Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oh! I see heaven wide open!

Stphen is hauled before the High Counsel. Apparently a lot of people are gathered around, very interested in the proceedings.

Acts 7:1 "Then the Chief Priest said, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

A lot.
As a matter of fact.
Stephen begins an unrehearsed account of God's work among his people throughout history.

2 -3 "Stephen replied, "Friends, fathers, and brothers, the God of glory
appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before the move to Haran, and told him, 'Leave your country and family and go to the land I'll show you.' "

What follows is the second longest sermon ever recorded in the Bible. Here is the climax:

51 -53 "And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you're just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn't get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you've kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God's Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!"

How did they react?

54 -56 "At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, "Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God's side!"
57 -58 Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them."

This sermon created a reaction!
And immediate!

59 -60 "As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, "Master Jesus, take my life." Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, "Master, don't blame them for this sin"—his last words. Then he died. 1Saul was right there, congratulating the killers. "

"Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God's side!"

That became Stephen's legacy. He will always be known as the first Christian martyr.

It is said that until you are willing to die for Christ, you cannot effectively live for Christ...

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