The martyrdom of Stephen

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Acts 7:59 “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”

Extra Reading: Acts 7:51-8:2

Stephen was an amazing man of God. He was committed to serving his Lord to death. When he finished his defense to the Jewish council, he boldly questioned them as to why they resisted the arrangements of God as their forefathers had resisted Moses and the prophets. He said, “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (vv.51-53). You would agree with me when I say that this was very provocative!

The council’s reaction to Stephen’s words was that of extreme anger. The Bible says, “When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him” (v.54). They were deeply moved with emotion. The evil intents of their hearts were now fully displayed against Stephen, even though he had only spoken to them truth from the Word of God.  As the anger of the Jewish leaders reached a climax, Stephen was reassured. We are told that he looked up to heaven and saw, in a vision, “the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” He then told those gathered, “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (v.56). This vision gave reassurance and comfort to Stephen that God was pleased with the witness he had given.  Such reassurance was given at the right time because he was immediately stoned to death thereafter. Stephen’s last words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them. When he had said this, he fell asleep” (v.60). The person who was impacted the most by this incident was Saul, who after this incident was converted and became the “Apostle to the Gentiles”.

Prayer: Father God, may our commitment to Jesus impact many lives around us. Give us the grace to follow in Stephen’s example. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Rev. Samuel N. Modise                  2013