- Read Acts chapter 7 verses 1-59
- The Defendant stands alone before the tiered ranks of the
Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. There is no Defence counsel
to present his case; no one to plead persuasively for mitigation when
the inevitable guilty verdict is announced. The Prosecution evidence,
though fabricated, is overwhelming. His blasphemy can be substantiated
by a succession of 'eyewitnesses' who repeat, verbatim, the
scandalous and scurrilous words spoken against God and His Temple.
- Stephen's appointment, previously, with six others of
"good reputation", to an important administrative position
within the developing organisation of the Early Church, might have
provided him with a legitimate claim to be in a "reserved
occupation", allowing others to assume full responsibility for
preaching and teaching and saving him from such a trial as he now
faces... The Spirit within him, however, would not be bound and he
stands on the front line of evangelism, performing "great miracles
and wonders among the people".
- Charges formally read, the High Priest asks "Is this true
?" No one word answer will suffice. Stephen, without the aid of a
professional speechmaker or 'spin merchant', delivers one of
the longest and most powerful discourses recorded in the New Testament.
His carefully detailed survey of the history of Israel, highlighting
wholesale disobedience by Jewish leaders, past and present, to the very
Law that they profess to uphold, is all too much for his accusers.
- Seventy grave rabbis, leaving their seats, rush with the wild mob
to the sudden execution of a prisoner absolutely untried and
uncondemned. A martyr indeed, the first of a line.
- For thought
- What does it take to be a Christian martyr? Are there different
levels of martyrdom?
- Research: "Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906 - 1945
- BONHOEFFER: "The Cost of Discipleship"
- O God, encourage us through the words and example of your faithful
servants to fight our battles bravely and live our lives