Episode NT14 – The Death of John the Baptist

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on John chapter 3 verses 22 to 36 & Mark chapter 6 verses 14 to 29

The Death of John the Baptist

His life had been outstanding. It had even begun with a miracle when his father, Zechariah, had met the angel Gabriel in the temple and been told that at long last God had heard their prayers, and would give them a son as the forerunner to the long awaited Messiah.

And John’s ministry, his work, had been that of a mighty prophet as he fearlessly confronted the people with their sin, telling them that they couldn’t trust in the fact that they were born Jews, they needed to get right with God! They needed to live lives that proved they’d turned away from their evil ways and turned back to God. He even urged them to get baptised as a sign of the reality of their change of heart – the change from putting themselves first to serving God.

John didn’t just preach the message for others to hear, he lived it himself! Once when his disciples saw that Jesus and His followers were baptising more people than John, they went to him to complain. But John knew that it was the Lord’s will that Jesus should become greater and greater, and that he should become less and less. He didn’t complain when he saw it happen or try to hold onto his position and reputation, rather he rejoiced knowing it was God’s will!

But such a message and such a radical obedience to God brought enemies, those who didn’t want to be reminded of their evil ways and had no intention of submitting to God. All that mattered to them was the flattery of others, and what they could get for themselves – no matter who they hurt trying to get it. John’s message reminded them that there’s another place and there will be another time when the things of this world won’t mean anything and only the rule of God will matter. A message these evil people feared and would do anything in their power to silence!

If John had kept quiet about the evil he saw, his life would have been so much easier. But if he’d kept quiet, although he’d have received the praise of men, he would also have received the condemnation of God – the Lord of eternity to whom we must all give an account of our lives, and who has the power to throw us into Hell! So John couldn’t keep quiet, because he saw how real eternity is and how important it is to please God and not men.

For John, it all came to a head when he spoke out against the ruler Herod Antipas. Herod had broken God’s law by marrying Herodias the woman his own brother Philip had divorced. She was an evil and self-seeking woman. Herod himself might have ignored John if it wasn’t for the hatred of this wicked woman. She wanted her revenge on John for showing her up and pointing out that they’d broken the law. She should have pleaded with God to have mercy on her, to forgive her! But she cared nothing for God or what He thought, only caring about what she wanted. And what she wanted more than anything else was to put John to death for the embarrassment he’d caused her.

So as a favour to Herodias, Herod had John arrested and kept in prison, but he wouldn’t have John killed because he knew John was a good man, a holy man and so he protected John from the rage of Herodias who was powerless to do anything to him. But her anger would not be calmed, and day-by-day she bided her time waiting ‘till the right opportunity came along to get rid of John once and for all.

Herod often talked to John because he liked to listen to what John said, although he never really understood what John was saying and always went away from their discussions feeling disturbed. (PAUSE)

Some time later it was Herod’s birthday, and he wanted to put on a fine display for his guests, including his palace aides, army officers and the leading citizens of Galilee. He wanted to show how wonderful he was, and as part of the celebrations, Herodias’ daughter, who was also called Herodias came and danced for them. Herod watched her every move totally captivated by her performance. Having had a little wine and wanting to show his guests what a generous man he was Herod stood up to congratulate Herodias on such a wonderful dance, and in so doing he made a rash pledge. ‘That was fantastic,’ he said, ‘what joy you’ve brought to my guests and to me. Now in return ask me for anything your heart desires. I will give you anything you ask for, up to half my kingdom!’

Herodias didn’t know what to ask for and ran to find her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ she said.

 ‘Ask for the head of John the Baptist to be brought to you on a tray,’ her mother replied.

And so, just as her mother had told her, young Herodias ran back into the hall to find the king.

‘Have you decided already what you want?’ the king asked.

‘Yes my lord,’ she replied. And then, in the silence that followed as the guests waited to hear her request she announced, ‘I want the head of John the Baptist brought to me on a tray, right now!’

Herod was horrified, and he should have said no, for it’s a far worse thing to murder a man than break a promise. But Herod’s pride and embarrassment in front of his guests wouldn’t let him back down. So, as Herodias had asked, Herod sent a soldier to the prison who cut off John’s head and brought it on a tray and gave it to the girl. She then hurried to give her gruesome prize to her mother.

John had suffered and died for being good and righteous! It didn’t seem right or fair, but then again, John had always lived knowing that this world would pass away and that the only real place he would ever be at home would be in the presence of the Lord – somewhere he now lived and that could never be taken away from him. Even in his death, John continued to point to Jesus and another death still to come, the death of a truly righteous man for the ones He loved!

When John’s followers heard about all that had happened, they came to the prison, took John’s body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.


Episode 20 – Joseph, From Prison to Palace

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 41 verses 1 to 43

Joseph – From Prison to Palace

One day, King Pharaoh had a troubling dream!

As Pharaoh slept he saw seven fat and healthy cows come up out of the river Nile. These cows were some of the finest he had even seen. But as he watched, seven more cows came up out of the river. These cows were thin and gaunt, the most ugly and starved cows in all Egypt. Then, the seven thin, ugly cows ate up the seven fat, healthy cows – and yet they remained as thin and ugly as they had been before!

At this point Pharaoh woke from his dream, but before long he fell asleep once more. And as he slept – again he started to dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain on one stalk. The grain was plump and healthy – but as he watched, out of the same stalk came seven withered and shrivelled heads of grain that ate up the seven plump and healthy heads of grain and yet remained as withered and shrivelled as they’d been before. (PAUSE)

The next morning Pharaoh called for all his wise men and magicians. ‘Come and tell me what this dream means,’ he told them. ‘Because I know that it is important.’ But none of his wise men or magicians could explain the dream to Pharaoh; they did not know what it meant. (P)

It was at this point that the royal cupbearer raised his shamed head to speak and told Pharaoh about me, Joseph. ‘Your majesty, today I have been reminded of my terrible failure,’ he said. ‘Two years ago, your majesty may remember that you became angry with the chief baker and myself and had us sent to prison. While we were there, we both had a dream that we knew had a meaning. There’s a young man named Joseph kept in the jail, and we both told him our dreams. This young man explained to us what our dreams meant. And just as he predicted, I was restored to my position as chief cupbearer, and the chief baker was executed.’

When Pharaoh heard this, he immediately sent for me. Guards raced to the jail to find me, they hurried me out of prison, gave me a quick shave, a change of clothes and before I knew what was happening I was standing before Pharaoh, the ruler of all Egypt! (PAUSE)

Looking me over he said, ‘Last night I had a dream and none of these men can explain its meaning to me. I have been told you can explain dreams, that is why I have sent for you.’

‘It is beyond my power to explain dreams your majesty,’ I answered him. ‘But God will tell you what you need to know.’

Then Pharaoh told me of his dream about the seven fat cows and the seven thin ones, about the seven plump heads of grain and the seven shrivelled heads of grain. – The Lord was good to me and helped me understand what the dreams meant.

‘Both of these dreams mean the same thing,’ I started. ‘The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both mean seven years of wonderful harvests, bumper crops and prosperity. But the seven thin cows and the seven withered heads of grain mean seven years of famine!’

‘God has shown you what He is about to do. For the next seven years there will be wonderful harvests throughout the land of Egypt – a time of great prosperity. But once those seven years are over, there will come seven years of terrible famine throughout the land. The famine will be so bad that it will not only wipe away all the prosperity of the good years, but will be so strong than even the memory of the good years will be forgotten.’

‘And the reason you have been shown this dream twice is to confirm that the matter has been decided by God and He will make these events happen soon.’

As well as being able to understand the dreams, and explain to Pharaoh all they meant, the Lord also helped me to know what should be done to save the people from the famine. So I continued speaking. ‘Your majesty, my suggestion is this. Put the wisest man in all Egypt in charge of a project that will be nationwide. Appoint officials across the land to collect one fifth of all the crops during the years of plenty. Have this extra food stored in royal grain houses so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. If you do not do this, then disaster will strike and all the people will die!’

 Pharaoh and his officials, magicians and wise men welcomed my advice. And as they discussed who should be appointed to lead such a project, Pharaoh spoke up. ‘Who could do a better job than Joseph? He has shown himself to be a man filled with the Spirit of God.’ Then turning to me he said, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in all Egypt. I hereby appoint you to be in charge of this project. Only I, Pharaoh, will have a rank higher than yours.’

And that’s how I came to be in this place, with the power I have. Pharaoh put me in charge of the entire land of Egypt. He put his own signet ring on my finger as a sign of his authority and power. He dressed me in beautiful clothes and put the royal chain around me neck! He gave me a wife, and he gave me the chariot of the second-in-command of all Egypt so that wherever I go – people run before my chariot shouting, ‘kneel down’.

For the last seven years I have collected one fifth of the harvest from all the people, everywhere in the land. This food has been stored in royal storehouses ready for the time of famine that has now come. For just as I explained, this year, the eighth year, crops have failed all over the land and far beyond, for the famine has begun.

And that is my story, a story of how God used the anger and hatred of my brothers to bring me to Egypt. How he even let me be accused of trying to hurt Potiphar’s wife, and let me go to jail – because only then would I be ready to organise such a work as this, one that will save many lives.

Episode 19 – Joseph – A New Life in Egypt

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapters 39 & 40

Joseph – A New Life in Egypt

Hated by my brothers and sold by them to slave traders making their way down to Egypt, my life was never to be the same again. No longer was I the dearly loved son of my father Isaac, but the lowest slave in the household of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s servants. But the Lord had not left me, and whatever I put my hand to, God blessed. In fact, His blessing was so great upon me that Potiphar realised the Lord was with me and put me in charge of more and more of his estate. Potiphar became fond of me, and after a while he put me in charge of his entire household. And from the day I was put in charge, the Lord blessed Potiphar in every way. He had no worries of any kind except to decide what food he would have put on the table.

But it was also at this time that the wife of Potiphar started to take notice of me. She would come to me when her husband was not around and ask me to embrace her and kiss her! But I would not do such an evil thing! ‘Look,’ I said to her. ‘My master has put me in charge of his entire estate; he has not held anything back from me except you, for you are his wife. So how could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a terrible sin against God!’ But she would not listen to me.

Day after day she pestered me, ‘Oh come on Joseph, just a little kiss and cuddle, no one will know.’ But I refused and as much as I could I avoided her.

However, the day came when I thought I was alone in the house doing my daily chores, when Potiphar’s wife sneaked up behind me and grabbed hold of me shirt. ‘Come on Joseph, kiss me now,’ she insisted. ‘I’m not going to let you go this time.’

She had trapped me, but as quickly as I could, I ducked out of my shirt, leaving it in her hands, and ran out of the house. But this was too much for Potiphar’s wife; she could not take being rejected by me time and time again. Seeing that she still had my shirt, she started to scream and scream until all the men came running to find out what had happened. When the men arrived, she sobbed out her lies. ‘Joseph tried to hurt me. But when I screamed he stopped and ran away. Look I have his shirt as proof!’

When her husband came home later that night, his wife told him the same lies she had told all the other men. Potiphar was furious and threw me into prison.

What had happened to me? The Lord had been blessing me, even though I had been sold by my brothers as a slave. But now, because of this woman’s evil lies I was thrown into prison – with no hope of ever being set free again. (PAUSE)

But even in prison, the Lord God had not left me. What ever I did, He blessed! Until the day came when the jailer put me in charge of the running of the whole prison. The chief jailer did not need to trouble himself about anything because the Lord blessed everything I did. (PAUSE)

Some time later, Pharaoh sent two new prisoners to the jail. One was the cupbearer to King Pharaoh, who tasted the wine before giving it to Pharaoh, to make sure it had not been poisoned. The other was the chief baker. (P) I was put in charge of these new prisoners. One morning when I went to see to their needs I noticed a worried look on their faces. ‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, ‘Why do you both look so anxious?’

‘We both had dreams last night,’ they said. ‘And we know they have meanings, but there isn’t anyone here to explain them to us.’

‘Explaining dreams is God’s business,’ I replied. ‘But even so, tell me what you dreamed.’

The chief cupbearer spoke first. ‘Last night I dreamed I saw a grape vine with three branches on it. And as I watched, the branches budded, then blossomed, and then bunches of grapes appeared. I was holding Pharaoh’s cup in my hand, and I walked over to the grapes and squeezed the juice from them into Pharaoh’s cup. Then I took the cup to Pharaoh and gave it to him.’

‘I know what that dream means,’ I told him. ‘The three branches means three days. In three days time Pharaoh will call you out of prison and restore you to your position as chief cupbearer. But please, when you are restored, mention me to Pharaoh, because I was kidnapped from my home land, and now I’m in jail and I haven’t done anything wrong!’

The chief baker had been listening to our conversation, and because I had given a good explanation of the cupbearer’s dream, he decided to tell me his dream. ‘In my dream,’ he started, ‘I was holding three baskets full of bakery products on my head. The top basket had all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but then the birds came along and started to eat them.’

When I heard his dream, my heart fell. But I could not hold back the explanation. ‘In your dream, the three baskets also mean three days. But in three days, Pharaoh will cut off you head and leave your body to be eaten by the birds.’ (PAUSE)

Three days later, Pharaoh had a birthday party. And during the celebrations, just as I had explained, he restored the cupbearer and had the chief baker killed. (P) However, the cupbearer completely forgot about me, not giving me a second thought.

And so, for the next two years I continued to wait in jail.