John and Jesus
John the Baptist (pbuh) prepared the way for the arrival of the Messiah, and John's ministry itself marked the beginning of the preaching of "the gospel of the Kingdom of God" (Luke 16:16). Some of the pivotal events in John's life and his heralding of the coming of Jesus took place in Jordan.
Though Jesus Christ's divinely inspired role was announced before and during His birth, He launched His public ministry at Bethany beyond the Jordan at age 30, immediately after He was baptized by John and anointed by God (Luke 3:21-23, Acts 1:21-22).
Several seminal events happened during Jesus' three-day stay with John at Bethany beyond the Jordan. John called Jesus "the Lamb of God" and Jesus gathered his first disciples (Simon-Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathaneal) (John 1:35-51). Here is where Jesus is first reported to have prayed to God (Luke 3:21).
When Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism (Mark 1:12), He may well have been in the stark, desolate marl area immediately east of the Jordan River and north of Bethany beyond the Jordan. A nearby valley to the south, near Mount Nebo, is known to this day as "the valley of the devil" (Wadi Al-Afreet).
Jesus often traveled, taught and healed the sick throughout Transjordan, in regions of the Decapolis and Peraea, and from here he started his last, purposeful journey to Jerusalem (Matthew 19:1).
Among the parables and statements that Jesus spoke in the land of Jordan were those about the Kingdom of Heaven belonging to the children; the prohibition against divorce ("...what God has joined together let no man separate..."); the advice to the young ruler that to inherit eternal life he must sell his possessions and give to the poor; that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God", and that "the last shall be first and the first last" (Matthew 19, Mark 10:1-31).
A local tradition at the town of Anjara, in the hills of Gilead east of the valley, recounts that Jesus, His disciples, and His mother Mary passed through the town and rested there in a cave, which has been commemorated in the form of a modern shrine/church to Our Lady of the Mountain.
This was one of five pilgrimage sites for the Jubilee Year 2000 designated by the Catholic Churches of the Middle East. The others were Mount Nebo, Machaerus, Tell Mar Elias near Ajloun, and the Jordan River region at Bethany beyond the Jordan. The late Pope John Paul II visited Mount Nebo and Bethany beyond the Jordan during his March 2000 pilgrimage in Jordan.Continue to: Biblical Decapolis in Jordan