Intro: In our passage today from the Book of Acts, Luke reminds us of how angry people can get if they do not want to hear the truth about Christ—God’s true Word. According to Luke, Stephen was led of the Lord to affirm the identity of Christ to the Jewish leaders. Stephen reminded them they killed the Son of God; it was not what they wanted to hear. The leaders were only interested in those who were willing to support their point of view. The Jews were filled with such rage as Stephen was speaking, they justified murder [breaking a command of God]. Without a trial, the Jews dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him in order to silence him.
During his ministry, Stephen never took his gaze off from Jesus and the work of the Kingdom. Even when it meant ending his earthly life, he stayed focused. We may not be opposed by evil the same way Stephen was, but you can be certain the enemy always wants to silence your proclamation and exaltation of Christ. So, don’t worry so much about what others think about your witness for Christ and share your love for him, anyway. Paul was opposed to Christ, but in God’s appointed time he became a great follower of the Lord. Maybe those who oppose us now will one day turn to Christ, too.
Acts 7:54-8:1 (TPT) Stephen Is Stoned to Death
54 When they heard these things, they were overtaken with violent rage filling their souls, and they gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, overtaken with great faith, was full of the Holy Spirit. He fixed his gaze into the heavenly realm and saw the glory and splendor of God—and Jesus, who stood up at the right hand of God.
56 “Look!” Stephen said. “I can see the heavens opening and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God to welcome me home!”
57 His accusers covered their ears with their hands and screamed at the top of their lungs to drown out his voice. 58 Then they pounced on him and threw him outside the city walls to stone him. His accusers, one by one, placed their outer garments at the feet of a young man named Saul of Tarsus.
59 As they hurled stone after stone at him, Stephen prayed, “Our Lord Jesus, accept my spirit into your presence.” 60 He crumpled to his knees and shouted in a loud voice, “Our Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” And then he died.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for this lesson and inspiration from Luke about Stephen. Some days we feel the opposition of your enemies, but no matter what life brings may we be faithful to stay focused on you and the work of your Kingdom. And, may we be willing to forgive our enemies or those who seek to persecute us. As we stay the course, may your Kingdom come soon, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.