Friday, July 29, 2011

Mercy from a mortal

            Here in Acts 7 we get an abbreviated history of the Israeli people dictated by the apostle Stephan in front of the council of high priests. Though they all know their own people’s history, Stephan lays this out for them so that they can see the big picture mistake they have made.
            The scripture starts out with Stephan being asked if the accusations of blaspheme brought against him were true. Instead of answering yes or no, Stephan begins with his narrative of the history of God’s formerly chosen people. He begins with Abraham since he is acknowledged by these people as the beginning of their blood line and the one whom God made a promise to. He then progresses through the story of Joseph thus explaining how the Hebrew nation ended up in Egypt. Next he works through the well-known story of Moses and the great exodus on to the reception of the Ten Commandments and the wilderness period of the nation. He tapers off his monologue with King David and then his son Solomon building the temple of God and then has a magnificent finale in accusing the Jewish high council of making the same mistakes that their ancestors had made in the persecution of God’s prophets and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact, and possibly due to the fact that Stephan has set up his final accusation in an undeniable manner by laying out their ancestors faults, the council is infuriated. Here Stephan seems to know what is coming next and that they will definitely kill him. He looks up to heaven in an almost movie-like scene and witnesses Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father and submits himself to the stoning that ensues. Like Jesus, however, his last words are in mercy for his murderers and not in anger or cursing.
            This passage is important because it shows us how we as Christian disciples can find the strength to be bold in the face of opposition. This seems kind of an extreme case, but that just goes to show how much more we can be bold in the face of only receiving a status of unpopularity. It also shows how a mere man—Stephan—can find it in himself to be unabashedly merciful as Jesus was, thus giving current Christians hope that we too can find that kind of expression of grace when people persecute us for our beliefs.
            This scripture is applicable for those Christians who may not have been Christ followers their whole lives and may not be able to piece together all of the famous Bible stories such as Joseph and the colorful coat or Moses and the red sea into one cohesive story.  It is important to know the history of the Israelite nation in order to understand why they had such a hard time accepting Jesus as the Christ and why they continue to do so today. Also, as previously stated, current day Christians can draw strength from Stephan’s example of sacrifice regardless of his mere mortal nature.
            My reaction to this scripture is one of awe at the amazing reward that Stephan receives in doing the will of God by accusing the council. His reward is to see Jesus in heaven and then to be brought there to be with him. This sounds morbid, but it is truly the longing of every Christian’s heart to be with Christ in heaven. Stephan was bold and obedient and received that which was rightfully his: eternity with Christ.

The Dread

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