Tuesday

“‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” (v. 56)

Acts 7:51-60 Tuesday 26 December 2017

Psalm: Psalm 13


Background

The story of Stephen is both short and powerful, all happening within Acts chapters 6 and 7. First, Stephen is chosen as one of seven people needed to free the Apostles for the “word of God” because they have been expected to “wait on tables” (Acts 6:2). So these seven, including Stephen are appointed to look after the Widows who were felt to be neglected by the Greek followers (Acts 6:1). This reads as if the lectionary has taken direct aim at the material excesses by the typical British Boxing Day.

Reading the account of Luke (the author of Acts), it is possible to imagine God being either amused or frustrated by this. Perhaps God felt the Apostles thought too much of themselves as the ones who needed to spread the word. Or maybe God is already concerned that the Christians are seeing spreading the good news as just being for a special few and wants to address that.

Anyway, immediately after being assigned the domestic duties, we discover that Stephen “full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). This got him arrested and we hear an amazing account of his wisdom and eloquence in the face of false witnesses and in front of the Council (Acts 7:1-53). He connects the history of the people of Israel with Jesus as the Messiah and in doing so becomes the focus of the opposition to the followers of Jesus. They decide to make an example of him and God responds with this incredible vision for him, which winds them up even more.

So they go to kill Stephen by stoning him and this is where we meet Saul (to become Paul) for the first time (verse 58-60).

As they kill him Stephen demonstrates both tremendous faith in Jesus (verse 59) and puts the example of Jesus into practice (verse 60) in terms of forgiveness and love for others.

The story of Stephen is a powerful challenge to what seems to be a common human desire to put people into boxes – to fix what they are gifted at and to assume that we don’t change, can’t adapt and are limited. That does not fit for Stephen. He gets chosen (by consensus) for trustworthiness and integrity to look after the practical care of others. However, it seems that God doesn’t want to restrict the spreading of his message to just the few ‘professionals’ and Stephen responds to that in a powerful way.


To Ponder

  • Do you feel that you are labelled or put in a box by others or yourself? What might God think of that?
  • Do you know other people who might need encouragement to see that they have gifts and calling by God?  What might you do to support them?
  • Are you frightened or excited when hearing of others being inspired by God? How might you recognise the Stephens among us?
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