You stiff-necked heathens! Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your fathers did and so do you!
~Acts 7:51, LNT
In God’s hands–Intended evil becomes eventual good.
It seems that Stephen had been performing “signs and wonders” in the presence of Hellenistic Jews since it is said that he aroused the opposition of the “Synagogue of the Freedmen”, and soon they were joined by the Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and Cilicians. Members of these synagogues had challenged Stephen’s teachings, but Stephen had bested them in debate. Furious at this humiliation, they suborned false testimony that Stephen had preached blasphemy against Moses and God. They dragged him to appear before the Sanhedrin, the supreme legal court of Jewish elders, accusing him of preaching against the Temple and the Mosaic Law. Stephen is said to have been unperturbed, his face looking like “that of an angel”.
Before the Sanhedrin, Stephen gives a history lesson and his point is impossible to miss–The Jews had a history of rebellion. From their very inception in Egypt, they have been a rebellious people who had persecuted the prophets that God sent to lead them. What they did to Jesus was par for the course. Stephen did not cut them any slack. He called them “stiff-necked heathens” and that infuriated them. He puts them on the spot, “Name one prophet your ancestors did not persecute!” They could not resist his wisdom and they could not answer his questions without accusing themselves. The court went into a rage and Stephen was dragged out and stoned without a fair trail. It is said the Caiaphas presided instead of Gamaliel who presided in many of the proceedings. But one of Gamaliel’s students was there taking it all in. He even held the coats of the men who stoned Stephen.
The stoning of Stephen triggered a persecution against the followers of Christ. The Jews thought they were doing serious damage to the “Way” as they referred to it but God took a bad situation and made something beautiful come out of it. Instead of doing damage to the church, believer’s went in all directions carrying the gospel with them and Christianity spread like a wild fire. The very flame that they Jews intended to put out was fanned across the country. As Yogi would say, it “deja vu all over again.” You would think that the crucifixion would have taught them a lesson but they again, they play right into God’s plan and don’t even know it. Remember what Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was right, they had no idea what they were doing; either time.
- Thank YOU Jesus for the rain. I bet we got 2 inches, maybe more. I drove to the church during the rain and it had not rained a drop there but it continued to rain at home for 2 hours or more so hopefully everyone got a shower.
- Donuts only this Sunday…no biscuits until July