My husband asked me to marry him on a rock. This wasn’t just any rock. It was specially chosen by him. The view from the rock framed a beautiful river valley, nestled in the Colorado Mountains. It represented his home, his history, a part of himself, and he hoped it would mark a start to our future together. More than anything, it was a place where we both felt the presence of God, and we sensed the Spirit leading us to commitment. We’ve since taken our children to that very rock, a place of consecration for our family. It was there that our family’s collective service to God began.
The Jordan River, in John’s gospel, frames Jesus’ ministry as a special place of consecration. It was in these waters that John the Baptist testified to the Holy Spirit’s consecration of Jesus as God’s chosen one. (John 1) It is back to these waters that Jesus returns at the end of John 10 to remain until the appointed time for his journey to the cross. It is no accident that Jesus returns to the Jordan River after a special Feast of Consecration, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, where he proclaimed himself the very dwelling place of God that the feast sought to commemorate.
The Jordan River was no stranger to consecration. It was at this same river more than 1000 years earlier that Joshua proclaimed to the Israelites, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5) And wonders He did, halting the waters as the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant hit the river bed and gathering them into a water wall so that the Israelites could pass through from wilderness wanderers into Promised Land dwellers. Reminiscent of the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites associated God’s deliverance with his power over water.
To consecrate means to set apart something or someone for the worship or service of God. The Israelites were God’s chosen ones, agents of His glory! As a nation, they would suffer domination and occupation for centuries. Their temple, reclaimed from the pagan desecration of the Seleucid King, Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC by the Maccabees, became a symbol of God’s presence and miraculous power, consecrated for his glory! They celebrated it with the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah.) It was after this Maccabean retaking of the temple, that one single oil lamp miraculously burned in the temple for 8 days. As a part of Hanukkah, candles commemorated this event, lit for 8 days in November/December of each year, even to the time of Christ. As a Jew, Jesus recognized the great significance of this Feast. Jesus longed for his followers to see and realize that He, the light of the world, was now the consecrated, chosen one of God to bring the miracle of redemption to his people. Later Peter told the early church that as believers in the atoning blood of Jesus and his resurrection victory over sin and death, we are now God’s consecrated ones, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people possessed by God to proclaim his glory! (I Peter 2:9)
The rock by the river in Colorado is a symbol of my covenant commitment to my God, my man, and my marriage. The waters of the Jordan are symbolic of God’s commitment to his people, his deliverance, his provision, and the way back to himself, his incarnate son as the agent of redemption and reclamation of his true dwelling place, the hearts of all who would believe in and trust him.