Saturday, March 26, 2016
Washed by Living Water--by Linden Malki
In the north of Israel, there is a spring at the base of Mt Hermon which is the source of the Jordan River. There was an ancient shrine to the "god" Pan here, and it was originally known as Paneas. In 3BC, Philip the Tetrarch built a city nearby, which became the administrative capital of Philip's territory in the Mt Hermon and Golan Heights area, and was known as Caesarea Philippi. Known today as Banias, it is part of the Golan territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
This is the setting for Matthew 16:13-20, when Jesus asked his disciples "Who do people say
the Son of Man is?" ... "But you, who do you say that I am?" Then Simon Peter spoke up, "You are the Christ... the Son of the Living God." It is not surprising that this important conversation takes place known for its spring of running water that becomes a major river, which is associated in the Gospels with baptism. As this is the source of the water in which Jesus and the others were baptized, Peter's declaration is the key to salvation, as we have read in I John 5. Ceremonial washing in running water for spiritual cleansing goes all the way back to Leviticus.
We read of Jesus proclaiming himself as Living Water at a major feast that includes commemorating Moses getting water from the rock in Exodus (John 7). This incident is a precursor to what comes later in Jesus' ministry: his death and resurrection, which included the flow of water and blood from his body. This is echoed in Christian baptism. As St Paul put it, "You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death ... so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life." (Romans 6:3-4)
As we celebrate Jesus' death and Resurrection each year during this Holy Week, I am reminded not only of the Biblical story of this most important event in history, I remember also being baptised as a child at an Easter Sunrise service. As we celebrate what Jesus has done for us, let us also recall and celebrate our own baptism into new life. If you have not been baptised and are being called of God to do this, our church has baptism classes starting in a few weeks. Come and find out what it means to have new life in Christ!