DISCOVERING THE LAND OF JORDAN
By Rick Knoth
SINCE ANTIQUITY, humankind has felt the urge to journey afar in search of meaning and religious experience. For many, there is a conviction that prayer, meditation, or performing spiritual duties brings them closer to God, and is more meaningful in places of biblical, religious, or historical significance. Today, pilgrimages continue to flourish as vast numbers of people from all walks of life and faiths travel great distances to their sacred places of worship.
People often commemorate places of particular importance with shrines, temples, mosques, or tombs: For example:
- Buddhists journey to Bodh Gaya, India, the place of Buddhas supposed enlightenment. It is the most important pilgrimage site related to the life of Gautama Buddha.
- Muslims are encouraged to go to Mecca at least once in their life. Muslims also highly revereQubbat As-Sakhrah (Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem, the place where the Prophet Muhammad is thought to have ascended to heaven.
- One of the most revered sites for Hindus is the Mata Vaishno Devi Temple near the town of Katra, India, in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Catholics venerate Saint Peter’s Basilica located within Vatican City. It is their most-visited site. Another well-known Catholic pilgrimage site is Lourdes in France, where Catholics celebrate the Virgin Mary’s ascent to heaven.
- For Jews and Christians alike, the city of Jerusalem is a place of enormous importance. Each year millions of devoted followers of Judaism and Christianity visit this holy city. Followers of Judaism see Jerusalem as the biblical Zion and the eternal capital of Israel. For Christians, it is the site of the Last Supper, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the place where Christ was buried, resurrected, and ascended to heaven.
Many pilgrimages to the lands of the Bible begin and end in Israel. But another land of the Bible offers the Christian sojourner a treasure trove of biblical antiquities of immense importance to their faith walk with God. No journey to the Holy Lands is complete without a stay over in the tiny, but serenely beautiful country of Jordan.
We can trace some of mankind’s earliest inhabitants and settlements to this tiny piece of real estate. Jordan has been home to Nabataean tradesmen, Greek and Persian armies, Roman legionaries, and Christian Crusaders who fought tirelessly against Mohammedan tyranny.
In this land to the East of the Jordan River resides countless sites of biblical importance. Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Elijah and Elisha, Ruth the Moabite, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and others are all intimately tied to the Jordanian landscape.
Jordan is where:
- Important events in the lives of Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, took place.
- Jacob and Laban made a covenant and set up a memorial at Mizpah.
- Jacob struggled with God and God changed his name to Israel.
- The Israelites’ exodus journey from Egypt to the Promised Land passed through Jordan.
- King Mesha of Moab rebelled against Israel.
- Moses last spoke to God and saw the Promised Land.
- Joshua and Caleb crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land.
- Elijah was born and ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot.
- John the Baptist started and ended his ministry, and where Herod Antipas imprisoned and beheaded him.
- John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
- Jesus was anointed by God.
- Jesus called His first disciples.
- Jesus traveled and performed many miracles in the region of the Decapolis.
- Some of Christianity’s earliest churches are found.
Jordan’s rich biblical past echoes with clarity the stories of the Old and New Testaments. To discover Jordan is to enter into the three-dimensional world of the patriarchs, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles.
Jordan, like Israel, offers the ideal setting to study the Bible and the roots of the Christian faith. In Jordan, you can visit such places as Amman, Anjara (the town where it is believed Jesus, His mother Mary, and His disciples rested in a cave), As Salt (tomb of Job and Jethro), Jerash (a well-preserved Greco-Roman city in the Decapolis), Tall Mar Elias (site of Elijah’s ascension to heaven in a chariot), Bethany Beyond the Jordan (presumed baptismal site of Jesus), Madaba (site of the earliest religious map [mosaic] of the Holy Land and a town mentioned throughout the Old Testament), Machaerus (modern-day Mukawir and the site of Herod Antipas’ palace and where he imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist), Mount Nebo, Pella (Penuel), Mount Hor near Petra (site of Aaron’s tomb), Umm Qays (Gadara), and others.
With its welcoming people, unsurpassed beauty, and multiple sacred sites, a visitor’s pilgrimage to the Holy Lands is not complete until he or she has discovered Jordan.
Have you discovered Jordan? I did, and it changed my life.