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Jericho: French Peas and Kissing Camels

Jericho: French Peas and Kissing Camels

Beware of kissing camels.

As we stepped off of the bus and made our way past an ornate sign proclaiming Jericho as the oldest city in the world, a man in flowing white robes led a camel up to us. Then the creature started kissing anyone who stepped in its path, placing big, rubbery lips on people’s cheeks. But I guess that’s an improvement over what these ornery animals are better known for—spitting.

Still, a camel kiss is slobbery, judging by the excruciating facial expressions on the camel’s three victims. Fortunately, I steered clear of the affectionate animal.

It was not crowded on the day our tour guide led us past the kissing camel to the Jericho archaeological site. Our guide, being Jewish, wasn’t allowed to take us up onto the site, because Jericho is Palestinian territory. In fact, a sign at the edge of the city even warned Jews they could be taking their life in their own hands by entering Jericho.

Throughout history, there have actually been three different Jericho’s—one from the Old Testament, a second from the New Testament, and a third from the time of the Crusades. And if you count the Jericho from the VeggieTales video, Josh and the Big Wall, there were four.

If you know your VeggieTales episodes, Jericho is where two French Peas, Jean-Claude and Philippe, stand high up on the city walls, taunting Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber and dropping slushies on their heads.

“It was nice to meet you. Now go away!” shouts one of the French Peas, while the other one sticks out his tongue.

We had come this day to Jericho’s Old Testament archaeological site, and although scientists there have not dug up any signs of ancient peas or petrified slushies, my wife, Nancy, did agree to stand high up on one of the mounds and say, in a French accent, “You silly little pickle!” Then she stuck out her tongue for the camera.

Nancy was the logical choice to be the French Pea because she is small and her nickname really is “Peapunk.”

In the time of Jesus, Jericho was an oasis, a lush escape from the harsh desert with plenty of water and palm trees. No wonder it was a vacation spot for Herod and other rich folks. It was the Disney World of its day, except without the dolls singing incessantly, “It’s a small world, after all!” (That song would’ve been enough to make any wall of Jericho crumble—or at least drive the people inside crazy.)

In the New Testament, two of the most famous characters encountered by Jesus in Jericho were blind Bartimaeus, who begged Jesus to heal him along the roadside, and Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector who had to climb a sycamore tree just to get Jesus’s attention.

What’s fascinating is that Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus were from opposite ends of the social scale, and yet they both had the same goal. Bartimaeus was poor, while Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, and they both wanted to see Jesus. But they both also had limitations, preventing them from doing so. Bartimaeus was blind, while Zacchaeus was short enough to qualify as a French Pea himself, and he couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd. So Bartimaeus asked for healing, while Zacchaeus clambered up a tree, where Jesus spotted him and invited himself over to the taxman’s house.

Like Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus was in need of healing, but it was an inner healing. Tax collectors of the time could be ruthless. They were called “tax farmers,” and Rome gave them free reign to tax as high as they wanted, just as long as the government got its expected amount. The tax collectors pocketed any extra money they could pilfer from the populace.

So Zacchaeus suffered from a different kind of blindness than Bartimaeus, unable to see the misery he was creating by squeezing money out of poor people. But then he met Jesus, and everything changed. Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor, and he would give back four times what he stole from people.

So it wasn’t just the Old Testament Jericho that saw walls fall. The New Testament Jericho saw scales fall from a blind man’s eyes, and it witnessed the crumbling of the walls of Zacchaeus’s stony heart.

By the way, if you’ve ever wondered why the Book of Mark says Jesus healed Bartimaeus while leaving Jericho, and the Book of Luke says He healed the blind man while entering Jericho, remember there were still two cities at the time. It is believed that Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus on the road between the Old Testament Jericho and the New Testament Jericho. In other words, He was leaving one Jericho and entering the other.

Jericho was an oasis in the difficult life of both Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, and it stands as a powerful symbol of the refreshing oasis He offers us. But you have to see Jesus before you can enjoy His company. So open your eyes. Climb a tree. Worship. Pray. Do whatever it takes to see Jesus.

Then step back and wait for the walls to fall.

History by the Slice Family Activity

Google “Jericho” and find it on a map. Then read Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 19:1-10.

Discuss these questions:

  1. Where is Jericho in relation to Jerusalem?
  2. Why does the blind man call Jesus “the Son of David?”
  3. Jesus asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Why do you think Jesus was trying to get him to speak his need out loud?
  4. How did the crowds respond to Zacchaeus and how was it similar to the way people acted with the blind man?
  5. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. What are some of the ways you currently see Jesus in your life?
  6. What are things you can do to see Jesus more in your life?
  7. In what way do you need to be healed?

By: Doug Peterson has written 42 books for VeggieTales and is the author of four historical novels: The Disappearing Man, The Puzzle People, The Vanishing Woman, and The Lincoln League. His latest book is The Call of the Mild. Visit Doug at www.bydougpeterson.com.

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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