Today we rose with the sun as it revealed a pastel colored panaroma of Petra before our departure. We would descend from 1440 metres above sea level down to the Desert Highway (900m) and finally to the Dead Sea which lies 442 metres below sea level. Every 150 metres we descend the temperature increases 1 degree celcius. Though the morning air was brisk, by midday we would be basking in the dry heat of Dead Sea sunshine. After a brief cameo from Nick 'Moses' Combes striking the rock, we set off north. Our first destination was Mukawir, the fortress Herod the Tetrarch built into a naturally prominent hill overloking the Dead Sea and where John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded. Nearing Herod's palace prison we travelled on a sharply twisting road that wound its way through the Jordanian wilderness. Dusty grey cliffs drop sharply into the valley beneath. A hot spring gushed out of one cliff face with tremendous force. Not only did we slow to brake before cornering, on more than one occasion we slowed to allow Bedouin shepherds lead their sheep across the road to find shade. Herod's fortress was impressive and imposing. Before our ascent to the summit we walked the circular road to a cave to consider John the Baptist's prophetic bravery and beheading. Few people have the courage, in the presence of powerful people, to tell the truth. John did. "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife" (Mark 6:18) he told the Tetrarch. John was the forerunner of Jesus, proclaiming confidently that Jesus was the Lamb slain for the salvation of the world (John 1:29). Later, after months of languishing in this prison, John faced doubts that test all disciples. "Are you the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:2) Doubts are not to be denied but used as stepping stones to a stronger faith in our faithful Savior. John was beheaded on Herod's birthday. Herod saved face and John lost his head. But not his life! Didn't Jesus say, 'Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it?' From the ruler's fortress we descended to Bethany on the Jordan (John 1:28; 10:40). A few weeks ago heavy rains had swollen the river by metres but on this day it had returned to its lower banks. Two European girls were being baptised in the river. The current is deceptively strong and we weren't sure they could swim. They managed to paddle through the reeds to reach the bank. Then it was our turn to dip our feet in the Jordan's flow and think about the Christian faith. We remembered John's urgent warning to the religious elite to not trust in external actions nor claim righteousness by Abrahamic decent, but instead to repent of their sin and produce righteousness (Matthew 3:4-12). We also read how Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. Jesus' baptism was an act of identification, authentication and preparation for his public ministry (Matthew 3:13-17). Jesus baptizes with the Spirit to purify his people (Matthew 3:11). An often forgotten baptism is that done not in water but on wood. 'Can you be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:38) Jesus asked two presumptious disciples, pointing them to his cross. So at Herod's fortress and in the Jordan's flow we learnt that Jesus' death is the beginning of our life and the basis of the life we live. 'We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.' Dying we live!