1. Christocentric focus

Christ through the waters

Joshua 3:1–17 (ESV)

1 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.

Why did the Lord take Israel through water in order to bring them into the Promised Land? If you have a map of the region, you will see there was plenty of room on the western area of the land. Israel could have come up through the south without having to cross any waters. Why was it so important for God to demonstrate his power over water?

One answer is that the crossing of the Jordan demonstrated that the Lord is the living God, in contrast with Baal and the other gods of Canaan.

A second answer focuses on the symbolism of water. In the ancient Near East, water was always considered to be a powerful threat to human existence. Rain would bring floods that can destroy villages and fields. Rivers are dangerous to cross. As a result, water is often associated with judgment and destruction. In the Bible itself we find water being used in this way. During the flood (Genesis 6:1–8:22), the Lord used water to bring judgment on the people of the earth. During the exodus from Egypt, the Lord again used water to destroy the armies of Pharaoh. On both occasions however, he also saved his people from the death which they deserve. Noah was saved by a boat, Israel by walking through on dry land.

In Joshua 3—4, the waters of the Jordan River are stopped by the Lord himself (Joshua 3:17). The ark is in the middle of the river. The Lord is keeping the waters of judgment at bay so that his people can pass safely into the Promised Land (Joshua 3:9–11).

Jesus Christ was baptized in these same waters of the Jordan River (Mark 1:9–11), and upon leaving the waters he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Baptism thus marked the beginning of his ministry as the Christ. And so during his life on earth, he perfectly obeyed all of God’s commandments.

And yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, we find him sorrowful and frightened because he was about to face the wrath of God (Mark 14:32–42). Here was a man who should in reality have nothing to fear from death. He deserved no judgment for he had committed no sin. And yet his soul was sorrowful because he was about to bear the burden of God’s wrath. He was going to go through the waters of judgment on behalf of God’s people. Jesus did that so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). He did that so that you don’t have to fear death or judgment. You can can have every confidence that God will bring you into the Promised Land.