When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. but Stephen, full of the Holy spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Acts 7:54-58
It is the stories of people like Stephen and Cornelius, and others, that really speak to me when I read about them.
What was it that Stephen did to get himself stoned by an angry mob? He told them that he saw heaven open, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Previously, he told the Jewish people that their fathers killed the prophets that God sent to them, and that they were a stiff necked, stubborn people who refused to keep the law they received by the disposition of angels. He was telling them of how the Old Testament gave them the knowledge of the Savior, who had come in the form of Jesus, whom they are rejecting.
This group was “cut to the heart”. They were not convicted of sin, they were ready to kill Stephen. They were gnashing their teeth, bitter with the darkness that the truth exposed. I can see Stephen being pulled out of the city by the crowd, while he is trying to tell them of the One that they needed to save them from their sins.
The truth can be a hurtful thing. To acknowledge our mistakes is a hard thing to do, especially when we think we are in the right. There are many things in my own life that I thought were right, but now, when I look back with a different perspective, they weren’t so right.
I was driving down the road one day, and saw a turtle on the blacktop, probably enjoying the heat of an autumn afternoon. I stopped to get it off the road, so it wouldn’t get hit. I put it on the side, near water. I felt good about helping that turtle, until my son, only about four-years-old at the time, asked, “How do you know it wasn’t trying to get to the other side, Mommy?”
Wow! That poor turtle probably had to start his journey all over again.
I’ve done lots of things like that. Once I tried to help a homeless man in Chicago by the bus station to go home. I was sixteen, and didn’t understand the concept of “homelessness”. He was resting in a corner of a building with a bottle of whiskey, and smelled of strong alcohol. I tried to get him a taxi, when two police officers stopped me, and told me they would take care of him, when I told them what I was trying to do. I had only thought of how this man reminded me of my dad, and how he drank so much, and how he stayed gone in the bars, and how I wished someone had sent him home to us.
My intentions were pure, but my knowledge was limited! These Jewish people, who were stoning Stephen, probably thought they were defending their religion. They probably thought they were in the right. The reason I say this, is because Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, was in this group, approving of Stephen’s death. God had to show Paul in a miraculous way, that He was persecuting the wrong people. I think of the verse about how all of us have gone astray, and how all our righteousness is as filthy rags.
Stephen, with his final breath, knelt down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” then he “fell asleep”. Stephen with that beautiful vision of heaven before him, was willing to forgive his murderers.
Lord, help me to remember my mistakes, and forgive others when they do things wrong too. None of us are perfect, and we sometimes sin, because we don’t have the knowledge that comes from You, to make right decisions. Help us God, to be wise, and to help others with that kind of knowledge that is from You.