A Few Stories About Water, Birdies in the Jordan
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Millennia after Israel crossed the river, another man came walking up to the Jordan. Guess what that manís 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 (itís not quite as simple as saying Jesus = Joshua, but itís 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, ďLet it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.Ē 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, ďThis is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.Ē
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. Jesusí baptism as the Messiah begins His public ministry and marks a transition point, a new stage for Godís covenant people. The Jordan river crossing is essentially YHWHís fulfillment of His promise of land, Jesusí baptism marks Godís fulfillment of his promise of a Messiah. The crossing of the Jordan was Israelís entering into the promised land where the kingdom of Godís covenant people would be established. The baptism of the Messiah was the baptism of the one who would bring Godís kingdom for His covenant people. YHWH tells Joshua that the crossing of the Jordan was going to be an affirmation of Godís 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. Itís 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 Godís promise to Abraham to fulfillment.
The same imagery parallels the parting of the Sea and stopping of the Jordan had with the flood arenít 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 Jesusí baptism.* Iím 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 YHWHís image bearers can thrive after God saved them from their own destruction. Jesus is doing something similar.
Thematically, Jesusí 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 Godís 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. Godís 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 ďdove,Ē but they are not used in a narrative, unless you count the cost of its poop in Kings. Primarily the word ďdoveĒ is used for imagery purposes in Psalms, Songs of Solomon, and the poetic prose of prophets.
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