THE DEATH OF DEATH
Here I am, Lord, speak to me in the silence.
Read Acts 7:54 – 8:1a
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.
8 And Saul approved of their killing him.
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect‘Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him’ (Psalm 37:7). Do you take time for this practice?
It is almost as though Stephen has woven a spell over his hostile audience, mesmerizing them with his storytelling. He has, it seems, been able to talk uninterrupted for some time. And then he unleashes the wrath of God and everything goes crazy (51–53).
The man seems to have had a death wish! What was he thinking telling these powerful leaders who have him in their clutches that they have uncircumcised ears and stiff necks, that they are disobedient to God?
I know what he wasn’t thinking: he wasn’t thinking about how to save his own life. The astonishing truth that he had grasped was that, in Christ, death becomes an irrelevance. The process of dying can be gruesome (especially if you are stoned) but it is a gateway to heaven, not the end (55, 56, 59).
Many people fear death. It is a great unknown, ‘the final frontier.’ It is perceived as the ultimate enemy, a bleak and final full stop. But if we belong to Jesus, we don’t need to be afraid. Jesus defeated death on the cross and He is waiting to welcome us home.
By the Holy Spirit, Stephen saw the reality of heaven and it gave him unshakeable hope. If you didn’t fear death or even rejection, how might your life look different?
Jesus, I want the hope of Your eternity etched into my heart and mind at all times. Help me to keep my focus on eternity.
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