Sunday 26 December 2010

Bible Book:

] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."(v. 55)

Acts 7:51-60 Sunday 26 December 2010


Today is St Stephen's Day and this passage from the Acts of theApostles is the account of his being stoned to death as the firstChristian martyr. 

Stephen is one of the seven appointed to serve the new Christiancommunity in Jerusalem by helping in the distribution of food (Acts6:1-6). However, he soon becomes known as a powerful preacher(Acts 6:8-10), and it is this which brings himto the attention of the Jewish authorities and leads to his beinghauled before their Council (Acts6:12). 

In his speech before the Council (Acts7:1-53), Stephen charges their leaders with persecuting andkilling Jesus in just the same way as they mistreated the prophetsbefore him. This rouses them to a fury, even more so when Stephengoes on to bear witness to Jesus' resurrection, saying, in wordswhich echo the prophecy of Daniel (Daniel7:13-14), that he sees the heavens opened and "the Son of Manstanding at the right hand of God" (verse 56). Enraged, they rushout to stone him, the legal punishment for blasphemy. 

However Acts also records that the witnesses to his stoning laytheir coats at the feet of a young man named Saul (verse 58) who,it is said, "approved of their killing him" (Acts8:1). This is the same Saul who will shortly undergo his ownconversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts9:1-19). Much of the rest of the Acts of the Apostles is takenup by accounts of his subsequent missionary work, but now known asPaul, the 'apostle to the Gentiles' (non Jews) (Romans11:13). 

To Ponder

Stephen dies bearing witness to the death andResurrection of Jesus and his saint's day comes the day after wecelebrate Christ's birth. How important is it to hold together bothChristmas and Easter in our faith?

Saul is a witness to the stoning of Stephen. Howmight this have affected his own future experience of conversionand ministry?

Are there experiences in our own life and faithwhich we have only come to make sense of, and in some sense to bearfruit, many years later? What are they?

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