Acts 7:54-8:1a: Eyes only for Him.
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 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. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 8 And Saul approved of their killing him.
In this final section of the Stephen story we see:
▪ Focused eyes (55, 56): Stephen was surrounded by a pack of wolves, baring their teeth and out for his blood. ‘’But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed – he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, ‘’Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of man standing at God’s side!’’ ‘’ The Message. F.B. Meyer writes about how Spirit-filled people are given an overwhelming consciousness of Christ: ‘It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to direct the gaze to Jesus. Those who are full of the Spirit may hardly be aware of his gracious presence, but they are keenly alive to their Lord’s.’ Great verses through the Bible, p.405.
▪ Deaf ears (57): ‘’At this they covered their ears…’’ Have you ever seen a child do this when they just don’t like the message you’re transmitting and they don’t want to obey? There are none so deaf as those who will not hear. I heard Francis Chan say that he has made a decision that whenever he finds himself in disagreement with the Bible, it is right and he is wrong!
▪ Praying heart (59, 60). Can there be, I wonder, a better way to die, than to be praying at the time of your departure from earth? Then the conversation can just continue in a richer, fuller way. I remember reading about a missionary who set himself to pray through the night, and on the morning he was found on his knees by his bed. Yet he was not there. He had gone. Even as he prayed he was taken to heaven.
▪ Forgiving spirit (60): Stephen died, like his Master, Jesus, releasing his enemies; not holding on to even a particle of bitterness. ‘’Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘’Master, don’t blame them for this sin’’ – his last words. Then he died.’’ The Message.
▪ Preparatory statement (8:1a): ‘’Saul was right there, congratulating the killers.’’ The Message.
To be continued!