The Baptism of Our Lord
Matthew 3:13-17; Joshua 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17
You probably know the story well enough. You heard part of it this morning. And while it is certainly not as grand a story as the parting and crossing of the Red Sea, it has similar elements, and there is similar typology involved. This is how Joshua led the people of Israel through the Jordan and into the Promised Land.
The Children of Israel arrived beyond the Jordan from their 40-year exodus in the wilderness. They camped near the eastern bank of the River Jordan, north of the Dead or Salt Sea at a place that came to be called Bethabara, or “Place of Crossing.” When the time had come, God told Joshua to cross the Jordan, to have the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant set foot in the Jordan, and the waters would part so that the whole company could cross over on dry ground. This they did, and the Children of Israel set foot in the Promised Land.
Joshua himself was commanded to have a man from each tribe pick a stone from the riverbed. From these twelve stones a monument was made at the place where they next camped: Gilgal. These had to have been large stones, for they were commanded,
Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever. (Joshua 4:5-7)
And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever. (Joshua 4:20-24)
Furthermore, twelve more stones were placed as a monument in the middle of the river where the Children of Israel crossed.