Early thoughts about Elijah and John the Baptist

So far what I’ve seemed to discover about Elijah is that — he speaks truth to power, he listens to God, when he is alone God sends ravens and water, then when that isn’t enough God brings him back to community as a life-saving transformative stranger to the widow and her son. And then God sends him back to deal with Ahab, who now will recognize his face if he didn’t before.

John the Baptist could be considered a life-saving transformative stranger — “Repent” — and he certainly speaks truth to power and listens to God. We’ll likely see more links as things go on, although of course John clearly confesses that he is not Elijah (and Jesus denies being Elijah as well). The compare/contrast can only be useful. Those first century folk certainly seemed really set on it.

But John’s method of saving and transforming lives was baptism. And the recent Christian Century has an amazing article (“Holy Water Everywhere by Steve Thorngate”) about baptism, and specifically John’s. “Baptism creates its own map, one that both locates us in a holy place and liberates us for the life of the holy earth (Thorngate).” Baptism marks us, changes us, or opens us up to connection both in a specific time and place and in wide-open connected to the whole world way. It both is a bond, as in a limit, and a bond, as in a link to the whole rest of the world, past and future. Whew!

Thorngate mentions this specific place that John was baptizing, saying “The baptismal site is on the East Bank, 16 miles northwest of Madaba. Bethany Beyond the Jordan—not to be confused with Bethany on the West Bank, home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus—is a Byzantine pilgrimage destination that was rediscovered around the turn of the 20th century, based partly on information provided by the Madaba map [found in an ancient church]. It’s also called Bethabara, the name Judges 7 uses for the location of Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites. Bethany has become the jewel of Jordan’s several biblical sites, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.”

I honestly had no idea it was a real place, that I could go there (if I were a traveling sort of person which I’m not). The article has pictures and descriptions. I didn’t realize there was a connection with Gideon.

It’s just so much fun, reading the Bible and making these connections, and instead of getting smaller, everything keeps opening up and surprising me. Share your thoughts with me, have I missed some connections so far?


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