george_hancockstefanIn the well-known song How Great Thou Art, my favorite verse is “And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in; that on the cross my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin; then sings my soul my Savior God to Thee, how great thou art, how great thou art.”

Starting with the Ash Wednesday reminders of our mortality until the Resurrection Sunday, we are looking at the price that God paid for our redemption. The parables that Jesus used, the intimate conversations that he had with his disciples, and the confrontational conversations he had with the religious leaders all point towards the cross.  Christ remarks that He came into this world to give his life as a ransom for many, that a prophet cannot die in any other place than Jerusalem, that he will die and on the third day he rise again. The description of him setting his face towards Jerusalem and the statement that when he is lifted up, he will draw all men to him, demonstrate without a shadow of doubt that the cross featured prominently in the plan of God for humanity.

The world in the time of Jesus (and the world in our time would not be better!) wanted to get rid of Jesus. The religious people of that day told Jesus that he cast out demons with the power of Beelzebub. Jesus showed that this type of logic was nonsensical – the Devil will not cast himself out. It is in that context that Jesus tells the Pharisees that all sins will be forgiven, but sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age or in the age to come.  It is interesting that after Jesus Christ is crucified, the religious leaders use another term which was reserved for the Devil.  “Sir, we remember that while he was alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he was raised from the dead.  This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:63-64)

The crucified Christ becomes a magnet for all sinners.  It is on the cross that Jesus Christ bled and died to take away the sins of the whole world. The cross is lifted high because it is there that I see how sinful I am and in that cross I see the infinite mercy and love of God.

Among the preachers, there are some who try to go through the Holy Week as fast as possible in order to avoid the cruelty of the cross and the explanation of how this fit in the salvation plan of God.  There are others who speed from the empty tomb because they are concerned with the evangelism of the world.  However, the cross and the empty tomb are a part of the same tapestry.  You cannot have one without the other. In fact, you cannot evangelize the world without a thorough understanding of the cross and the resurrection.


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During this Lenten season, travel with Jesus as you are reading the Gospels. See his certitude as he looks at the cross, experience some of the conflict and pain, and see that He has been crucified in your place, the Sinless one for all the sinners of the world.

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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...