After Jesus had left for heaven, the church he started, chose seven men to do
things in the church. They had the jobs of keeping things organized and helping
the widows and the poor. Stephen was a man of faith. He was a Jew and knew the
Greek language and manners and customs. He preached the gospel in the churches
of the Greek Jews. He was very active in sharing his faith. The doctors of the
law and the Jewish rabbis talked with him but were surprised at his wisdom and
the spirit by which he spoke.
Stephen did not worry about what he was going to say to these educated people. He knew the promise that God would give him just what to say at the right time. (Luke 21:14, 15) The educated Jewish leaders became filled with hate as they watched Stephen drawing such large crowds of listeners. They called in the most powerful leaders to help at the court trial when they took
Stephen to court.
During Stephenís trial, he had wisdom much greater than the best lawyers. He was so calm. As he spoke no one could argue with his statements. This made the leaders so angry, they decided to kill Stephen. Surely this would scare all the new believers and they would stop preaching, they thought.
They paid people to stand in the court and tell lies about Stephen. These witnesses said they heard Stephen say that Jesus would destroy the temple and all the customs Moses had instructed them to do.
Something fantastic was happening to the face of Stephen while all these lies were being told about him. His face was beginning to shine and his face looked so happy. He looked up and looked right into heaven. He saw Jesus. His face was so bright with light and happiness that the lawyers covered their eyes like they were hurting from the light.
When Stephen was given a chance to answer the lies about him, his voice was clear and strong. It rang through the council hall. In story format, his words held the lawyers and judges spellbound. He simply told the history of Godís chosen people. Then he showed them how Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies yet they had killed him.
When he connected Jesus with the prophecies and spoke of the temple, the priest pretended to be horror-stricken and tore his robe. Stephen knew that he would soon be killed. Suddenly breaking away from his interesting stories, he told the lawyers and priests that their necks were stiff and they were resisting the Holy Spirit and killing Godís prophets. He said they were murders and betrayers and did not keep the law.
The court session turned into screaming mob. Acting like animals, the lawyers
and priests rushed at Stephen and ground their teeth like dogs baring their
teeth and growling. In their cruel faces, Stephen knew he did not
have long to live but he did not fear. The fear of death, the enraged priests and excited mob of angry lawyers did not even terrify him. He was looking right into heaven and saw Jesus. Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."
The angry men plugged their ears with their fingers so they could not hear any more. They were angry that God was honoring Stephen while they were saying he was dishonorable. They screamed and yelled at him and dragged him out of the city. They picked up stones and hurled them at him. Stephenís face still had a bright peaceful look. He kneeled down, and cried with a great loud voice so all could hear, "Lord, lay not his sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." He died.
The forgiveness from Stephen left a big impression on all who watched and threw stones.
It is not easy to forgive when the room is full of angry people. God gave
Stephen the peace and love and the ability to forgive. He can give you that
forgiveness too. All who love God will experience anger and lies about them like
Stephen. But as you trust God, He will give you peace and you can pray for and
try to help these people love God too. Be a forgiver today.
(Story based on Acts 6)