I am always blown away when I re-read scripture. How many things I learn. Stephen and his story are so amazing. He was such a humble, yet fierce man. He was not afraid of anything.
The Sanhedrin pushed his buttons trying repeatedly to get him to come undone. They tried to trip him up in his testimony, using his own words against him. He was so much smarter than they were. So much savvier. I know the Holy Spirit was his guide. His words were flawless.
Flawless and true. These men in leadership couldn’t handle Stephen. They couldn’t begin to comprehend all he knew, and how he knew it. They couldn’t argue with his position, his experience, his collected authority of words.
They were angry because he had his story together. They allowed their anger to move them to murder him in the street. They allowed their anger to use him as an example of what happens when you are a Christ follower. They used their arrogance, pride, and lust to be right to move them in a direction which rivals most modern crimes of passion.
They were ruled by the need to be in control. These men wanted to be authoritative, having everyone follow the rules they had always followed. They wanted to maintain the apple cart- not disrupt it in any way. They didn’t like change, and change was happening all around them.
Admittedly, the city was not the same after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. The people were not the same. They were restless, wondering about the Messiah, and the consequences of his death penalty and resurrection. They wanted answers, and the only men who had them were being picked off, one by one. They were being tortured and murdered, martyred for their testimony. The people were taking notice, and the pressure was immense. The local spiritual governing authorities had to do something. Maybe if they rid the region of the heretics screaming Jesus’ name and story, they could get back to normal.
But their normal was lost.
Normal as they once knew it would never be regained. This man the people called Messiah, King of Jews, Savior and friend, he changed everything. He ruined their normal. He brought the voice of peace, understanding, grace, and forgiveness. He didn’t show anger when it wasn’t spiritually justified. He didn’t twist the truth to get what he wanted. He didn’t try to persuade anyone, he didn’t wait for anyone and he didn’t bow to anyone. Jesus changed it all, forever. He left instructions for his followers to continue teaching and preaching.
Stephen was a product of Jesus and all he taught. The fascinating part of this story? In the moments before his life was taken, he saw them. He was shown the inside of heaven, Jesus, and God. He saw exactly what he had hoped for and dreamt about. He lit up like an angel. He had great spiritual rest overcome him, with immeasurable amounts of peace, mercy, grace, and love.
Stephen saw heaven.
He saw it.
He laid eyes on something people aren’t supposed to see while in their human form. He saw Jesus, his friend. He saw him as his savior, and he knew those prophecies had been fulfilled, once and for all. All his questions were answered with one quick peek. He had a complete and utter understanding of all the things he had been speaking of. He saw, and it reflected on his face.
It scared the men so much, they immediately stoned him to death. His parting words?
“Forgive them, they don’t have a clue”.
How earth shattering was these words to hear once again. The men must have been terrified. They must have vowed to never speak of it because it was exactly what Jesus said on the cross right before he died. They had to have a shiver up their spine, a bit of deja vu they never expected. The truth of Stephens words must have burnt in their ears like fire. The words he spoke must have been engraved on their hearts and brains forever. Oh, how they must have suffered, knowing their world was unraveling, and having no one to confirm or deny what they had experienced because they killed them both. They must have had some intuition he was everything, Jesus of Nazareth. They must have known their eyes could not deceive them twice.