I can’t tell whether Stephen meant to finish his speech where he did or whether the council was so “enraged” that they cut him off early, but he delivered some very stinging criticisms and there were consequences for him and the church.

Luke reminds us of the Spirit’s presence in Stephen allowing him to see God’s glory and Jesus’ presence with him. When he related his vision, the reaction wasn’t surprising – the religious leaders would not have been able to listen to the ‘blasphemy’ that any person (“Son of Man”) would be able to be near God, despite the fact that it was foreseen in Daniel 7:13. As the Jews had tried to stone Jesus for blasphemy (John 8:58-59), here they managed to stone Stephen for the same crime. Indeed, Luke seems to emphasise the similarities between the death of Jesus and that of the first Christian to die for him by recording that Stephen asked Jesus to “receive my spirit” (cf. Luke 23:46) and prayed that those who killed him would be forgiven (cf. Luke 23:34). And then, Stephen died.

Here we are first introduced to Saul, and all we know is that he approved the murder of a man whose only crime was talking about Jesus. Not a prime candidate to become a major player for the good guys in this book, but nothing is impossible with God as we see again in 8:1. This killing and the “great persecution” which it begun should have caused problems for the church and for God, but Luke shows that God used it for his own plans. The disciples were scattered throughout “the regions of Judea and Samaria” – just where Jesus promised in 1:8 that the gospel would spread to after Jerusalem had heard the news.

After mentioning the persecution, Luke jumps back to the “devout men” who buried Stephen, as if to emphasise the risk that they were taking in the midst of this turmoil. He then goes back to the details of Saul “ravaging the church” which makes depressing reading. But them he looks at the scattered disciples and that as they went they were “preaching the word”. Not only have Christians been forced into Judea and Samaria, but by trying to destroy the church the Jews have forced the gospel to spread around the country. God wins again.

Heavenly Father, I praise you that you are able to work through the darkest situations for your glory and the salvation of many. I pray that I will follow Stephen’s example, as he followed Jesus’, in persecution and that I would use every chance to go about preaching the word. Amen.


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