george hancockstefanOne of the verses that show the resolve of Jesus is written by Luke in his gospel, verse 9:51.  I like the Revised Standard Version which reads, “When the day drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  One may remember there were other occasions when Jesus’ brothers told Him to go to Jerusalem and He told them His time had not arrived.  This resoluteness is marked by the arrival in Jerusalem – or the beginning of the Holy Week that has at one end, Palm Sunday, and at the other, the Resurrection Sunday.

During His ministry, Jesus talks about the purpose of His coming. He says that He came to give His life as a ransom for many, and that He came to die in Jerusalem, but these two aspects are never separated from His resurrection.  He says that like a seed, unless it dies, it cannot produce, and that when He will be lifted up, (meaning His death on the cross), He will bring many sons to glory.   He talks of the hour of darkness, that time when darkness will be at its deepest, when the souls of men will be tested, when friends will betray and deny, when He will feel that He has been forsaken, but in the midst of that, He tells His disciples to be of good cheer, because He has overcome.

In the first two centuries of Christianity, there was something unique about those who were thrown in the Roman arenas to be devoured by the ferocious animals.  They were not cursing or jeering, but rather, they often sang songs as they were lead to their deaths.  It is these deaths that impressed Tertullian, who wrote that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.  As the church was brought into existence by the blood and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so the church continued to develop through the willing sacrifice of the martyrs.  For they, like Jesus, were not only seeing the sacrifice, but were able to see the power of resurrection.

In the last book of the Bible, Revelations, we are introduced to the march of the martyrs.  Jesus is introduced as the faithful one and He is followed by those who are also called the faithful.  Among the characteristics of this group is that they wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went and did not love their own lives.  They were willing to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  This was not because they did not enjoy living on this earth, but because when the hour came, and there was a divine call on their lives, to love God more than life, they set their faces towards the place where God was calling them and there was no turning back.

In the midst of the palms and the parade hoopla, we miss the resolve of Jesus to go to the cross.  In the midst of human rights and civil rights, in the midst of the benefits that government and society should accord to us, we forget the calling of Jesus, who has called us to take our crosses as He took His and went all the way to Golgotha – outside the city gates, to suffer in our place.  He invites us to do likewise.


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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...