Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 26&27, Daniel 7, Acts 7
What sin? The above words were uttered by Stephen as they took up stones to throw at him; he knew he was going to be killed. His speech in response to the High Priest, which we read today, was increasingly provocative – rather similar to how Jesus repeatedly uttered provocative parables about the Pharisees in the weeks prior to his arrest: for e.g. Luke 20 v.9-20.
The more you read the more you sense the challenging nature of the Master’s teaching. It reminds us of Moses in the wilderness and his increasing frustrations with the people. The time came when he said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me. And all the sons of Levi gathered around him” [Exodus 32 v.26] These were the priests, the relatives of Aaron.
As Moses became dismayed with the people then, similarly our Lord and our Heavenly Father must be dismayed today: how many who claim the name of Christ, who have come out from the world, are keeping genuinely close to the their Saviour in their wilderness journey? The wilderness is increasingly negative – and readily hostile if provoked – to believe there is a God they need to, simply have to, fear!
Stephen’s speech was a history lesson reminding them of God’s involvement throughout the history of their nation – it reaches its’ climax when he challenges his hearers “Which of the prophets did not your father’s persecute?” [v.52]. In every generation those who are really on the Lord’s side, stand out – because they stand apart!
Yet, the essential lesson we must take from this chapter is that we leave all attitudes of judgement to our Master. Stephen emulated his Lord, as he cried out as the stones began to hit him, “Do not hold this sin against them” – these were his last words before he fell asleep – until the resurrection – his next conscious moment!
How many, especially the Pharisee Paul, then called Saul, will be there at the resurrection – among the sheep and the wheat – because Stephen’s dying prayer was heard. Paul’s word’s to the Philippians are so appropriate and challenging, – that “we may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” [2 v.15] Let us all shine as brightly as we can.