Episode NT18 – The Transfiguration

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Mark chapter 8 verse 27 to chapter 9 verse 13

The Transfiguration

As they travelled northeast, out of Israel to the area of Caesarea Philippi, they couldn’t help noticing all the temples and places of worship there were to different ‘gods’. It was said that at the bottom of one of the nearby mountains the so-called ‘god’ Pan was born – a god of fertility, perhaps the most important fertility symbol in the whole region. It was as they walked through this landscape, a landscape of so much worship but so little knowledge of the true and living God that Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, ‘Tell me, who do people say I am?’

The disciples mulled it over for a moment or two. ‘Some say you’re John the Baptist come back to life,’ one said. Another added, ‘Or maybe Elijah or one of the other prophets, you know, Jeremiah or someone like that.’

‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked them, ‘Who do you say I am?’

Simon Peter didn’t hesitate when he heard the question, because somehow he already knew the answer. And so in a land of so many gods and idols, Simon Peter spoke his true confession, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

‘God has really blessed you Simon son of John,’ Jesus said. ‘Because you didn’t learn this from anyone else, it was my Father in heaven who revealed it to you. And now I tell you that with your true acknowledgement of who I am – you are Peter, which means ‘rock’, and on this rock – I will build my church, and even though the powers of hell will rage against it, they will never conquer it. And, I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven so that whatever you bind up here on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you set free here on earth will be set free in heaven.’

Jesus knew that even though His disciples had begun to understand who He was, as yet they had little real idea of what the Messiah would be like. They thought the Messiah would set them free from the power of the Romans, that their nation would become the most powerful on earth – they only thought of the Messiah as someone who would set them free from the problems of this world. But Jesus knew how little they understood, and how easily others would misunderstand if they found out that He was the Messiah, and so He sternly warned them not to tell anyone else that He was the Messiah.

From that moment on Jesus was determined that the disciples should understand what the Messiah’s life was all about. So He began to tell them plainly that He would have to go to Jerusalem and about all that would happen there.  That He would have to suffer at the hands of the leaders, the high priests and teachers of the law. That He would be killed and on the third day, He would be raised back to life.

But this wasn’t anything like the Messiah the disciples had in mind! Peter couldn’t believe his ears! The Messiah suffer? Die? What was Jesus talking about, surely this couldn’t be right? Jesus must have got it all mixed up. So taking Jesus to one side he started to correct Him, ‘Jesus, Jesus, heaven forbid that these things you’re talking about should come true…’

As Peter spoke, Jesus realised where all the false ideas Peter had about the Messiah had come from, and who had whispered them into Peter’s head. So looking at Peter and making sure they could all hear He said, ‘Get away from me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me because you don’t see things from God’s perspective but from a human point of view!’

And with Peter still reeling from His rebuke, Jesus started to teach the disciples what it really meant to be one of His followers, to show them how wrong their ideas were and just how much it was going to cost them. ‘If anyone wants to be my follower,’ He began, ‘then they must put aside what they want and pick up their cross and follow me.’

Pick up a cross? Was Jesus saying that following Him was the same as being a prisoner under sentence of death? For only a convicted criminal walking to his place of execution would carry his cross, knowing it would be the last journey of his life! But Jesus was still talking, ‘If you try to keep living your life for yourself, then you will lose your life. But, if you live your life for me, then you will find true life! Tell me, what good is it if you become master of the whole world and have everything you could ever imagine and then lose your soul to the fires of hell? Is there anything worth more than your soul? For one day I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father, with His angels, and I will judge all people according to what they have done! And what’s more, I assure you that some of you standing right here will not die before you have seen me, the Son of Man, coming in my Kingdom!’

The disciples were to remember this later when Jesus had risen from the dead!

About six days or so later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers James and John with Him as He went up a high mountain. When they reached the top something amazing happened before their eyes! As they watched, Jesus’ appearance started to change until His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any process known to man could make them. And as they watched in terror and awe, two other men appeared with Jesus. There was no doubting who these men were. One of them was Moses, the man who had led the people of Israel out of Egypt and who had received the law and passed it on to the people. The other man was Elijah the great prophet who had been taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. And as they met with Jesus, Moses and Elijah started to speak with Him about what was to take place soon!

The disciples didn’t know what to think, what to do. It would perhaps have been wiser if Peter hadn’t said anything, but as he looked at the scene unfolding before him he spluttered out, ‘Lord, this is wonderful! If you want, I could make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!’ He didn’t really know what he was saying!

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud came over them all and a voice spoke from within the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with Him. Listen to Him.’ As the voice spoke the disciples were terrified, and just like Moses and Elijah had fallen down to worship God on Mount Sinai many years earlier, so the three of them fell face down on the ground. (PAUSE)

God had spoken His approval of all Jesus had said and done! In the most spectacular way, God had told these disciples that He was fully pleased with Jesus and that they should listen to Him even though He wasn’t the kind of Messiah they’d been expecting. And even though He taught that following Him would cost so much.

Moments later Jesus came over and touched them. ‘Get up,’ He said, ‘don’t be afraid.’ As they got up and looked around they saw that only Jesus remained with them – as if Moses and Elijah had been pointing to Jesus so that only Jesus remained, because, in Him, all the law and the prophets found their fulfilment. As they descended the mountain, Jesus commanded them yet again not to tell anyone what they had seen until He had been raised from the dead.’

Episode 7 – Abram – down to Egypt

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 12

Abram Goes Down to Egypt

‘Hello, my name’s Abram, and I’m married to Sara.’

‘I want to tell you how God gave us something we’d longed for, for many years. We thought we’d get it very quickly, but that wasn’t God’s plan. Yet as we waited, we learnt so many lessons, and especially how we ought to keep trusting God!’

‘I remember it all so well, we thought we were happy in the city of Haran, with lots to do and see. We were near our family and content enough, although my father had died recently. But looking back now, I can see how much we were missing.’ (PAUSE)

‘Sara still gets cross with me when she remembers how she found out that something was happening. One day she heard a commotion outside her room. And as she looked out, there I was rushing around and telling the servants to start packing, saying we were going to leave! It was the first she’d heard about it! I can still remember her voice! ‘Abram! ABRAM! What’s going on? Why are you telling everyone to start packing?’

‘Sara, you’ll never believe it!’  I said.

‘Try me,’ she replied.

‘God spoke with me Sara! He told me that we have to leave this place and go to another country that He’ll show us.’

‘But we’re happy here Abram, why would God want us to leave?

‘Sara, it’s so wonderful. He made me a promise, something we’ve wanted for a very very long time. (P) He promised us – a son.’

Then she got all upset. ‘Oh Abram, please don’t. You know I can’t talk about it anymore. He hasn’t given us any children in all the years we’ve been married. (PAUSE) Did He really promise?’

‘Sara, He promised me that I’ll become the father of a great nation. – – – – – – -He promised to bless me and make me famous, and that I’d be a blessing to others. If anyone curses me, He’s going to curse them, and if anyone blesses me, He’ll bless them. He promised that one day every family on earth would be blessed through me. (PAUSE) But (PAUSE) we have to leave this country and our family and go to the place He’s gonna show us. (P) I can’t be that father if we don’t go.’                                                                                                                                                     

Sara couldn’t believe it. ‘All our married life we’ve wanted children Abram, but God hasn’t let us have any. He’s given us wealth, but what good is wealth when you don’t have any children to leave it to? But now, God really has promised?‘ I nodded. – ‘Time to start packing!’

‘We both thought we’d have the child very soon, but that wasn’t God’s plan. I think what was most important to God was that we loved and obeyed Him. Because over the following years we learnt so much about God, and that even when we couldn’t see the answer, we had to trust Him that He would keep His promise.’

 ‘So we left Haran with our servants, cattle, sheep and shepherds. Oh, and with my nephew Lot who came with us with all his – family, servants, cattle, sheep and shepherds. And we travelled to a beautiful and fertile land called Canaan, which was the place God wanted us to go to!’ (P)

‘Not long after we’d arrived, God appeared to me again and promised that He would give this land to ‘our descendants’. There it was again, His special promise to ‘our descendants’! But I was getting to be an old man now, and Sara, even though she was so beautiful, was also getting older. And we couldn’t have ‘descendants’ to inherit the land if we didn’t have a child. We just had to keep trusting that God would keep His promise and we would have a son.'(P+)

‘I wish I could say that I did always keep trusting God, but Sara often reminds me that when things started to get a little difficult – I failed. You see there was a famine in Canaan- nowhere near enough food and water for us all. And so we made a little – err –  ‘trip’ down to Egypt!

You see, God had told us to go to Canaan. But what was I supposed to do when things started to go wrong in Canaan? There was a famine! The sheep were dying before our eyes. Every day things got worse, more animals died. At night I found it hard to sleep as the sheep bleated for water. I felt I had to take matters into my own hands and find food and water.’

‘Anyway, we’d met a man from Egypt who told us there was plenty of food and water down there. (P) God hadn’t said to leave, but I figured I had to do something.! And as far as I could see, the only way to save the animals, … and us, was to go down to Egypt and stay there until the famine passed. I tried to convince myself God wouldn’t mind – and so we packed up and left.’ (PAUSE)

‘But there was one other slight problem. – Sara!’

‘I’m not saying Sara was a problem, but she’s so beautiful I was afraid that if the Egyptians saw how beautiful she was, they’d kill me so they could take her for themselves. Then where would God’s promises be?’

‘And so to my shame, I asked Sara and my servants to – lie. I told them to tell anyone who asked, that Sara was my … sister, and not my wife. You see, I hoped they’d treat me extra well if they thought she was my sister. But things got out of hand when Pharaoh’s servants saw how beautiful Sara was. And the news of her beauty reached king Pharaoh himself.’

PHARAOH ‘If this woman is so beautiful then bring her to my palace,’ he ordered. ‘Surely all the most beautiful women should belong to me, king Pharaoh. Give her brother Abram riches, but bring the woman to me!’ (P+)

‘They came and took Sara away. They took her to the palace and the royal harem with all of Pharaoh’s other wives.’

‘It’d all gone wrong. Not only had I lost my wife, but with her gone, he’d also lost any hope of a son. (P) And I don’t think God was very happy with me either. I’d disobeyed Him by leaving Canaan, I’d made Sara and my servants tell lies because I was such a coward, and now I’d lost Sara to Pharaoh! (P) But one of the things I have learnt over the years – is that God is a loving and forgiving God and He won’t let His plans fail.’ (PAUSE)

‘The first I heard about it was when armed guards came to take me to Pharaoh.’

PHARAOH ‘What have you done to me?‘ Pharaoh roared!

‘Er … erm … er ..’ I replied.

PHARAOH ‘My family is dying before me eyes, a plague is spreading through my household! And when I tell my wise men to find out why, do you know what they tell me?’

ABRAM ‘Er …er… no?’

PHARAOH ‘They tell me that God, your God, has sent this plague to punish me! Why would your God want to punish me, I ask my wise men? And then, at the fear of losing their heads, they tell me that your God is punishing me because I have taken … another mans wife! Your wife!’

‘You lied to me Abram, and your God is punishing me! How could you let me believe that Sara was your sister and allow me to bring her into my harem? Why didn’t you say she was your wife!’

ABRAM ‘I … um … I. … er.’

PHARAOH ‘Get them out of my sight!’ Pharaoh roared and then turning to his guards. ‘And get them out of my land! Them and their servants and all their belongings, I want them out of here and out of Egypt NOW!’

ABRAM ‘It was all very frightening, armed guards rushed us out of Pharaoh’s presence and hurried us back to our tents. Then they made us pack up as quickly as we could and rushed us and our servants and our animals back over the border into Canaan.’ (P)

‘Looking back on it all now, I’m so ashamed of my behaviour. I wish I’d trusted God and stayed in Canaan. But I’m also glad that when I said sorry to God, He forgave us. (P) But even though I had Sara back, we still didn’t have our promised son!’