Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart: https://sothrichfield.podbean.com/
Acts 6:8-15 (NIV)
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7:51-60 (NIV)
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Christians celebrate Dec. 26th as the “Feast of St. Stephen,” the day we remember the first Christian who died for his faith. (This is the day spoken of in the carol “Good King Wenceslas.”) Remembering Stephen on this day helps us remember that not everyone was pleased to have Christ come. When God shows up, some people will not accept God’s rule of love and grace. They will resist, even violently. It can be hard for Christians to accept this. We wonder why everyone doesn’t love Jesus. In those situations, we need to remember that deep down, we all want to be our own “lord,” we all want to be in charge. It takes a miracle of the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of faith, to thereby allow God to be lord in our lives. Stephen shows this beautifully, as he is given a glimpse of Christ reigning in heaven, which gives him the ability to forgive the people who are stoning him. Notice the detail in 7:57, where the persecutors “stop their ears.” This is showing how, in order to kill Stephen, they had to close their ears, so they wouldn’t hear him preaching the Gospel. This is a lesson for us to open our ears, so the Gospel can get in and save us!