Episode NT41 – Opposition Comes

Story 41 – Opposition Comes

Based on Acts chapter 5 verse 17 to Acts chapter 6 verse 7

After Jesus had gone back to heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit, the apostles performed many miracles and the name of Jesus spread throughout Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders looked on with jealous eyes, determined to do away with the apostles, as they’d done away with Jesus before them.

In one swift move, all the apostles were arrested and put in jail – ready to be tried, condemned and punished to satisfy the hatred of the leaders. But God was still in control and, in the middle of the night, He sent an angel to them, who opened the gates of the jail and brought them all out. ‘Now go,’ the angel told them, ‘and stand in the Temple area and tell the people the full message of this new life!’ And so, at daybreak, just as they’d been told, the apostles entered the Temple area and, choosing to obey God rather than the Jewish leaders, they taught the people about Jesus.

However, without knowing what’d gone on, the leaders gathered to judge the apostles. At their request, Temple guards were sent to the jail to collect the apostles and bring them to the court. When they got there, they found the jail doors firmly locked with the guards standing in place, but the jail was empty! ‘How can this be?’ they thought, and ran back to the council to tell them.

As the leaders listened, beginning to wonder where it would all end, someone arrived hot foot from the Temple with the news that the men they’d arrested and put in jail the previous day were all now in the Temple area teaching the people.

At this, the captain of the Temple guard hurried off with his men to re-arrest the apostles – being very careful not to use any violence for fear that the people would stone his guards if they treated the apostles roughly. Having managed to persuade the apostles to come with them, they quickly took them to the waiting council who were still furious at the way Peter and John had disobeyed their command not to talk about Jesus when they’d been arrested before. (P)

Didn’t we tell you?’ the high priest demanded as the apostles arrived. ‘Didn’t we tell you that you must never again teach in this name?’ (He hated even to say the name ‘Jesus’.) ‘But instead of obeying us,’ he continued, ‘you’ve filled the whole city with your teaching and are determined to make US responsible for this man’s death!’

Rather than trying to save their own skins, Peter and the apostles spoke once again about Jesus. ‘We must obey God, not men,’ they replied. ‘The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you’d killed Him by crucifying Him on a wooden cross. Then, God raised Him even higher – to the place of highest honour at His own right hand side. He did this so that the people of Israel would have an opportunity to turn away from their sins and turn to God, so that their sins would be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God gives to those who obey Him.’

This was all the high council needed. Furious at what they’d heard, they decided to kill them all. However, God was still in control, and one member of the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel who was very popular with the people, saw that more might be going on than they’d realised. Standing up to say his piece, Gamaliel ordered that the apostles be put outside the council so they could discuss the situation in private.

Men of Israel,’ he began as he addressed the leaders, ‘be careful about what you’re planning for these men! If you remember, some time ago there was that fellow called Theudas who pretended to be someone of great importance. Four hundred men joined him, but then he was killed, his followers went their separate ways and the whole thing came to nothing. And after that there was Judas of Galilee. He too got some people to follow him, but when he was killed, all his followers were also scattered!’

So listen, this is my advice to you all, leave these men alone! If they’re teaching and doing all these things merely on their own, then it will soon come to nothing. But if it’s from God, then you won’t be able to stop them and you may even find yourselves fighting against God!’ (PAUSE)

Gamaliel’s argument convinced the council and they accepted his advice. So, calling the apostles back, the council had them whipped – leaving their backs striped and bloody. And then, after warning them to never speak in the name of that Man again – they let them go. (P)

You’d have thought that after such a beating the apostles wouldn’t want to talk about Jesus again in case they were beaten some more or something worse happened! But while He’d been with them, Jesus Himself had warned them that they would suffer – and yet even in their suffering they would find God’s blessing! And so, instead of running away, feeling scared and not wanting to talk about Jesus, the apostles left the council absolutely overflowing with joy that God had considered them worthy of suffering for Jesus.

And why did they feel so glad and joyful about the situation? Because of Jesus! He’d told them to rejoice when He’d said, ‘God blesses you when you’re mocked and persecuted and lied about because you’re my followers. Be glad and joyful when this happens! Because a great reward awaits you in heaven.’ So the apostles rejoiced that God had given them the honour of suffering for the name of Jesus. And instead of being quiet and not talking about Him any more, they obeyed God and every day taught about Jesus in the Temple and from house to house, telling everyone: ‘The Messiah you’re looking for – is Jesus.’ (PAUSE)

Thanks to God’s blessing, the church was growing rapidly. But as it grew, there were rumblings of discontent! And Satan, the enemy of God’s people, showed that he was still at work, trying to destroy the new church with yet another attack. But this time, it was a much more subtle attack than the physical violence the apostles had faced before. This was an attack of distraction.

You see, Satan wanted to dull the sharp edge of the apostles’ effectiveness and he was going to try and do this by taking something good that the disciples were doing and causing them to concentrate on that good thing at the expense of the best thing, the thing that Jesus had actually called them to do, which was teaching people about Him!

If you remember, lots of gifts were being brought to the feet of the apostles to distribute to those in the church who had need – a really good thing. And, there was a lot of need! The apostles had taken charge of the distribution of these gifts. But this took time and effort; time and effort the apostles should’ve been using to tell more people about Jesus and for concentrating on prayer. And, as they tried to juggle all these responsibilities, things started to go wrong as one group of widows felt they were being overlooked in favour of another group.

There was a genuine danger of the early church splitting apart as the Greek-speaking group felt left out. That was exactly what Satan wanted – to see the early church broken apart and ineffective. But the Lord was still in control, looking after His church and helping the apostles realise what was happening and what needed to be done. And so a meeting of all believers was called!

Our job as apostles is to spend time preaching and teaching, not organising the distribution of food,’ they said. ‘So, to overcome this problem, we’d like you to choose seven men from amongst yourselves, men who are well respected, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. These men will be put in charge of the fair distribution of food so that we can spend our time in prayer and in preaching and teaching.’

This idea pleased everyone and they chose seven men who were from the group who felt left out – showing the love and solidarity that the rest of the church felt for the hurting group. These men, all with Greek names, were presented to the apostles by the whole assembly. The apostles prayed for them and laid their hands on them as a sign that God had called them to this important work.

So once again, the plans of Satan were thwarted and, instead of seeing the church become ineffective and torn apart, the church became stronger and the message of Jesus continued to spread in ever widening circles!

Episode NT22 – Lost and Found

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Luke chapter 15

Lost and Found

Lots of different people came to see Jesus, even the most despised people in the land like the treacherous tax collectors – who worked for the Romans against their own people. The lowest of the low came to Jesus, and much to the outrage of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, Jesus welcomed them, tax collectors and notorious sinners alike, even at times sharing a meal with them! (PAUSE)

The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law thought this behaviour of Jesus was disgraceful! Surely, knowing how evil these people were, He should be condemning them for their wickedness, not eating with them in their houses! And so they complained to Jesus that He was associating with such despicable people! (PAUSE – SIGH)

The simple truth was that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had misunderstood what Jesus was doing! He wasn’t saying that their evil behaviour was acceptable! Far from it! But to help the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law understand what was happening, He told them these stories. (PAUSE)

‘Tell me,’ He began. ‘If you had 100 sheep, and for some reason one of those precious sheep got lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the other 99 in a safe place and go and hunt high and low for the lost sheep until you found it? And when you’d found it, wouldn’t you carry it joyfully back home on your shoulders? Then, when you’d arrived back home you’d call your friends and neighbours to come over and celebrate the safe return of the lost sheep with you. Well, in the same way, there will be more happiness in heaven over the return of one lost sinner who comes back to God than over 99 others who’re righteous and have never strayed.’

‘Or how about this,’ He continued. ‘Suppose a woman has ten valuable coins and somehow loses one of them! Won’t she light a lamp and search in every corner of her house and sweep out even the smallest areas as she carefully searches for it? And when she finds it, won’t she call together her friends and neighbours to rejoice with her because – after a long search she’s found her lost coin! Well, in the same way, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who turns from their sin!’

Still not sure that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had understood the point He was trying to make, Jesus told them one last story: ‘There was a man who had two sons. One day the younger son said to his father, ‘I don’t want to wait! Give me my portion of your estate that I’d inherit when you die – now.’ The father agreed and divided his wealth between his two sons.’

‘A few days later the younger son packed up all his belongings and headed out for a distant land, and when he got there he spent all his money on wild living! (P) At about the same time as all his money ran out, a severe famine swept over the land and he began to starve. Looking for work, he managed to persuade a local farmer to hire him to feed his – pigs.’ As Jesus said this, a murmur swept around the crowd, a Jewish boy, feeding unclean pigs – could he fall any lower? But Jesus continued, ‘The boy was so hungry that he even thought about filling his own stomach with the pods he was feeding to the pigs. But no one gave him anything.’ Another round of shocked murmurs. Not only was this boy feeding unclean pigs; now he’d fallen so low he even thought about eating their food!

Jesus carried on, ‘When at long last he finally came to his senses, the boy said to himself, ‘Back home even the hired men have more than enough food, and here I am starving to death! I shall go home to my father and say to him, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, and I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Please, take me on as a hired servant.’’

‘So the young lad got up and started on the long walk home. But while he was still a long way from home, his father saw him coming. Filled to overflowing with love and compassion, the father ran to his son and gave him a great big hug and kiss.’ Yet another round of murmurs! It wasn’t the done thing for Jewish fathers to run – especially to a child who’d been so rebellious. But Jesus was still speaking. ‘Then the son, hardly daring to lift his eyes to meet his father’s said, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, and I’m no longer worthy to be called your son…’

‘But before he could finish, his father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring the best clothes you can find in the house and put them on my son. Get a gold ring for his figure, and sandals for his feet. And go and kill the calf we’ve been fattening up for a special celebration. We must have a feast to celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and now he has returned to life! He was lost, but now he’s found’ So the celebrations began.’

‘While all this was happening,’ Jesus continued, ‘the older son had been out in the fields working. When he returned home he heard music and dancing in the house! ‘What’s going on?’ he asked one of the servants.’

‘Your younger brother’s come back home,’ he replied. ‘And your father’s prepared a great feast! We’re celebrating his safe return.’

‘At hearing this, the older brother became angry and moody and refused to go in. So his father came out to beg him to come and join the party. But instead of joining in, he said to his father, ‘All these years I’ve been slaving for you, never disobeying your orders. And what did I get out of it? Nothing! You didn’t even give me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours comes home – after squandering your money on wicked living, you celebrate by killing the calf we’ve been fattening up for a special celebration!’’

‘”But son,’ his father replied, ‘you and I, we’re very close, everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate this special day. For your brother who was dead – is alive again. The one who was lost – has been found.'”’