Acts 7:57-58, "Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul."
Keep in mind this was not a crowd of uneducated brutes, the great high priest was there, as was the entire council. These were men who considered themselves deeply religious, keepers of the law. Religious as they considered themselves to be, their fury blinded them. They regressed to the point of stopping up their ears, hoping the words of Stephen would no longer make their way into their hearts. They could take no more. Their sin had been exposed, their hypocrisy revealed and now they would become the result of their actions. Envy and hate judge absent of reason, and nothing angers, and stirs the embers of hatred in deception more than the sun of truth shining down upon it.
In order to protect their religion, and religiosity, those considered most pious among the people, the religious elite, no longer had ears to hear, or hearts to understand the truth. Stripped of their cloaks of false righteousness, the zealous defenders of religion, and religious systems, to this day stone the confessors of Christ.
When they heard Stephen speaking of the heavens opening up, and especially of the Son of God, their fury was such that it kept them from taking him before the Roman authorities, from having a fair trial, or simply having a magistrate pronounce a death sentence as was customary. They dragged him out of the city and stoned him, without the illusion of due process, or trial.
Truth never killed anyone. Yes, men have been killed for the sake of truth, men have gladly sacrificed their lives to uphold the truth, but unlike religious hatred, truth never killed anyone. The lessons we could learn, if only we desire to be apt pupils, to sit at the foot of the cross, and glean knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to be dragged out of the city, to be cast out of the religious system in which we were raised, or the teachings we have allowed to worm into our hearts, that we may gaze into the heavens. Do not be troubled when you are cast out of the city. Do not be troubled when you begin to see hatred in the eyes of those you once called brothers, because you chose to journey deeper into the mysteries of God. Pray for those who throw stones at you, pray for those that mock you, pray for those that reject you, even such as these are used of God to sanctify your vessel.
In his final moments, the first martyr for the cause of Christ was not alone. The crowd may have screamed, blood lust being what it is, stones hurled at his defenseless body, but Stephen did not feel the stones upon his flesh, he no longer heard the ranting of the crowd, he was in the embrace of His savior.
The Son of God stood in heaven, and witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen, a means of honoring one of the first witnesses to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ.
There was another present, one who did not participate in the murder of Stephen, but who consented to his death. The witnesses had laid down their clothes at his feet, and he had witnessed the entire exchange. His name was Saul.
If we perceive this tableau in spiritual terms and place Stephen and Saul facing each other, we discover one who was at his journey's end, and one who was yet to begin his journey in laboring on behalf of Christ and the cross.
Seeing Saul and Stephen side by side, we see where the grace of God found us, and how far the grace of God has brought us. In Saul we understand the condition in which God found us, and in Stephen we perceive how far His grace is able to carry us.
With every blow, with every cruelly thrown stone, the soon to be martyr was one breath closer to receiving his reward. Stephen felt this present life seeping from him the earth around him soaked in his blood, and still gazing into heaven, he prayed.
His prayer was not long, or elaborate, he did not use big words to convey the final thoughts that encompassed all he felt, and all he hoped, he said, 'Lord Jesus receive my spirit.'
Kneeling he then uttered the last words he would ever utter on this earth, with a loud voice, words that surely haunted those present for the rest of their lives on earth, 'Lord do not charge them with this sin.'
The disciple of Christ had achieved his objective. He had become like His master, loving to the last those who were responsible for his death. As the Lord prayed on the cross for those who crucified Him, so Stephen prayed for those who stoned him. In life, as in death the righteousness, meekness, and greatness of our Lord shines in all of His servants.
If we live, may we live for Christ; if we die, may we die in Christ. This is our purpose on this earth, and there is none greater. Short as his mention in the Word is, the life and death of Stephen is a lesson to us all, showing us the true meaning of faithfulness, obedience, and steadfastness.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.