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Acts 7:54-8:3 (ESV)
The Stoning of Stephen
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Saul Ravages the Church
8 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Why are Stephen’s listeners so enraged?
Stephen stood up to those who were using their power to intimidate and eliminate anyone who believed in You. Stephen outlined a pattern in Jewish behavior that would lead to the rejection of the Savior. It is amazing that Stephen was so completely filled with the knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. He preached the truth in Christ instead of defending himself, knowing the potential outcome. It was too much for them that Jesus represented himself as the long-expected Messiah, but when Stephen began preaching the “spiritual body” of the risen Lord as the true temple of God, that was enough to send them into a frenzy of vicious hatred. This turned into a mob scene, as Stephen exposed their wicked hearts. We have experienced mob scenes driven by vicious hatred. History has a way of repeating itself. This unrest and chaos are not new to You. Nothing is a surprise to You. You are bigger than chaos. Let that give me comfort, hope, and encouragement. Fill me with the knowledge of Your Word so that I can speak it wisely like Stephen. Give me the courage of Stephen to stand up to those who threaten my freedoms, realizing that I may suffer for it but resting assured in my future in You. Let me boldly proclaim Your message of love and salvation in the face of those who try to take that right to worship You away. Let people not fall for their schemes but instead expose their evil hearts for all to see. Let people of all races, economic standing, and political ideals come together in peace and unity to save our country and our individual freedoms to share Your love together. Allow people to have civil conversations and have respect for each other. You gave us free will and created us all as individuals. The power of diversity in unity is greater than the power of hatred and destruction. Guide us, lead us, give us Your strength and boldness to proclaim Your glory to all the world through any opposition. You are in control. Let us trust in You for eternity. Amen