For today’s message, I’d like to take you to one of the world’s most famous rivers, the Jordan River in Israel. The waters of this river flow about 200 miles from the north of Israel to the south, passing through the Sea of Galilee in the north, then continuing its final destination at the Dead Sea in the south. To find out some of the things that took place on this historic river, take a look at the short video below that I shot on the banks of the river itself, then read on to hear about how very much God loves you—and how you can express your love back to Him.
(I’ve also included in the video an actual baptism at the Jordan River, this one of my son Josiah. You’ll note as you watch that there are some overly friendly fish in the river who love nibbling at people’s toes! The fish are harmless, but they do make the baptism all the more… uhmm… exciting!)
So what happened at the Jordan River? This is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. This is also where John the Baptist baptized thousands of people, as did Jesus’ disciples.
The Jordan River has also been the site of many other events over several thousand years of history, such as:
- when Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry ground as they entered into the Promised Land (Joshua 3:14-17),
- when Naaman was healed of leprosy in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:8-14),
- when Elisha made an ax head float on top of the water (2 Kings 6:1-7),
- and when Elijah was taken up into heaven after crossing the Jordan with Elijah (2 Kings 2:6-12).
But of all the events that took place in the Jordan, perhaps the most famous is the baptism of Jesus. And what makes that event so special to me is not just what Jesus did there, but what God the Father said to Jesus when Jesus was baptized there. Here’s the story, as recorded in Matthew chapter 3:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).
I love the fact that God, the Father, told Jesus, His Son, how very much He loved Him—even before Jesus did one miracle, before He healed anyone of any disease, before He preached any sermon, walked on the water, or raised anyone from the dead.
God, the Father, loved Jesus, not because of all that Jesus had done for Him, but because Jesus was His Son.
And the truth is, God loves you for the same reason, not because of all you’ve done for Him, but simply because you’re His son or daughter, made in His image, and created for a loving relationship with Him from the moment He conceived you (which, by the way, could have been long before the time that your parents conceived you…see Jeremiah 1:5, for example). God loves you. He adores you. He created you. And He has so much in store for you and your life.
The good news is you don’t have to go to the Jordan River to let God love on you. He’s glad to soak you in His love wherever you may be. How can you feel God’s love more in your life? One way is to just take a few minutes to sit and meditate on the truth that He does indeed love you. Read the passage of Jesus’ baptism again from Matthew chapter 3 and remember that He loves you just as He loved Jesus, even before Jesus began His ministry.
Remember that you’re His child, His little one, His beloved. Remember that He sent Jesus to die for the sins in your life, the messes that you’ve made, so that you won’t have to pay the price for those sins yourself. Remember that His love extends for generations to those who love Him. And remember that you really are special, a wonderful creation of the most loving Father in the world.
And while you’re considering this passage on Jesus’ baptism, can I also encourage you that if you’ve never been baptized to consider being baptized soon? There’s something special that comes from being obedient to the Lord’s command in this area. Jesus’ words about baptism were so important that He included them in His final instructions to His disciples before going into heaven. Jesus said:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
I’ve studied the topic of baptism for many years, yet I can honestly say that I still don’t understand it fully. But what I do understand is that something powerful takes place when a person is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen baptism can touch people in so many ways, from realizing that they truly are saved and going to heaven, to feeling like their sins are dripping off of them as they come out of the water, to receiving new giftings from God to help them make the most of their new lives in Christ.
As a follower of Christ, baptism is one of those steps that demonstrate you are willing to follow in His footsteps, being baptized as He was baptized and then living the rest of your life as He lived His.
Father, thank You for loving us even before we ever did anything for You, and regardless of anything that we’ve done against You. We pray that You would pour out Your love on us again today in a way that we can hear it, see it, feel it, or otherwise sense it. Lord, we also pray that You would show us ways that we can express our love back to You, whether it is by being baptized ourselves, or in some other way, for our desire is to pour out our love on You as well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.