Stephen had been seized and brought before the council of religious leaders to defend his teachings. Like Jesus, Stephen doesn’t defend himself. Instead, he recounts the story of the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament.
It is the story of God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, continuously calling the people of Israel through His servants like Abraham and Moses, and through the many priests, prophets, and kings whom He anointed. But this “stiff-necked people” refused to hear. While claiming to be descendants of Abraham and members of the chosen family of God, they resisted the change of heart that God freely offered them. Instead, they persecuted and killed the very messengers sent to them.
In a final supreme act of love and mercy, God sent his only Son, Jesus, “the Righteous One,” to fulfill the law perfectly. But the people still missed the message. Their mocking, despising and scoffing of the truth ultimately led to the murder of the Messiah.
And now they are directing their ire at Stephen, who is speaking the truth in a stinging indictment meant to convict them of their sins, invoke remorse, and turn their hearts toward God in repentance. Unfortunately, they refused to see the clear message before them. They acted on their guilty consciences, stoning Stephen to death.
So the question for us is, do we clearly see that Jesus came to change our hearts so we would receive the Holy Spirit and live in newness of life? Paul writes, “God made (us) alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” (Col 2:11-14)
O Lord, open our hearts and ears to hear Your word and to receive the new heart that You offer so freely. Make us bold like Stephen to proclaim Your love and mercy to a self-absorbed and arrogant world. Amen.
Contributed by Susan Hathcock