In the Come Follow Me curriculum for January 27, 2019, we are reading and studying the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In John 1:19-34, we read that John was baptizing at “Bethabara beyond Jordan,” and that Jesus came to John to be baptized there (see 1 Nephi 10:7-10). Bethabara means “place of fording,” literally “house of the crossing,” and is considered to be a ford of the Jordan River near Jericho. Traditionally, this place on the Jordanian side of the river, now called Wadi Al-Kharrar, is reputed to be the place at which Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land when the waters of the Jordan were miraculously stopped so they could cross (see Joshua 3:13-17; 4:1-9, 21-24). The following poem explores the relationship between these two events—the baptism of Jesus and the crossing of the Israelites into the Promised Land—in the form of a chiasm,* with the central thought being “We cross from death to life through faith in Christ.”
House of the Crossing (a chiasm)
Joshua pointed out the Promised Land
across the Jordan. They must take the step
to stop the flood and cross the riverbed
dry-shod. No vengeful Egypt drove them now,
as when the Red Sea showed escape from death
or bondage. In this quiet, peaceful spring,
Israel stepped between the Jordan’s floods,
cast off the wilderness and were reborn
into the ancient covenants with God.
And still the water flows o’er Joshua’s stones:
Remember, Israel, the covenant birth,
that crossing Jordan conquers death for life—
We cross from death to life through faith in Christ,
as He upon the Cross conquered through death
what Bethabara’s covenant birth began.
And still we take the water and the bread,
remembering our covenants with God;
we cast off sin and death to be reborn,
drowned, drenched, and streaming hope and gratitude.
In quiet peace He breaks the bonds of sin
and death and gives the gift of our escape,
His hand outstretched in love to carry us
and all our burdens through the trials and pain,
if we but take the step, take up the Cross,
as Jesus points to our eternal home.
Lisa Bolin Hawkins
*A chiasm, or chiasmus, is a Hebrew literary form where the writer’s original thoughts are echoed in a reverse sequence, usually around a central, essential point. It is frequently found in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon. See John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” New Era, February 1972, https://www.lds.org/new-era/1972/02/chiasmus-in-the-book-of-mormon?lang=eng&_r=1