The Final Straw
Eternal God, You are my refuge and strength. Without You I know I would be lost, afraid, and without hope.
Read Acts 7:54-8:3
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“The future is as bright as the promises of God” (Adoniram Judson, 1788-1850).
Just as Jesus’ hearers identified themselves in the parable of the vineyard tenants (Mark 12:12), so Stephen’s hearers cannot help but see themselves as the object of his narrative. The result is the same as it was for Jesus—but not before Stephen has been granted a sight of the ascended and reigning Son of Man (56), an idea fresh in the minds of the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71) and likely to arouse a response. The suggestion that the followers of Jesus, and not they, are the true inheritors of the messianic promise is the final straw. The many parallels with Jesus are rounded off with the prayer of v. 59 and the forgiveness of v. 60. We are reminded that even in our darkest moments we can trust Jesus; and even when we face the toughest opposition we can know his grace, which will enable us to offer forgiveness.
Luke’s readers would have found this encouraging. They were a dishonored and shamed community in a world where honor mattered; they needed to have honor restored; the apparently dishonored Stephen is the one who has seen the glorified Jesus. The Christians, though shamed and marginalized are, in fact, the ones honored by Jesus. Honor may not have the same force in many societies today, but we still need the encouragement of knowing that we, whom the world disregards and sees as irrelevant, are loved and accepted by God.
Stephen’s speech exemplifies Luke’s intention to make Christian faith credible. It also prepares the way for his description of the next stage of the worldwide mission of the church. In the last few verses we are introduced to Saul, who must to some extent have been influenced by what he has heard and seen. God’s purposes cannot ultimately be thwarted by human opposition.
Are there things in which you are finding it hard to trust God? How might Stephen’s example and the realization that God is in control of events strengthen your faith?
Sovereign Lord, I need to trust anew in the truth that Your purposes cannot be thwarted. May I seek Your Kingdom above everything else.
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