Acts 7:55-60 (NRSV)
Verse 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Verse 56"Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Verse 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Verse 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. Verse 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Verse 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.
Our readings this week reveal two opposing aspects of our lives as followers of Jesus: the peace and security of dwelling in a mutual relationship with God in Christ versus the forces that push against and pull us away from faith. Stephen is a model of great faith against great adversity. His bold preaching of God’s word enraged the religious establishment. But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked heavenward, saw Jesus, and fearlessly proclaimed what he saw. His opponents covered their ears and dragged him out of the city. Stephen, intimately connected to his Lord, echoed the words Jesus spoke from the cross … receive my Spirit … do not hold this sin against them. Stephen was confident because he was sure of his abiding relationship with Christ. His opponents were also sure of themselves, as long as they kept their ears closed to God’s truth. From whence does my assurance come?
Lord, may my abiding in you and you in me give me boldness and assurance in proclaiming your gospel of mercy and love, no matter the cost, even to those who do not want to hear it. Amen.