glory.
An exploration of many of the mentions of river in Scripture will help us to meditate on the immeasurable life-giving force of Jesus Christ. Here begins a series of posts on the river in the Bible.