Posts Tagged ‘martyr’

The Stoning of Stephen

Today’s lectionary text is found in Acts 7:54-8:1a and is the stoning of Stephen.

I don’t know if its would be considered “proper” to call this particular story exciting as a whole. After all, it is about the violent killing of a person. The fact that Stephen is a believer in Christ is irrelevant to the violence that is done to him here, though admittedly, the fact that he is a believer in Christ, and a very vocal one at that, has led to the stoning itself. Now, all that being said, there are some exciting aspects of the story. Namely a few things that jump out at me as significant and worth taking a look at.

For one thing, history tells us that Stephen is the first Christian martyr. Now, in my head this could be debatable, but it’s like a question of semantics to do so. The Bible narrative does list Stephen as the first believer in Christ to be martyred, but I find myself wondering if its acceptable to consider Jesus himself a martyr. He certainly died for his beliefs after all. But again, maybe I’m jumping at shadows when I allow myself to go down that road.

What’s more important to recognize here is that Stephen, when he is martyred, actually seems to have a lot of really amazing things happening.  For instance, verses 55-56. Stephen looks into the heavens and sees Jesus. We hear of referencing giving us clues in various scripture texts about what Jesus’ return will look like, that he will appear in glory in the clouds. It seems to me that Stephen is getting a preview here. Being a movie-buff, I can only imagine how great that feeling would be. Perhaps you’ve had it, sitting in the theater and seeing a preview for a movie that you just know is going to be amazing. But I digress.

If we fast forward a few verses, namely to 59 and then 60, Stephen utters a couple of phrases that sound pretty familiar…dare I say, almost Christ-like. He first says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He’s seen Jesus standing in Heaven. We hear Jesus say almost the same thing in Luke’s account of the Crucifixion (23:46).  Then Stephen says “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” Sounds an awful lot like Jesus again when he says “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

So we’ve got Stephen in a tough spot. He has spoken truth, and all too often we don’t want to hear the truth do we? Not when it’s spoken out against us. We want to keep that sinfulness, that error, that mistake…we want to keep it to ourselves. It’s terrible if someone comes out against us, speaking that which we try to keep hidden. We are enraged when someone else knows, and worse yet, they tell everyone present. Now everyone knows. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the people stoned Stephen. Where does he get such audacity?

Well, he get’s it through his faith in the man that he emulates at his death. His faith in Christ allows him to boldly speak truth, even if it means his death.

Something to think about isn’t it?