Bethabara is indeed the “House of Crossing” for our Lord Jesus, as we have seen. He traversed from privacy to publicity, from the solitude to the multitude.rom privacy to publicity; from the solitude to the multitude. It was final too, for there would be no going back. Did He ever visit Bethlehem again? The busy pathway ahead would lead to His death at Calvary and, until then, His days would be filled with a constant ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and praying, with lonely nights on Olivet. Bethabara was a crisis, a turning point, where John the Baptist pointed Him out to the people. Another has written:
He gazed upon Him as He walked;
He watched Him as He trod;
And cried with rapt and reverent mien
“Behold the Lamb of God.”
At last the stars of prophecy
Had melted into day;
And shadows from the ages past
Had passed in light away.
What a privileged man John was! He was the porter who opened the door for the Shepherd of the sheep (John 10:3). Soon the Shepherd would call His sheep by name; they would hear His voice and He would lead them out; Andrew and John, Peter and James, Philip and Nathanael, and so many others.
John called to his hearers, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It was an early intimation of Calvary where the Savior would bear the sin of the world. For centuries men had been bringing their lambs to God; now God was bringing His Lamb to men. John was a true witness indeed, but there was a greater witness than John.
Jesus had come to Jordan where John was baptizing. It was a baptism unto repentance and those who submitted to it were thereby confessing sins and seeking forgiveness. How surprised John was when Jesus came!
What does it mean when John says, “I knew Him not”? Their two families were related, their mothers being cousins, yet, living so far apart it was indeed possible that John had never seen, and did not know Jesus. But how could he then say, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” (Matt 3:14). There are two possibilities. Either John means that, although he knew Jesus and knew the holy life of the Nazareth years, yet he did not then know Him to be the Messiah. Or, it may well be, as some suggest, that it had been divinely indicated to John, even as Jesus approached him, that this was indeed the promised One. In any case, in great humility, the Savior insisted that John should baptize Him.
Of course, our Lord Jesus had nothing of which to repent, as every believer knows. How then, or why, should the impeccable One be baptized in such a baptism? It has been beautifully remarked that He saw His sheep struggling in the waters of death and He fain would be with them. It was an encouragement to those who were responding to the preaching of John and it was also an encouragement for John that One so great should acknowledge his baptism. And was it not a preview of Calvary itself? “I have a baptism to be baptized with,” He would later tell His disciples (Luke 12:50). He would indeed be submerged in the deep waters of death and judgment for others and His baptism in Jordan was but a faint preview of that solemn day.
There was a greater witness than that of John, for the Father Himself was to speak. As is well known, Bethabara was the scene of a revelation of the great Triunity, that Holy Trinity of divine Persons. The Son stood in the water, the Spirit descended and abode upon Him, and the Father’s voice spoke from the heavens. How fitting it was that, at this public introduction of Messiah, the Godhead in unity would be manifest, as if in holy approbation of the ministry that would follow. And what grace, what humility is this, that as the Perfect Man was introduced, He was first seen standing on the muddy bed of the Jordan river. It was not a pleasant river. Naaman the Syrian knew that and said, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?” (2Kings 5:12). But the Savior stood there, as if indicative of the measure of the stoop that brought Him into our world to save. He came from the heights of glory to the mud of Jordan!
“And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased’” (Matt 3:16, 17). As another version says, “In Whom I have found My delight” (JND). Here is, retrospectively, what the Son meant to the Father during the hidden years in Nazareth. And what a wonder was this, that there had lived in Nazareth, for 30 years, a Man Who brought delight to the heart of God! He had been like a tender plant in a dry ground. The ground was parched and barren, steeped in sin and abounding in hypocrisy. In the midst of this sin-cursed scene, there had lived One Who brought pleasure to God.
Now, at Bethabara, God would introduce that lovely Man to the nation, and from this point, every eye would be upon Him. Some would love Him. Some would hate Him. Soon He would be “despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” But He would continue to live and minister for God’s pleasure. And yet again, in years to come, heaven would open and once again the Father would declare His delight in His Son.
Now, having crossed from the obscurity of Nazareth, Jesus will proceed to Bethsaida, the “House of Nets,” to call those who would be His companions in the great ministry of fishing for men.