Friday 1 July, 2016

The apostles got more than they expected when they appointed Stephen to oversee distribution of food. There’s no mention of food, but a huge impact from the Holy Spirit speaking powerfully through him in miracles and signs and wisdom and a message that could not be refuted.

The council got more than they expected too. I’m sure they anticipated “Sorry, sir. Didn’t mean to say that, sir. Won’t happen again, sir.” What they got was a brilliant summation of Israel’s journey with God. (Their accusations are starting to look pretty foolish now.) And a challenge: You accused me of opposing Moses, but you killed Jesus, the Messiah Moses and the prophets foretold.

Stephen’s message is similar to Peter’s at Pentecost. It can only have one of two responses: either repentance (as it did at Pentecost), or rejection. His vision of the risen Son of Man made that choice starker: Here he is now. How are you going to respond?

Am I a Stephen? I suspect I might have wimped out and gone for a more conciliatory defence. It looks like things turned out badly for Stephen. Was the bold approach the right one?

An immediate consequence was that the disciples and the gospel spread out from Jerusalem. The consequences for the young Saul take a little longer. But when the risen Jesus appears to him too, he already knows who it is and what choice he needs to make. Saul (becoming Paul) picks up where Stephen left off: arguing the case in the synagogue and speaking the truth boldly.

Father, I’m so grateful the gospel did come to the Gentiles (like me). I’m so grateful for Stephen and Paul’s boldness in telling the truth. Give me the wisdom and courage and power of your Spirit to be a Stephen (except maybe for the stoning).

Written by David Cornell

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