Stephen at the Sanhedrin. He sets them up, nodding along as he happily retells the old testament stories that they are so familiar with. Then, he knocks them down. You know, any sentence that starts with, “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?” I think he missed the Dale Carnegie course, but then again they had already chosen their sides and Stephen chose the wiser of the friends to win with.
13. a. Acts 7:1–38: Stephen professes the old testament story, from God first appearing to Abraham up to Moses receiving the law of the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai. Moses points to “the prophet”.
b. Acts 7:39–50 He discusses the disobedience of God’s chosen people, beginning with the golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He then turns to the house of God from the tabernacle to the time of David and the building of the temple by Solomon. Which, while blessed by God, He (God) also was clear to explain that He is not contained within the walls of the temple, but is much bigger.
c. Acts 7:51–53 – Let’s just call this: the smack down to end all smack downs. Stephen just spent 49 verses lulling his audience, the high priest and court, into a their comfort zone, then, like Hansome Harley Race of the days gone by, he comes flying off the top rope with a pile driver right to some un-named ‘zoid muscle area. Smack down central!
14. a They indicated he had spoken words of blashemy against Moses and against God. Blasphemy means, by definition, to speak disrepectful (unpiously) of God. Stephen demonstrates to the Sanhedrin that he clearly knows the facts of Moses and of God and He provides the greatest respect and piety to them. However, he holds nothing back in pointing out his disrepect and disdain for the Church leaders, yo momma (ok, in this case, yo daddy) and all of the ways they have dishonored God, the law, Moses and the prophets.
b. Stephen’s comments to the Sanhedrin are founded in scripture. With an angelic voice, for 49 verses there is nothing they disagree with or would argue with. Then, he pulls back the covers and shows how they are failing to live by what they claim to believe. In contrast, the Sanhedrin doesn’t even quabble. While Stephen patiently replied with a discussion that was analytical, collected and concise. Their response is emotional, animalistic and banal. He lays out in 49 verses the teaching of the old testament. In contrast they:
15. The heavens are opened to Stephen’s view and he observes Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father
16. a. I think he felt it, but not in the way you and I would feel someone throwing stones at us. In other words, I don’t think he was numb or unaware. He was fully aware and prayed for those throwing the stones. Did he feel pain? I’m not sure he cared.
c. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
I have known and admired Stephen for being the first martyr of the faith. But as I read the scriptures today I realized that, while that is important, it is minimized by the way this man lived. Here is what we know. He was filled by the spirit and with wisdom. He served the body of believers jobfully. He was, without question, not ashamed of the gospel. He spoke with boldness, authority and knowledge. He did not pull any punches in calling evil by its name and in praising God my his name. He stood, with 2 feet on this earth and looked up into the heavens and saw the face of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Give me a life lived like that and you are more than welcomed to throw stones at me.
I fortunately started my bible study early today, and had a chance to review what I wrote before posting. Maybe I’m not at a faith level to pray for stoning, yet, and maybe I got a bit carried away. But I hope you understand my sentiment. Who among us wouldn’t die to have the faith and life that Stephen had? Can I, on even my best day, say that others look at me, my friends, not to mention my enemies, and see the face of an angel?