Episode NT27 – Jesus Clears the Temple

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Matthew chapter 21 verses 12 to 32

Jesus Clears the Temple

DISCIPLE ANDREW ‘Hi, I’m Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, one of Jesus’ disciples. We’d seen Jesus come to Jerusalem with crowds singing His praises and throwing their cloaks on the ground before Him as He rode a young donkey. And just like us, we knew that the crowd thought Jesus was the Messiah who’d come to rule Israel and set us free from the Romans. (P) Funny thing that He should’ve chosen a young donkey to ride on though, because a warrior king would have chosen a warhorse. A donkey spoke more – about peace! But then again, Jesus kept trying to tell us that He wasn’t going to be the kind of Messiah we expected.’ (PAUSE)

‘When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, and the donkey had been sent home, Jesus went to the temple – the most Holy place in Israel. But when He got there He kind of went crazy – or so we thought. The temple was where all the sacrifices took place, and this was very important because when normal people, like us disciples, came to the temple, we would say sorry to God for our sins, and instead of us being put to death for our sins like the law demands – for all those who break God’s laws deserve to die – the animal was put to death in our place. When this happened, when the animal died in our place, God forgave us.’

‘But the leaders in the temple had worked out how to make lots of money from this. Firstly, they said that they had to provide the animals for sacrifice and so we had to buy them in the temple and not bring our own. Then, we weren’t allowed to use our own money to buy the animals. We had to exchange our own money for special temple money which we could then use to buy the animals and whatever else we needed. This way, the leaders and the chief priests made a lot of money out of the people as they came to try and worship God.’

‘Anyway, as I was saying, when Jesus arrived in the temple, He went kind of crazy – as in He got very angry!! I guess He must have seen what was going on, that the ordinary people were being cheated, and that all that mattered to the leaders was making money. First, Jesus drove out all the merchants and their customers! Then, and we couldn’t believe our eyes when He did this, He turned over the tables of the moneychangers, scattering both the temple money and the ordinary money all over the floor! Not only that, but He also knocked over the stalls of those who were selling doves for sacrifice, and then refused to let anyone into the temple who was bringing in merchandise of any type! And as He did this He shouted, ‘The Scriptures say, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!’’

‘We just watched – open-mouthed! This was going to cause real problems with the chief priests! But after Jesus had done this, showing how unhappy He was that the place for meeting God had become a place for making money – the blind and the lame came and found Him. They came to Him in the temple and He healed them all!’

‘The chief priests and teachers of the law saw all these wonderful miracles and, to their disgust, as Jesus healed these people, some children started shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David.’’

‘‘Have you heard what these children are saying?’ they asked, furiously.’

‘’Yes, I have,’ Jesus replied. ‘But haven’t you read what the Scriptures say? They say, ‘From the mouths of children and infants you have prepared praise.’ After this, we went back to Bethany and stayed there overnight.’ (PAUSE)

‘Next morning as we headed back to Jerusalem I felt sure Jesus would be in trouble with the chief priests and teachers of the law for the way He’d cleared out the temple, so when we arrived I wasn’t surprised to see a group of them waiting to talk to Him. ‘By whose authority did you drive out the merchants from the Temple yesterday? they demanded. ‘Who gave you this authority?’’

 ‘Jesus looked at the group of them but instead of answering their question, He asked one of His own. ‘I will tell you who gave me the authority to do all these things if you can answer one simple question. John’s baptism, did it come from heaven or was it merely a human thing?’’

‘The group huddled together to discuss the problem through. ‘What’re we going to say?’ they asked. ‘If we say it was a heavenly thing, then Jesus will ask us why we didn’t believe John. And, if we say it was a human thing, the crowd’ll mob us because they’re convinced John was a prophet.’ So after some more discussion they said to Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’’

‘’Well then,’ replied Jesus. ‘I won’t answer your question either! Instead,’ He continued, ‘think about this. A man with two sons told his older son, ‘Son, would you go and do some work in the field for me today?’ The son replied, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ But later on he changed his mind and went and did what his father had asked him to do. Then, the father went and found his other son and said the same thing to him. ‘Yes, of course, I’ll go,’ said the younger son. But in fact, he didn’t go at all. (P) Which of the two sons obeyed their father?’’

‘‘The first one of course,’ answered the group of chief priests and teachers of the law.’

‘Then looking at them closely Jesus explained the meaning of the story: ‘I’ll tell you a fact!’ He said, ‘Corrupt tax collectors and all kinds of wicked people are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you! For John came and showed you the way of being right with God, and you didn’t believe him. But the tax collectors and wicked people did, and have become right with God themselves – turning away from their sins! And even after you saw this, you still refused to turn from your sins and believe him.’’

Episode 11 – Abraham – Too much to ask?

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 22 verses 1 – 14

Abraham – Too much to ask?

By the time Abraham’s son Isaac was born, Abraham was an old man. For many years he and his wife Sarah had waited for God to keep His promise that they would have a son. And, when it seemed that there was no hope they’d ever have a child, God visited Abraham and Sarah and promised they’d have a son within a year. And sure enough, a year later their precious son Isaac was born.

Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac with all their hearts. Through Him God had said He would keep His other promises to Abraham … to make a great nation from his children’s children, to bless all nations through his descendants … to one day deal with the problem of evil and death once and for all. Isaac was the child through whom these promises would be passed on. And he was very precious to his parents. (P)

Over the years Abraham had learnt to trust God whatever happened. When, in the past, he’d not listened to God and tried to deal with problems in his own way, it’d led to disaster. But when he obeyed God, even when it was hard, things worked out. So, Abraham learned from his mistakes and became the friend of God.

Isaac was growing up to be a fine young man and God saw how much Abraham loved him. So God decided He would test Abraham to see if he loved God most of all. He was going to ask Abraham to do something very difficult. If Abraham obeyed God and did it, He’d know Abraham loved Him more than anything else. But if Abraham didn’t do it, He’d know Abraham didn’t really love Him as much as he should.

‘Abraham.’ God’s voice was like that of an old friend.

‘Yes, my Lord.’

‘Abraham, take your son Isaac whom you love so very much…’

Abraham listened even more closely now because God was talking about Isaac. ‘Take your son Isaac to the land of Moriah.’ (Moriah was a 3 day walk away.) ‘When you get there I will show you a mountain. On that mountain I want you to sacrifice Isaac. Kill him and burn his body as an offering to me.’

Kill his son? Kill Isaac through whom God had said He was going to keep His promises? How could this be? Surely Abraham wasn’t going to do such a horrible and evil thing. How could he live with himself? … What about God’s promises? … It simply didn’t make any sense.

As these thoughts rushed through Abraham’s mind, he also knew he couldn’t stop trusting God. Through all these years God had faithfully looked after him and his family. It hadn’t always been easy, but God had never let them down. Abraham knew that even though he couldn’t understand why God wanted this, he could still trust Him. God had spoken, and Abraham was going to obey.

Early the next morning, Abraham woke Isaac. ‘God’s asked us to go and offer Him a sacrifice. We have to travel to Moriah so we need an early start. Come on, let’s get some wood.’

The journey to Moriah was long and slow. Abraham traveled much of the way in silence, and with each step he offered a silent prayer to God, trying to understand why God should ask him to kill his son. God had said that the promises He’d given Abraham would be passed on through Isaac. But how could they if Isaac was dead? Round and round the questions went in Abraham’s head. He pleaded with God to let him understand, but God remained silent as Abraham took each painful step of the journey, with the knife dangling at his side as a constant reminder of what was to come.

After three days traveling they saw the mountain Isaac was to be sacrificed on. The small party stopped and Abraham took some wood and put it on Isaac’s back.

‘Stay here,’ Abraham said to the servants who’d come with them. ‘The boy and I are going to go on to worship God. When we’ve finished we’ll come back to you here.’

What was Abraham saying? How could he and the boy ‘come back’ when he was going to sacrifice Isaac? What was going through the old man’s mind?

After they’d walked a while in silence, Isaac asked, ‘Dad, I’ve brought the wood, and you’ve got the knife, but where’s the lamb we’re going to sacrifice?’

The old man, who’s heart felt so heavy that he struggled to take each step, looked across at his dear son. (P) ‘Don’t worry Isaac,’ he said, ‘God’ll provide.’

When they got to the mountain they looked for a suitable place to make the sacrifice. ‘How about here Dad?’ Isaac had found the right place.

‘It looks fine to me son.’ Abraham was so proud of his son. ‘Let’s get some stones to make the altar.’ The two of them collected some rocks to make a small platform, and then Abraham took the wood and placed it on top.

What they talked about as they made the altar and arranged the wood, I don’t know. Isaac was no longer a small child, but a young man. And Abraham was no longer a young man, being well over 100.

Isaac must have seen it coming. He could’ve struggled or run away, but he didn’t. When Abraham came to tie him up and lay him on the altar, Isaac trusted his father. Somehow he must have known, like his father, that God was in control. (P)

In the quietness of that mountain clearing a young lad lay, bound and unable to move, on a small pile of sticks, heaped on top of a small pile of rocks. Beside him, his father, tears rolling down his face, started to kneel as he forced himself on, to obey God’s terrible request. Both looked at each other – a father asked to do the impossible – a son, trusting beyond what he could see or even understand. Both knew it was what God had asked and both trusted that God would still keep His promises even though it looked as if it was about to become impossible.

The old man ran his trembling hand lovingly through his son’s hair. He felt so old now, so old and alone. – But even though he felt alone, he knew that God was with him.

Abraham’s hand reached for the knife, his eyes never leaving those of his son. With an almost superhuman effort he pulled the knife up. Then, tearing his eyes away from Isaac’s, his body tensed – and with a deep breath…

‘Abraham – Abraham.’ God’s voice boomed out across the mountain breaking Abraham’s concentration.

‘Yes … I’m – I’m listening.’

‘Stop, don’t hurt the boy! Put the knife down because now I know that above anything else you love me. When I asked, you didn’t hold back what was more precious to you than anything else … your only son Isaac.’

Quickly the old man untied the ropes and hugged his son, the two of them laughing and crying with joy. – Even though the boy hadn’t actually died, it was just as if Abraham had received him back from the dead.

Then, looking over behind the small altar they’d made, Abraham saw a sheep caught by its horns in a bush. (P) God had supplied the sacrifice after all.

Episode 3 – Cain & Abel

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 4

Cain & Abel 

When God first made men and women, He didn’t intend that they should ever die. He hoped they would love Him and obey Him and live with Him in perfect harmony for all eternity. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, that all changed.

God had warned Adam and Eve of the terrible results of disobeying His simple command not to eat the fruit. And, exactly as God had warned, when they ate the fruit – death came into the world. Now one day everyone must die. But even worse than that, since Adam and Eve’s disobedience, men and women had stopped knowing God properly and doing the things that made Him happy – because of the evil that now lived inside them. (PAUSE)

During Adam and Eve’s lifetime they had many sons and daughters. But it’s not all these sons and daughters I want to tell you about, it’s their first son Cain and what happened between him and his younger brother Abel, that interest me!

As they grew up, Cain and Abel both became farmers. Cain worked in the fields, growing all kinds of grain, vegetables and fruit. While Abel decided to work with animals and became a shepherd looking after sheep.

And although Adam and Eve had broken their relationship with God, and things weren’t how they were supposed to be. God hadn’t been forgotten and He still spoke with Adam and Eve and their children. So Cain and Abel grew up knowing God and that they still needed to show respect to Him and gratitude for all He did. So when harvest time came the two of them decided that they ought to give a sacrifice to God – a special gift to show that they hadn’t forgotten Him and that they were grateful for all He’d given them.

Abel spent quite some time deciding what it was he should bring God to say ‘thank you’. And after much thought, he decided he should give something precious. Something valuable and important to show God how much He meant to Abel. (P) As a shepherd, the most important thing Abel had were his sheep, and the most valued sheep he had were the young lambs of the best sheep in the flock – healthy lambs without anything wrong with them. If Abel gave God something as important as that, surely it would show just how grateful he was. And so Abel brought several of his best lambs to God.

Meanwhile, as it was harvest time, Cain knew that he really ought to be giving something to God as a ‘thank you’ for the wonderful crops he’d just harvested. But what to bring? (P) Well – did it really matter what he brought? Wasn’t it all the same to God anyway? (P) So instead of thinking about it and making sure he brought something that would please God, Cain rummaged through what he could find easily and brought that! (PAUSE)

You know, God doesn’t just look at the gifts we bring Him, He looks at the attitude we have as we bring Him our gifts. It’s easy to give something to God that doesn’t cost much, but it’s much harder to bring something to God that costs a great deal! Abel loved God, and because of that he gave God something that cost him a lot. But Cain didn’t really care and only gave a bit of what he had. Just enough to show that he’d ‘done his duty’!

 When God saw what Abel had brought Him, He accepted both Abel and his gift. But when He saw what Cain had given – He rejected Cain – and his gift – because Cain hadn’t treated God with the respect He deserved. (P) But when Cain realised that Abel and his gift had been accepted – while he and his gift had been rejected – you could tell by his face how angry and upset he was. (PAUSE)

So God spoke to Cain.

‘Why are you so angry Cain?’ God asked. ‘Why do you look so miserable? It doesn’t have to stay like this! You can change things if you act in the right way! (P) But watch out! Because if you refuse to act in the right way, the evil desires of sin are waiting to take you captive and destroy you! You mustn’t let that happen, you must fight against these evil desires and make sure they don’t ruin your life!’

But Cain wouldn’t listen. And now everyone would see how terrible the curse of death really was!

‘Hey Abel! You up for a walk in the fields?’

‘Yeah sure Cain, I could do with a change of scene, let’s go!’

But Cain didn’t care about a change of scene – all he wanted to do was get rid of his ‘perfect’ little brother! And in his jealousy and rage he attacked and murdered Abel where he thought no one could see – leaving Abel’s lifeless body in a pool of blood in a lonely field.

Sin was beginning to show how terrible it was with the first ever murder, coming from Cain’s bitterness and jealously. It didn’t need to happen, if only Cain hadn’t been so proud and, and, asked God to help him do what was right. But Cain only cared about himself, he didn’t care about God anymore! The desires of sin, to put himself first and do exactly what he wanted, had taken him over. And now Adam and Eve, Abel’s father and mother, would really know how terrible the curse of death was – the curse they’d brought into the world by disobeying God’s command. – It’d cost them their son! (PAUSE)

But Cain had been mistaken to think no one had seen what he’d done, because God watches everything we do. (P) He spoke to Cain, ‘Where’s your brother? Where’s Abel?’

‘How on earth on should I know,’ replied Cain angrily. ‘Am I supposed to keep track of his every movement?’

But you can’t fool God. ‘What have you done Cain?’ He asked. ‘I hear the blood of your brother Abel crying out to me from the ground! (P) And now you must be punished for this evil thing you have done. (P) I hereby banish you from your home and from the ground you have made unclean with your own brother’s blood. This ground will no longer produce wonderful harvests for you – no matter how hard you work. From this time on you will become a homeless wanderer going from place to place!’

But still, even as God told Cain his punishment, Cain wouldn’t say sorry for the evil thing he’d done. He didn’t seem to care that he’d murdered his own brother! All he could do was complain about the harshness of his punishment without any concern or sorrow for the life he’d taken.

‘This is too much God! I can’t cope with this! You’ve banished me from my homeland and from your presence and now you’re making me a wandering fugitive. Surely anyone who sees me now will try ‘n kill me?’

But still God cared for poor foolish Cain even though Cain wouldn’t turn back and say sorry and be forgiven. (P) ‘They won’t kill you Cain,’ He said. ‘For I will give seven times your punishment to anyone who does.’ And then to protect Cain, and to warn anyone else who might wish to kill him – not to, God placed a special mark on Cain as a warning.

And in His love God also remembered Eve in the loss of her son Abel, and some time later gave her another son. She named him Seth which means ‘granted’, because when he was born she said, ‘God has granted me another son in place of Abel’. And it was one of Seth’s descendants who many years later found himself in very deep water! But that’s another story!