By Jennifer Blessing
Director of Children’s Ministry, St. Andrew’s UMC
When I was just out of college, I had an amazing opportunity to travel to the Holy Land with family friends. One of my favorite memories was standing on the bank of the Jordan River. People were being baptized along the landings that had been built. But my attention was focused on the lush green vegetation along the river banks.
My mental image of the Middle East prior to visiting had been crafted from a childhood of Bible stories. I imagined it was all just sand, vast piles of sand with a few towns here and there. As a child, I always pictured Moses floating down what was a stark wet road among a whole lot of sand - with maybe a couple of reeds thrown in for decoration.
While water is clearly less abundant in deserts, its presence is certainly not diminished. From the Jordan River to the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, across my trip I encountered gallons of water. In each instance, the vibrant growth of grass and trees highlighted the water’s edges. Life carved along the areas where the water reached.
The water was where John the Baptist drew people to him. He used water to not just baptize people, but to point them to Jesus. Standing in the river was the start of the growth and change he knew people would experience. He told them that despite the importance of baptism by him, John knew there was even more to come.
As people who have heard the good news, we understand John the Baptist’s encouragement that there was more than just baptism through water. Today we can be still and know that the power of water and the refreshment it provides is but a drop compared to the power of knowing Jesus. Baptism is the start of a lush, healthy relationship with Jesus. May we see the power in the water, yet recognize the powerful love of the One who created the water.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, your love for us is more powerful than the mightiest forces on this earth. May we always grow in that love - lush as the banks of a river. Help us sustain that growth, even when we feel weary and long for refreshment. Lord, help our hearts to know that you are the source of all and that we can rest in your mighty presence. Amen.
1. How many times have you witnessed a baptism? What types of images do you associatewith baptism today versus baptism during the New Testament time period?
2. Water has such immense power - for both growth as well as destruction as we have seen with this season’s hurricanes. Do you find yourself draw to places of water - the seashore, a lake, etc - or are you more timid around water? Why?
3. John the Baptist knew that he had an important calling - that he was drawing people to Jesus and not to himself. It’s same task we all have as Christians. Yet we often find it a challenge. In what ways can we learn to overcome that challenge based on how John the Baptist preached about Jesus?