Jericho is a small town in Central Queensland, and also place in Palestine. In Palestine it is the lowest (in terms of altitude) inhabited place on earth, and the longest continually inhabited city. It is close to the Jordan River and is mentioned in the Bible many times. Jesus himself visited Jericho on a number of occasions. You will also probably be familiar with the Bible story of the Battle of Jericho.
Jericho was under attack. The story involves spies, a prostitute called Rahab, an conquering army of 1 million soldiers and some strange events involving marching around the city 7 times and shouting. You can read the complete story in the Bible in Joshua 6:1-27. It's fascinating.
Here is a picture of the City of Jericho in Palestine as it appears today.
Many years later a man lived in Jericho who was hated by everyone else. Meet Zachaeus. Zachaeus was so short he needed a ladder to kick a flee in the ankle. He was responsible for collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman Empire - and he would steal from everyone by collecting more than he had to. So people hated him because he stole from them.
One day Jesus was visiting Jericho and the crowds were out to see him. Zachaeus couldn't get a look in because he was so short, and he climbed a tree to see over the crowd. To his surprise Jesus walked right under the tree and looked up, and then invited himself for lunch to Zachaeus house. We don't know what kind of conversations happened at the lunch table that day, but we know that after that meal, that Zachaeus was a changed man.
He decided to give back all the money that he had stolen from people and he even compensated them with extra money. He decided to make things right. I'm guessing that people might have liked him after this. Zachaeus was someone who after considering what Jesus had to say, decided to make his life right, sort out his issues and become a follower of Christ.
Now It's Your Turn
Are you a good person? You may not be hated by everyone in Jericho, but what does God think about you and your way of life. Let us examine you in comparison to God's moral Law, the ten commandments.
If you have told a lie (even a little one) you have broken Commandment 9. If you have stolen anything (even small things) you are a thief - and have broken commandment 8. If you have looked at a women and thought about sex with her, then according to Jesus in Matthew 5:27 you have committed adultery in your heart. That is breaking commandment 7. Jesus also said if you hate someone you have committed murder in your heart - and broken commandment 6. If you have used God's name as a swear word - you are a blasphemer and have broken commandment 3.
Now imagine you are standing before God on judgement day when you life is finished. What can you offer to God in exchange for your soul? The Bible says that our very best effort is just filthy rags. Our wealth, gemstones, and our savings account will be meaningless in that day.
God is a good judge and will have no option but to punish those who have broken his laws. We would not expect a judge in any court of law to let criminals off. If he did, he would not be a good judge. And even though God may be loving, he is also just and good and will not excuse sin. The Bible says he will punish sin wherever it is found. If it is found in your heart, then you will be punished. The Bible describes this punishment - it is eternal and is in the Lake of Fire, which we call Hell. It is not a fun place and should not be laughed about. People who are already in Hell are not laughing about the matter. In the Bible in Luke 16:23 it describes a man who is in Hell. He said "Have pity on me... I am in agony in this fire." You can read the whole passage yourself and see it is no joke.
The only escape is Christ. Jesus Christ was crucified (where the word excruciating comes from) even though innocent and gave his life as a payment for our sins. In the same way a speeding fine must be paid by someone, so our sins must also be paid. Your escape means you must first hand your life over to Christ in exchange for his life. You place your life into His hands and trust His gift for you. You then turn from your self centred sinful way of living and become willing to follow Jesus and be his disciple. It's His life given in exchange for yours. It will cost you everything but it will save your soul.
So Zachaeus may have been a bad man because he stole and lied, but when you compare yourself to the ten commandments, are you any better?
Once Zachaeus had an encounter with Jesus he realised he needed to change things and make them right and become a follower of Christ. Just like Zachaeus, you are a resident of Jericho and you need to change and make things right too. You need to make things right with God, and with your fellow humans. You need to realise that the God who gave you life, and breath is asking for your time, your love and your obedience. Will you give it to Him? If so tell him.
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