Martyrdom and Forgiveness
Today’s reading: Acts 7:1-8:25
My selection: Acts 7:58-60
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
My reflections: There are not a lot of details about the martyrdom of Stephen, the first one to die for the gospel in the post-ascension era. Luke does include two interesting facts.
1. Stephen’s attitude. Nearly parroting Jesus’ words, Stephen prayed for God’s forgiveness for his executioners. A disciple is never more Christlike than when he prays for the forgiveness of those who persecute him. [Matthew 5:43-48].
2. Saul’s presence. Here we are first introduced to Saul, later to be converted and called Paul. In modern literature, this comment would be seen as a tease, as bait to keep the reader turning pages to find out who this person is. We don’t know much of what was going through Saul’s mind as he witnessed and supported the stoning of Stephen, but it is safe to say that Stephen’s attitude was not lost on Saul.
My challenge: It has often been observed, “The blood of the saints is the seed of the church.” This is demonstrated here as well. This persecution would result in the expansion of the Church. Stand firm. Be encouraged and expectant. If persecution comes with the same results as it has historically you may see a great growth in the size and vibrancy of the Church.
Tomorrow’s reading: Acts 8:26-10:22