george_hancockstefanJesus Christ’s choosing of the 12 disciples who became known as the apostles is presented with great care.  Jesus prayed the whole night and when morning came, he chose 12 disciples from the many people that followed Him. This choice was full of symbolism – 12 children of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples.  Was this a declaration that something new was started or was this a continuation of what has began with Patriarch Abraham, the man who left everything to follow the directions of God?

These 12 men were with Jesus during his earthly ministry.  These 12 were there to see his every move – to experience with Him rejection and affection, feasts and famine, to dream of the future and experience the pain of the present.  The diversity of hope was exemplified by the sons of Zebedee who expected Jesus to be victorious over the Roman legions and restore the Davidic Kingdom of Israel; by the two who traveled on the Road to Emmaus and hoped that He will restore the nation of Israel; by Judas who somehow felt that Jesus did not deliver what he expected from Him and by Peter who felt that he could persuade Jesus to change his message.

We are not sure when in the chronology of time Jesus started to talk to his disciples about the tripartite message – suffering, death (burial) and resurrection.  However, what comes across the pages of the Scripture was that this message was completely weaved together.  Jesus never talked about these things separately– they were always one topic.

Some of his friends were afraid that he will be killed in Galilee, but he assured them that he can only be killed in Jerusalem.  All the opposition that came during his ministry was preparatory for what he will experience in Jerusalem where the governing bodies – religious and governmental – will unite to kill Him.

The message is always consistent.  The Son of Man must suffer, this suffering will produce His death, but death will not have the final say over Him. He will rise from the dead and that will be His victory.  However, none of the parts should be minimized.  John the Baptist sees Him as the Lamb of God who takes upon Himself the sins of the world.  As one looks at what are known as the Last Seven Words uttered from the cross, we see that it starts with granting forgiveness and then experiencing human thirst, loving emotion for his mother and finally feeling forsaken by his heavenly Father.  The last two words are summative – “It is finished” and “Into thine hands I commit my spirit.” With these last words, the Apostle John said that Jesus died.

The gospels use a good portion of text to state that Jesus was dead. His death was confirmed by the Roman soldiers who pierced his side and by his friends who came to bury him.  His death is confirmed by the women who on the first day of the week return to the tomb to continue the preparations that they were not able to finish on Friday.  The 12 disciples (minus Judas) were completely distraught and all of them left the area. They left Jerusalem for the safety of Galilee.  In fact, one can even argue that Judas committed suicide because Jesus was dead.

Without the resurrection from the dead on Sunday, what happened on Friday when the perfect sacrifice of the lamb was given would not have produced our salvation. Paul says that it is of first importance “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to Scriptures and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Paul continues the unity of the story – Christ suffered, Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rose from the dead.  One story happens over three days.

This Easter season, find a way to tell the story, but do not leave any part untold.  The perfect story of sacrifice and salvation needs each part and each day to make it complete.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...