During my trip to Jordan, I visited Al-Maghtas, a site many believe marks the location of the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth. This UNESCO World Heritage site that straddles the border of Jordan and Israel is worth a visit, regardless of your religious faith.
My Visit To Al-Maghtas, The Jesus Baptism Site In Jordan
As I explained when visiting the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, I’m much less concerned about the actual place of a historical event versus whether the historical event took place. That’s an issue that goes beyond this post, but while I may be overly sentimental when it comes to Christmas music, I’m not nearly as sentimental about “walking on the literal path Jesus walked.”
Nevertheless, this baptism site on the east bank of the Jordan River has been preserved as a holy place since the Byzantine period. Based upon this historical preservation and even the words of scripture in the Gospel according to John (1:28 and 10:40) this is about as good a guess as any as to where the baptism of Jesus took place.
You park quite a ways away and then walk on foot to the baptism site, walking past several Orthodox churches and placards marking papal visits.
Eventually, you’ll reach the site, which is several yards beyond the Jordan River. An ancient pool marks the spot. It was a cold rainy day during my visit.
If you proceed further, you will come to the Jordan River itself, where Christian pilgrims routinely are baptized.
You’ll notice, if you stay for more than a few minutes, that large tour groups come and go, so it will be very crowded for a few minutes:
then empty out:
There was a large German tour group present during our visit of mostly older folks. When it was discovered that I spoke German, several asked me to take pictures for them. Some even had film cameras!
The Jordan River marks the border between Israel and Jordan and you can literally wade across a few feet into Israel (though that is not recommended and armed soldiers will likely stop you). Baptisms occur on the other side of the river too.
In retrospect, perhaps that was the profound point of this visit. A small sliver of water on the point at which the Prince of Peace, who came to unite the nations, was baptized, marks a dividing line between two worlds, two visions, and two ways of life.
The Jesus Baptism Site, also known as Al-Maghtas, is worth a visit. Whether it marks the true site of Jesus’ baptism cannot be definitively ascertained, but if not there it was probably close by. As a border between Israel and Jordan, it also marks a divide between two nations with so much in common and yet worlds apart.