george_hancockstefanIn the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John we find a detailed description of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. The Sanhedrin, the political and spiritual leadership of the Jewish nation, came together and decided to kill Jesus. John put it succinctly in v. 53: So from that day forward they plotted to take his life.  While John highlights this evidence in the Holy Week, in the Gospel of Mark (as in other gospels) we find it at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. In the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark we are introduced to the calling of the apostles and a couple of miraculous healings.  It is as a result of a healing on the day of Sabbath, that the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees culminates in v. 6 where Mark writes: Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

In a couple of instances Jesus directly asks them: “Why are you trying to kill me?” (John 7:19) and concludes in 8:40 “As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.”

When we are looking at the actions of Jesus and the speeches of Jesus, one can conclude that they were good.  The healed people rejoiced that they were healed, the people rejoiced that there was among them a prophet that had such powers, yet the leadership plotted against him.  When Jesus spoke the multitudes were drawn to him because he has spoken as one who had authority.

The concern of the leadership was not for the healing of the nation, nor for finding the truth, but for their ability to retain their power. The evangelists highlight the fact that they were afraid that if all the people began to follow Jesus, what were they going to do? If Jesus became the leader, they had to become one of the multitudes.

From this perspective of self-preservation and selfishness they came with all sorts of rationalizations.  It was true that Jesus was healing, but he was breaking the Sabbath even though the law allowed healings to happen on the Sabbath. It is true that from the time he was 12 years old he was a spellbinding teacher, yet they antagonized the people by saying that Jesus Christ was teaching the destruction of the temple.


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In the book of Genesis we are introduced to two people that come to bring their sacrifices – Cain and Abel. Because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while his was not, Cain killed his brother. I was always fascinated by that crossroad point – when a brother becomes a murderer. The dislike that turns into hate and the hate that turns into murder. And while few commit physical murder many people commit character assassination in which many people are destroyed for the simple fact that goodness and sound teaching cannot be accepted.

In this Lent Season let us all evaluate our hearts to see how we react when we see good things happening and when we see truth being presented.  Do we welcome it even though it may be our demotion or do we join Cain, the Pharisee and the Herodians in plotting against the one/s who are doing good works and are bringing the truth?

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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...