The River Jordan
Luke 3:3
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

The river Jordan rises in the Anti-Lebanon, to the north of Jerusalem. Imagine that you are looking, as your glance may be directed towards me, to Jerusalem; yonder on your right is Hermon. The river Jordan rises in the Anti-Lebanon range, 1,700 feet above the sea level. There are many streams that contribute to it in its first flow, it is disputed which of them is the real source. The streams gather; they enter the waters of Merom, the first little lake. From that they pass, and, after a course of a few miles, they enter a larger lake, and one more familiar to us all, and endeared to us all, the Lake of Gennesaret, the Sea of Galilee. They pass through this lake, which is itself between six and seven hundred feet below the sea level. It is said that their current may be traced through the lake. They pass from the Lake of Galilee and go down, and ever clown, until they enter into what we now call the Dead Sea, the Lake Asphaltites. Now, reading the Scripture, we cannot discover the wonder of this lake, and this itself is noticeable. The Scripture instructs us respecting the Jordan and the events that occurred on its sides, but modern travel tells us that in all the wonders of the world there is none, of its kind, comparable to the great chasm of the Jordan. It is the lowest of rivers. We go to the margin of the sea, and there we count ourselves indeed low. We descend from the mountains to the sea. Near the sea, as, e.g., in Cornwall, there are sometimes mines; you descend those mines, and of course you are below the sea level. The Jordan is a river that flows down and down, till, when it enters the Dead Sea, it is 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, below our ordinary holiday seaside level, and if you try the depth of the water itself, you find there is another 1,300 feet before you reach the bottom. The waters of the Dead Sea are briny, sour, smarting; they hang about your skin like oil; they enter into any chaps of the skin and torment you. They are so heavy that if you go in and bathe you can, as it were, sit on the waters. Heavy, salt, sour, sharp, are these terrific waters — waters of death, flowing towards Jerusalem from the north, but lying far below Jerusalem, as they pass it on the east, for the mountain city is 2,600 feet above the level of the sea — the Mediterranean; and the river Jordan as it enters its lake of death is 1,300 feet below the level of that sea, or 4,000 feet below the level of Jerusalem; and again the bottom of that lake — the sunken sea — is 1,300 feet below its surface. There is no parallel to this in the globe — none. You do not get a hint of it in the Bible. Does it mean anything? If I take a poker and dash a coal to pieces for the sake of feeding my fire, do I care how the fragments split? Not I. But I arrange the fragments presently that they may burn in the most agreeable manner. Does anybody suppose that Jehovah made the world as a man splits a coal for the Christmas fire, caring even less for the arranging of the parts or pieces; that He made a height here and a hollow there, and a broad river here and a comparatively narrow but foaming cataract there, without any purpose or meaning in His arrangements? Does any one suppose that in the placing of such a people as Israel there was no correspondence between the character and story of the people and the kind of country that they occupied? Do not think it. "Sodom" is a proverb of wickedness, and the Sodomites lived in the lowest place on the globe. "Jerusalem" is a name of glory, and Jerusalem is the mountain city of the world. Is there no meaning there? The one river, so called, of Palestine is as crooked as a serpent. It rushes on, muddy and foaming, like a maddened sinner, and it loses itself utterly in the sea of death, a sea without an outlet, a sea without a city on its shore, a sea without any animation of boats and traffic upon its surface, a sea without fish — not without its aspects of occasional loveliness though — and a sea that sends forth from its surface waters purified invisibly into the heavenly air. Wonderful seal Does this mean anything, or does it mean nothing?... The Jordan is the river of judgment. There is no such emblem of a sinner in the world as the river Jordan. There is no such emblem of the prohibitive law of Moses in its ultimate results as the Jordan and the lake into which it enters. The sinner goes down, down, and the end of his way is death. The prohibitive law drives us down, down, and the end of it is the sentence of death. Die we must if sin drive us on; dead we are if we understand not the law spiritually. But were we born to be destroyed? No; but to be saved. Were we born to be driven on by mere impulse? No; but to be rescued from such "driving." Were we born to enter into and be lost in the deep, the to us, as it were, unfathomable brine? No; but to be raised from it, purified, exalted. There is the Dead Sea: here the living Jerusalem. You look up — the living Jerusalem: you look down — the Dead Sea. From the heights of Jerusalem we look down and think of the Dead Sea as the sea from which we are rescued. We think of the Jordan, muddy, swollen, rapid, and know that not such is now the course of our life; but that we are rescued from such a course, and that we are to enter into "life" itself by Jesus Christ, who died to become the rescuer.

(T. T. Lynch.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

WEB: He came into all the region around the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins.

The Religion of Penitence
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