Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Luke: Chapter 3 - Symbolic Jordan River

The Baptism of Christ - Leonardo Da Vinci

John the Baptist finally reaches the age to begin his ministry in Chapter 3. His message is straightforward! He told his listeners that he could baptize them with water, but that the Messiah was coming, and that Christ would Baptist them in the Holy Spirit. That would surely have been confusing to those who didn’t have an inkling of ancient prophesies! But to those who did understand, this message was long awaited word. John the Baptist told the people that if they had “two coats, give one away to somebody who needs it” … be charitable. He told the tax collectors/politicians to be honest and not steal more tax than they were entitled to. He told the soldiers to do their jobs, but to be kind and not accusatory of the innocent. Did these changes and these deeds lead them down the path to salvation? John told them that it was time to change their ways so Christ could change the world for all mankind.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Why was that important? I think the answer is simple: God had sent Jesus to walk among us. He was like us, so He needed to do what we needed to do. When Jesus was baptized, a dove appeared, and the heavens opened up. God had something to say at this point and told Jesus that He was his Son and that he was proud of His deeds. Can you imagine standing on the banks of the Jordan River and seeing that? I can, and I’ll tell you a little more about that in a few paragraphs!

It is important to point out that while John was preaching, he was also telling the people that Herod was evil. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great. He ruled with his brothers and it was the fact that he took his half-brother’s wife (while he was married himself) that John the Baptist spoke of with scorn. That landed John the Baptist in prison. His execution followed.

Jesus, however, continued to preach, and many details of his ministry follow in the next chapters of Luke.

The genealogy of Jesus is listed as the end of chapter 3. It is slightly different than the genealogy listed in the Gospel of Matthew. Luke shows Joseph as the “supposed” father of Jesus but traces him all the way back to the beginning: Adam and then to God. Some believe that Luke was tracing back through Mary, while Matthew traced back through Joseph. Either way, the genealogy leads back to the beginning.

I have a great take-away from this chapter and it has to do with baptism. The meaning of baptism today isn’t any different than during the time of Jesus: person is fully immersed in water to rid them of their sins and to welcome them as sons of God, through faith. Many faiths sprinkle and don’t immerse, but the meaning remains the same.

Back to my question. Can you imagine standing on the banks of the River Jordan and seeing Jesus baptized and watching the heavens open up? I can.

Six months ago, I had the real privilege of being involved in the baptism of a tiny elderly lady who lived in the nursing facility where I work. My first instruction was to ask to get a picture of the event, but I quickly became more involved. It took a few of us to figure out a safe and dignified way of lowering her into a big spa tub in a private part of our facility, so she could be immersed. When I met her minister, I was a little surprised by his story! He never dreamed that we would do this in the facility. One of our wonderful nurses had agreed to “make it happen” and the minister was still baffled. I was thrilled to be a part of this and only hoped that our resident, at age 93, actually knew what was happening.

So our tiny little lady, dressed in a pretty gown, leaned slightly in the tub and her minister and our wonderful nurse gently guided her head under the water. As the baptism phrase came out of the minister’s mouth, I began to cry while I snapped a few pictures. When the baptism was completed, she smiled and I could tell she had found a new kind of peace. She passed away three months later.

As a child, I was taught to respect the ritual of baptism, even before I understood what it was really about. I was seven when I was baptized and I fully comprehended the meaning at that time. I’ve witnessed many baptisms, of course including my own daughter’s. I have never experienced what I experienced a few months ago in the spa room at our nursing facility. I would not have been surprised had doves filled the room. I had my own River Jordan experience.

Let’s Cook!

My writing about the River Jordan makes me think about Tilapia! The Jordan holds a great deal of symbolism. Folk music and old spirituals often refer to the Jordan with the meaning of freedom, clearly because of the journey of the Israelites. I like to think all that is derived from the fact that John baptized in the Jordan, bring folks to a spiritual freedom.

The River Jordan flows into or through the Sea of Galilee and Tilapia is an ancient fish that is believed to have first been found there. We raise and eat lots of Tilapia in the United States, but there is evidence that it was first raised in 1500 BC. The Tomb of Nakht includes this relief with Tilapia just above the head of the man.

It is believed the fish Jesus multiplied for the 5,000 ... was Tilapia! The fish that Jesus told Peter to go catch ... because it would have a coin in its mouth and Peter could pay the temple tax ... was Tilapia!

I love Tilapia because it absorbs the flavors of whatever you put with it. I never feel like I've had enough to eat when I eat fish, so I 

make sure to serve something substantial with it. For this dish, I served myself farro, something else that is "ancient"! If you try this ancient grain, make sure you buy pearled farro. It cooks much faster than the whole grain.

Seared Tilapia with Lemon Caper Sauce

This recipe is so simple and the ingredients are haphazardly measured. You cannot make a mistake!

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 Tablespoons capers
1/4 cup Kalamata of green olives
6 Tilapia fillets

Lemon Juice
Olive Oil

Lightly flour the fish and gently sear it in a big drizzle of olive oil. While the fish is cooking, add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and let it sear. Turn the fish one time and when it is done, remove it from the skillet. Add the capers and olives and a splash of lemon juice. The flour that fell off the fish into the oil ... and is remaining in the skillet ... will thicken the sauce after the lemon juice is added. Stir the sauce and serve it right over the fish.

You need to serve this with a grain ... whatever you like ... rice, couscous or my favorite farro. The grain balances the tart flavor of the sauce.


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