Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Martyr Remembered Part 2

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.


James Kinsman said...

The moment that God's majesty in Jesus has clothed us in so much love that we see Him in more reality than the reality of the flesh, the same moment that the Son of God is seen in the heavens by this martyr, is the greatest beauty of our faith and the climax of our salvation and the ecstasy of eternal joy -- yes, yes, this moment supersedes the nervous system in the face of the most vile of persecutions, the most painfulness of burning in flames, it is this that enabled the martyrs of old to sing hymns of joy amongst the torture and it is only in Christ Jesus the eternal God of the heavens that we will see such glory. Whether stoned dead or mostly-dead, we will see Jesus and our eternal hope will override our temporary pain.

Amy said...

Thank you so much.

JeepThang said...

Whats on your mind, Michael? Something worrying you?

BTW.. clementines are the best!

rebecca said...

Dear brother,
I pray for the faith and endurance to walk in love and forgiveness like Stephen and all the other saints, i have been married for 33 yrs. my husband is a practicesing Catholic and his mom who lives with us is a staunch traditionalist, i converted when our 5 children were growing up so we could try and raise our children in unity. but 2 yrs. ago by the grace and mercy of GOD i was born again and began to attend a nondenominational church, {with my true brothers and sisters}and 1 daughter who also is a new believer, while my husband takes his mom to mass. i have been told i am being deceived by satan by some well meaning family members, that they felt betrayed, that there is no salvation outside the Church, that me and my daughter were mentally ill, because we believe in the Living Word, and are held in scorn for this. are in a cult, i could continue but the rocks thrown maybe not of made of stone but of words and these sometimes cause pain when they come from people who profess to love you. I continue to look to the Cross and know that compared to what our Saviour suffered and endured and what the martyrs have suffered for speaking the truth, i am so very blessed and grateful and my prayer is that Christ who is in us will forever shine in this present darkness, it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Anonymous said...

"truth never killed anyone"

what an amazing statement! almost as powerful as "what is truth?".

the fragrance of life to those who embrace it, yet the odor of death to those who would ahnihilate it.

it amazes me that there are many who would destroy the truth in order to "protect" it. for them to satiate the insatiable becomes a prison from which there is no escape.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,
I trust you are now safely in Romania???. At times when we wonder aobut our "placing" in the body of Christ it is enough to know that our placing is to be obedient and to love God with all of our being and that this is enough. Stephen may not have been apostle, prophet, etc but he lived and died the best he could for Christ. And that is what we are all called to....

Rebecca, at times, the people who persecute you the most, are the ones with a searching heart but theyd o no realize you have found the true way to Christ. Consider Saul who became Paul. He was zealous for God, persecuting the believers becaouse he thought they were lost...but when confronted by Christ, he converted. I've seen this in my family. Don't be suprised if soem of them come secretly to you asking about salvation...I pray that your light will shine brightly so that it can home them in as a beacon does to ships at sea.

In His Grace

Anonymous said...

"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."
Thank you so much for these words.

I am finding that people are looking at me strangely, I think they consider me "intolerant". It does hurt when people you thought were brothers and sisters no longer speak to you. I know it doesn't matter, and it's really for the best, but your words of encouragement mean so much. Thanks again.

Mrs. Pugh