"In September 1999 Pastor Tuy Seng (not his real name) traveled to Kampong Thom Province in northern Cambodia. Throughout that isolated area, most villagers had cast their lot with Buddhism or spiritism. Christianity was virtually unheard of.
"But much to Seng's surprise, when he arrived in one small, rural village the people warmly embraced him and his message about Jesus. When he asked the villagers about their openness to the gospel, an old woman shuffled forward, bowed, and grasped Seng's hands as she said, "We have been waiting for you for twenty years." And then she told him the story of the mysterious God who had hung on the cross.
"In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge, the brutal, Communist-led regime, took over Cambodia, destroying everything in its path. When the soldiers finally descended on this rural, northern village in 1979, they immediately rounded up the villagers and forced them to start digging their own graves. After the villagers had finished digging, they prepared themselves to die. Some screamed to Buddha, others screamed to demon spirits or to their ancestors.
"One of the women started to cry for help based on a childhood memory—a story her mother told her about a God who had hung on a cross. The woman prayed to that unknown God on a cross. Surely, if this God had known suffering, he would have compassion on their plight.
"Suddenly, her solitary cry became one great wail as the entire village started praying to the God who had suffered and hung on a cross. As they continued facing their own graves, the wailing slowly turned to a quiet crying. There was an eerie silence in the muggy jungle air. Slowly, as they dared to turn around and face their captors, they discovered that the soldiers were gone.
"As the old woman finished telling this story, she told Pastor Seng that ever since that humid day from 20 years ago the villagers had been waiting, waiting for someone to come and share the rest of the story about the God who had hung on a cross."
Reading this, I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Gospel of John (12:32-33): "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Ron Hutchcraft comments on this in a piece titled God's Wooden Magnet. He says, "Strip away all the Christianity, and all the rituals, and all the steeples, and all the creeds and you're down to what this is really the issue - the God who hung on the cross."
As we approach Easter, it is important to remember that Jesus was lifted up on a cross. But it is even more important to remember why He was lifted up on that cross. Earlier, in John’s Gospel (3:14-17), Jesus had said:
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Jesus, God's one and only Son, hung on a cross and gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people who have ever lived, including you and me. Three days later, He arose from the grave and overcame not only sin but death itself. And that is the message of the Gospel.
Given that Easter is approaching, we will probably have plenty of opportunities to share that message. When this happens, we must remember that our job as believers is not so much to direct individuals to church as it is to direct individuals to the cross. Once they grasp just Who it was that died upon that cross, and why He died there, their life will invariably be changed.
Rosser's and Vaughn's story is recounted widely on the internet.