Episode NT36 – Jesus’ Ascension

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Acts chapter 1 verses 1 to 14

Story 36 – Jesus’ Ascension

(PETER) ‘Jesus had risen from the dead! And from time to time during the 40 days after His resurrection He came to see us, His disciples, or apostles as we were also called. Apostle means ‘Someone who’s sent out’, and we were called apostles of Jesus because He’d chosen us and sent us out to tell people about Him and God’s Kingdom.

As we spent time with Him during those days He talked to us about all kinds of matters concerning the Kingdom of God. And, while He was with us, He ate food and showed us time and time again that He wasn’t a ghost or anything like that – but a living, breathing person. The same Jesus we’d known and loved before His crucifixion, whose first concern was always the Kingdom of God.’

‘Anyway, we’d returned to Jerusalem from Galilee, and while He was eating with us He gave us, His apostles, an important commandment. (P) He said, ‘Don’t leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised.’ He looked around at us expecting us to understand, but most of us sat there with blank expressions on our faces, so He added, ‘Remember? I’ve told you about it before! John baptised with water, but in just a few days you’ll be baptised with the Holy Spirit!’’ (PAUSE)

‘Now that God had raised Jesus back to life, and He was talking about the Kingdom of God again, we began to think that all our old ideas about Jesus becoming King of Israel and kicking the Romans out of our country must have been right all along. So we kept asking Him, ‘Lord, is it now that you’re going to free Israel and make us the most important kingdom in the world?’’

‘Jesus must have been so disappointed with us, we still didn’t understand and were making the same old mistakes we’d always made. So, one day, as we asked Him yet again, He said, ‘The Father sets those dates and they aren’t for you to know.’ (P) That put us in our place! And then He spoke once more of the subject that was so close to His heart, His Kingdom. ‘But when the Holy Spirit comes,’ He continued, ‘you’ll receive power, and then you’ll tell people everywhere about me! You’ll start right here in this city, Jerusalem; and then you’ll move out to Judea, the area around Jerusalem; and then you’ll move even further away from here, to Samaria, where the Samaritans live; and then – to the ends of the earth.’’

‘I guess it took us a while to really understand what Jesus meant. He hadn’t been raised from the dead so that He could become the King of a single country! The whole earth belonged to Him! His Kingdom was bigger than any country, or any nationality or people group! His Kingdom was to cover the whole earth and our job in this Kingdom was to tell everyone about Him, to point to Him, the real King who’d died to take the punishment we so richly deserve! And now He was telling us that sometime soon, He’d return to His Father and send the Holy Spirit to help us – to help us tell the whole world that Jesus is alive and our sins can be forgiven, our guilt can be washed away and we can be children of God and citizens in His Kingdom – all because of what Jesus did on that cross!’

‘It wasn’t long after this that Jesus went back to be with His Father. While He’d been with us He’d come and gone as He’d wanted, just appearing or disappearing, sometimes even appearing in a locked room. But now that He was going to leave us, going to heaven so that He could send the Holy Spirit, He left in a different way. I guess He could have just gone, disappeared and not come back, but if He’d done that we’d all have been thinking, ‘Maybe He’s not gone for good? Maybe He’ll come back if we just wait.’ I think Jesus understood that we needed to know He’d really gone back to His Father in heaven, so one day He took the 11 of us, His apostles, to the Mount of Olives about a kilometre outside of Jerusalem. And as we stood there with Him, He rose up into the sky and a cloud, like the cloud that’d been on the top of that mountain the day three of us had seen Jesus transfigure before our eyes and His clothes turn whiter than white – a cloud just like that – hid Him from our eyes.’

‘Well, we all just stood there staring up into the sky, straining our eyes, trying to see if we could still catch a glimpse of Him, wondering if He was going to come back, not sure what was happening, when suddenly two angels, who looked liked men in bright white robes stood with us. I was staring so hard at the sky I didn’t even notice them until they spoke to us – it gave me a bit a shock when I realised who they were. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, in the same way that you’ve seen Him go, He will return!’ And as they spoke I realised it was a gentle warning to us. Jesus had told us what He wanted us to do – to wait for the Holy Spirit and then tell people everywhere about Him. He didn’t want us to waste our time staring into the sky, but to get on and do what He’d asked.’

‘It was then that it really sunk in that Jesus had gone back to heaven. (P) But even though He’d gone, in a way we didn’t feel like He’d left us, because we could still talk to Him by praying, and He could still lead and guide us. He’d gone, but it wasn’t like those terrible days when He’d died. Now, even though He was in heaven, nothing could take Him from us.’

‘After that, we all went back to the house where we’d been staying. Then, with some of the women who followed Jesus, and with Mary His mother and His brothers, we spent our time either praising God in the temple for raising Jesus from the dead, or praying in that house, asking Jesus to do what He’d promised and send the Holy Spirit to help us tell the whole world about Him.’ (PAUSE)

Episode 15 – Jacobs dream

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 27 verse 42 to chapter 29 verse 1

Jacob’s dream

The sounds of the night drew ever closer as Jacob hurried to light his campfire. This was a good place to set up camp, but now that he was alone – he heard things he’d never noticed before, the noises of the night, menacing and frightening.

As the fire crackled and spat into life, Jacob threw on some more wood and then lay down, pulling his cloak tightly around his shoulders. And resting his head on a long flat stone, he thought back once again over the last few days, days that had turned his life upside down and led him to this lonely place.

‘It’s all Esau’s fault,’ thought Jacob. ‘He just doesn’t know when he’s beaten! And anyway, how was I supposed to know he’d be such a sore loser? (P) I knew he’d be upset, but I never thought he’d want to murder me! All I did was.. Well, what I had to do – to get what was mine. (P) Ok – I did use tricks and deception to get that blessing – but they shouldn’t have tried to take it away from me … I bought it off Esau fair and square – for a bowl of stew!’

Jacob rolled onto his side and stared into the fire. Had it been worth it? Had it really been worth it? All that trickery and deceit? What had it got him? Oh yes, he’d well and truly beaten his brother Esau by tricking him out of his birthright and stealing the blessing … but what good was that now? Because as soon as Rebekah, his mother, had found out about Esau’s murderous thoughts – she’d worked out a plan to get Jacob out of harm’s way.

‘Oh Isaac,’ Rebekah had said to the boys’ father. ‘Esau’s married a couple of these local girls who don’t know God and won’t worship Him. I just can’t cope with the idea of Jacob doing the same. Please, can’t we send him away to my family, to find a nice young wife from amongst my relatives?’

And for now her scheming had worked. His father Isaac had called him into his tent and told him to go to his uncle Laban’s house and marry one of Laban’s daughters. And so he’d left with his father’s blessing and very little else! (PAUSE)

Jacob sighed deeply, the flames of the fire flickering in his breath.

And now he was here, miles away from the home he loved, with almost nothing except the clothes on his back to call his own.  It was the first time he’d ever felt truly alone.

Sleep came easily as Jacob was tired from all his travelling, but this was to be no ordinary night.

As Jacob slept he started to dream – a dream sent from God. (P) And as he dreamt he saw a stairway with one end on the earth and the other in heaven. And as he looked at the stairway, he saw the angels of God moving up and down between heaven and earth.

As his eyes followed the stairway to the top, there – above it all – was the Lord God Himself. And He was speaking to Jacob.

‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and of your father Isaac. This ground that you lie on belongs to you, for I will give it to you and your descendents. And your descendents will be so numerous, that just like the dust of the earth, no one will be able to count them. And they will fill this land from east to west and north to south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendents. (P) And what’s more, I Myself will be with you. I will protect you wherever you go. And the day will come when I will bring you safely back to this land, for I will be constantly with you until I have given you all that I have promised.’

And then Jacob woke up, terrified at what he’d seen! (WHISPERED) ‘This place! The Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it! It’s an awesome place – nothing less than the very house of God – the gateway to heaven!’

Very early the next morning Jacob got up and took hold of the stone he’d used for a pillow the night before. He took the stone and stood it upright, as a memorial stone to remember what had happened to him. Then, with the stone standing on its end, he poured some olive oil over it. And he named the place – Bethel, which means ‘House of God’.

And then he said, ‘If God is going to be with me and protect me on this journey, and give me enough food and clothing … and, if He’ll bring me safely back to my father, then I will make the Lord – my God and this memorial pillar will be a place for worshipping Him, and I’ll give Him ten percent of everything He gives me.

He’d felt alone, but God had shown him he wasn’t. So, with the promises of God ringing in his ears, and a new certainty that God was with him, Jacob hurried on with his journey to the lands of the east.

Episode 10 – Abram and The Evil Cities

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapters 17 to 19

Abram and The Evil Cities

When I was 99 years old, God met with me. First He changed my name from Abram to Abraham, which means ‘father of many’ and then He changed Sara’s name to Sarah, which means ‘princess’. And we found that it wasn’t Ishmael who would be the promised son, but a child still to be born to Sarah, who was already very old!’

‘A little while later, God appeared to me yet again, but this time it was different. Three men, well, I thought they were men at first, came near our tent. Because it was our custom to be friendly to strangers, I hurried over to invite them to come and have a meal with us. One of the men was God Himself, in the form of a man, the other two were angels also in the form of men. As they sat with me, God told me that now was the time for the promise to be fulfilled! Sarah was to have a son in one year’s time!’

‘Sarah was listening in the tent and laughed because she thought, ‘How can an old woman like me have a baby?’ But God always keeps His promises.’

‘As God left, I walked with Him towards those evil cites in the river valley where Lot lived. As we looked over them, He told me that He was going to destroy them because the people were so evil. But what about Lot! He was living in one of those evil cities. As the angels went on ahead, I took my courage into my own hands and spoke with God.’ (P – GULP)

‘Erm, if you find 50 good people living in that city, surely you wouldn’t destroy the good people with the evil ones?’

GOD ‘If I find 50 good people, I won’t destroy the city,’ said God.

ABRAHAM ‘ Now that I’ve found the courage to ask’, I continued. ‘What if you only find 45?’

GOD ‘If I only find 45, I won’t destroy the city.’

ABRAHAM ‘And so our conversation continued, I asked about 40, then 30, 20 and finally 10. And each time God said that if He found that number of good people He wouldn’t destroy the city. Then He left.’

‘Meanwhile the two angels had arrived in the city where Lot and his family lived. And, as they arrived Lot happened to be sitting by the gate and encouraged them to stay at his home. At first they said no, but Lot insisted because he knew they wouldn’t be safe in the city square at night.’

‘And as night fell, all the men of the city came to Lot’s house and hammered on the door. ‘Bring out those strangers Lot – we want to hurt them. And if you don’t, we’re going to hurt you.’

‘Lot went out and tried to reason with them but they attacked him, and the angels quickly pulled Lot back inside. Then they blinded the men to stop them from finding the door and breaking it down. – The angels spoke to Lot.’

ANGEL ‘Are there any other members of your family in the city?’

LOT ‘Well yes, there are my daughters’ fiancées.’ He said.

ANGEL ‘Get them and your family out of the city now because we’re going to destroy this city for all the evil the people have done. Be quick!’

ABRAHAM ‘Lot rushed out to his daughters’ fiancées.’

LOT ‘Boys, we’ve got to leave now. There’s no time to waste! God’s going to destroy the city, and you too if you don’t leave now.’

ABRAHAM ‘But the boys thought he was joking and ignored him. The next morning the angels were even more insistent.’

ANGEL ‘Hurry up, get your wife and two daughters out of the city or you too will be caught up in the destruction.’

ABRAHAM ‘But still Lot hesitated. Maybe be couldn’t cope with the thought of losing everything, but God was merciful to poor weak Lot. The angels grabbed him, his wife and his two daughters by their hands and dragged them out of the city.’

ANGEL ‘Now run for your lives.’ They said to Lot and his family. ‘Don’t stop and don’t look back. Escape to the mountains or you will die.’

LOT ‘The mountains! I can’t go to the mountains,’ moaned Lot, ‘I’d die. Look, there’s a small village just over there. Couldn’t I just go there and be safe.’

ABRAHAM ‘All his life Lot had ignored what God wanted, and even now, in fear of His life, still Lot wouldn’t obey God. But even so, God was merciful to Lot and the Angels let him escape to the small village. (P) Lot and his daughters ran on ahead to the village, but his wife lagged behind, and when the fire and burning sulphur of judgement fell from heaven, wave upon wave, utterly destroying those evil cities, Lot’s wife – looked back. Instantly God judged her for doing what He had told her not to do through the Angels and turned her into a pillar of salt.’ (PAUSE)

‘The next morning I went back to look over the river valley. The destruction was terrible. The smoke from the burning sulphur was rising in columns to the sky. But God had answered my prayer, Lot was safe, even though he hadn’t learnt anything from that terrible tragedy.’

‘As for Sarah and me? God kept His promise; at the ripe old age of 100 I became the proud father of a little son born to Sarah. It was a real miracle. (P) Sarah laughed when he was born. Saying ‘who’d have thought such a thing would happen to an old woman like me?’ (P) We named him Isaac, which means ‘he laughs’.’

‘Although – the joy of having Isaac was overshadowed when he and Ishmael didn’t get on. Sarah saw Ishmael bullying young Isaac one day, and that was that! Sarah made me send Hagar and Ishmael away! – But God looked after them – and kept His promise to give Ishmael more descendants than he could ever count!’