The stoning of Stephen is recorded in Acts 7:54-60. It is interesting to note that when Stephen saw Jesus, both times Jesus was standing beside God.
Other passages describe Jesus as sitting at the right hand of power (Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62) or seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 12:2) but here, when Stephen needed his Lord the most, He stands. Jesus takes a position of action.
I find this amazingly encouraging. Just think, when we need Christ the most, when we are overwhelmed, distressed, persecuted, or attacked (verbally or physically) we have this picture of Jesus on His feet and ready to act. We have this image of Jesus in a position of action.
No matter how it feels, no matter how deserted or abandoned we feel in a moment of attack – Jesus is ready and able to intervene. Jesus is ready to do whatever needs to be done to ensure the will of His father is accomplished.
Stephen was stoned and Stephen did die. Why? Why did Jesus stand, but not intervene?
God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. We can’t and won’t always know why he doesn’t intervene when he can. But it is interesting to note that in Acts 8:1-2, Saul had approved the stoning of Stephen.
Why does this matter? Who is this Saul?
Saul persecuted Christians. Not like we are persecuted when someone “unfriends” or “unfollows” or “hides all posts” from us on social media. Saul pursued Christ followers for the purpose of murder. Saul’s name stirred terror in the hearts of believers.
Saul approved the execution of Stephen, yet at the end of his life Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
How will it possible for this sin not to be held against them?
“If they hear and receive the good news (24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10:43), then their sins will be forgiven, and they will not have to face the final punishment for a sin standing against them.
Is Stephen’s prayer answered?
Augustine said, “The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen” (quoted in Barclay 1976:62). In fact, Saul is the one adversary named in the incident. Luke is laying the groundwork for the great victory God will win through Saul’s conversion and subsequent missionary service.” (IVP New Testament Commentaries)
*Read more about Stephen’s martyrdom here. Read more about Saul here.
God DID have a plan and perhaps Stephen’s willingness to forgive in those last moments before his death haunted Saul/Paul. Maybe Stephen’s willingness to speak boldly and die for his faith lingered and tormented Saul/Paul. Only God knows how he used Stephen in Saul/Paul’s life, but we can be certain He used it because God wastes nothing.
Christ knows all the ins and outs of your ministry trials, family difficulties, personal challenges, and relationships challenges and God has a plan for you.
I pray that this image of your Saviour standing, this picture of Jesus taking a position of action when Stephen needed him the most, will bring you immense comfort and courage to endure and accomplish what God has called you to do.
Never forget that you never stand alone when you stand for Christ.