Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7.55-56
Stephen was one of seven men who were chosen for the task of seeing to the daily distribution of food for the widows who were in need. He was well-attested, full of faith, of wisdom, and of the Holy Spirit. He was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. The Jews had argued with Stephen, but were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke, Acts 7.10. They instigated some men to claim that they had heard Stephen blaspheming against God. He was brought before the council.
Stephen gave his defense to the council in Acts 7. It is a brief history lesson of God’s people from Abraham to Jesus. At the end of his sermon, he charges the Jews with murdering Jesus and not obeying his words. After looking to heaven, he stated that he could see Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Reacting in fury, they took him out of the city and stoned him. He prayed for forgiveness for the Jews as they stoned him which is similar to the prayer of Jesus on the cross, Luke 23.34.
Stephen was a man that was killed because of his preaching to which others were resistant. He did not let the fury of the crowd stop him from teaching. May we be ready to follow his example.
#risingjoy #Acts #Stephen
“Do not, Lord, hold this sin against them.” The words of Stephen, as he was being pelted with stones, death stones we can call them. In my fifty years, and certainly in my twenty-seven years as a Christian, I have had some difficulty appreciating these words. Stephen knew that has he stood before the council (Acts 6:12) he had little opportunity for a fair “trial” to actuated. Yet, he stood there fully prepared for the verdict that, I imagine, he knew was against him already. He stood there looking out over the ones who would judge him unfairly. He stood there looking at the High Priest, and when the High Priest had bidden him, Stephen speaks. He spoke about those things “commonly believed” (Acts 7:1-50) and then he spoke about that which they dared not believe (Acts 7:51-53). This sent them into a rage and, in their rage, they saw to it that whatever pretense of fairness they were supposed to have was stripped away and exposed for what it was, but an ugly crowd with much hate in their heart for the one who died for them.
Stephen did not die for them, but he had on his lips the very words of our Lord when he said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). What would I say if in that position? Well, I am not sure; I am sure, however, that Stephen’s strength (as I interpret it) is something that I am still working on to strengthen in myself.
I have been thinking about our resurrection body lately. I read N. T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” and it caused me to review the subject again. John writes that when Jesus come, we will see Him as He is and we will be like Him. I believe this is in regard to the kind of body we will have in eternity. It was pre-revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration. Whereas before the incarnation, Jesus was Spirit without body – “God is Spirit”. But “inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same”. When Jesus was raised, the grave clothes were left behind. The body had been transformed and there was no further need not use for earthy clothing. We find the same thing happened when Elijah was caught up in the whirlwind. He left his clothes behind! (2 Kings 2:13). From this I conclude that his body was transformed as it was taken by the fire-horse driven chariot. When Stephen looked into heaven, he saw Jesus standing beside the glory of God. As for God, Stephen saw glory; as for Jesus, Stephen recognized Jesus. He recognized Jesus because His resurrected body was recognizable, as it had been before His ascension. Perhaps I am overstepping, but I do not believe so. Jesus has a body, the same body that was on earth but glorified and transformed, and that body is a model of what ours will be (1Jn 3:2). So here are a few thoughts offered to provoke more thought.
Randal, I’ve got to color outside the lines a bit on this one. My favorite “angelic appearance,” for obvious reasons, is found in Acts 6:15 –
“And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at [Stephen], saw his face as the face of an angel.”