“Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. ….. As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees shouting, “Lord don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that he died.”
Acts 7:57 -60
Today’s story is set in a time where, after Christ’s resurrection and accession, the Roman Empire and the Sanhedrin where clamping on down on ‘Christianity’ or on followers of ‘the way’. Not only did they see Christianity as a threat (because it challenged a lot of their corrupt views and comforts) but they saw an opportunity to dissipate ‘the church’ because their leader was no longer. Yet what they failed to realise is that like Stephen, the early church Christians served a King was Kingdom would and will never end. A King who cannot be defeated. And a King who was and is still alive. Standing up for this truth however, had great consequences.
None more so than the first Christian Martyr, Stephen. Stephen was arrested by the leaders of the high council (Pharisees, Scribes and High Priest) and was falsely accused of blaspheming Moses and God. As he was brought before the council, he stood up, with his face shining as bright as an angel’s, and plainly spoke the truth: the truth that God had been faithful to a people that throughout history rejected Him time and time again, yet in His grace, God sent Jesus the Redeemer to forgive and to restore humanity’s relationship with the Father.
This truth, coupled with Stephen’s vision of seeing Jesus in Heaven, drove the Jewish leaders mad. Full of rage, they dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen had stood up for truth and it cost him his life.
Would you risk your life by standing up for truth? Would you risk being laughed at or ‘un-popular’ because you believe in the truth of the gospel? May the Lord grant us the same boldness and courage that Stephen had when we are face with trials and tribulations of all kinds, but above all, may we, as Stephen did, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we stand up for His truth.