Just moments before his murder, God peeled back the curtain of heaven to give him a glimpse of where he was headed.
As Stephen looked up, he saw Jesus standing at His Father’s side. I can’t find anywhere else in the Bible where we’re told Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father.
IT WAS AS IF JESUS STOOD IN STEPHEN’S HONOR, LETTING HIM KNOW HE WAS RIGHT THERE WAITING FOR HIM.
The mob—intent on killing Stephen—was raging, terrifying, insane. One moment they looked like schoolyard bullies with gnashing teeth, rocks in hand. The next like monstrous demons being let out of hell to kill an innocent man.
But even in the midst of such terror, Stephen was desperate for the crowd not to miss what he was seeing. He tried to get them to look up. We can only hope that he never took his eyes off of Jesus while the rocks pummeled his broken body.
While dying, Stephen cried out for God to forgive them, just like his Savior had done as He hung on a cross dying for us.
Saul, later called Paul, was there when Stephen was being stoned. Not yet blinded by Truth, Saul was giving his approval of the murder. I believe his life was forever impacted by Stephen’s death. How could a man ever forget such a scene? Perhaps that’s why Paul listened to the One who confronted him on a dusty road not long after Stephen’s murder. Perhaps Stephen’s last words echoed in Paul’s heart when he later faced his own chains, prisons, and beatings.
Not all martyrs die like Stephen—with the glow of glory and witnesses to canonize their courage. Some pass quickly in the night or alone in a prison. Some in dusty explosions or crowded camps.
I CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER IF ALL WHO DIE FOR CHRIST MEET A STANDING JESUS, WELCOMING THEM HOME.
You can read the whole story of Stephen’s life and death in Acts 6:1-8:3, and where Paul was finally blinded by Truth and chose to follow Jesus in Acts 9. I encourage you to take time to dwell in those stories as you will come away changed.
Will you join me in praying for those who are being martyred just because they love and follow Jesus. These organizations are making a difference: Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors. And check out this powerful blog by Randy Alcorn, author of the novel Safely Home, a book that has forever impacted my faith journey. Randy devotes much of his ministry to raising awareness about persecuted followers of Christ.
I’d love to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts about this story of Stephen and where we first meet Paul. How has it impacted your own life? The song “Give Me Jesus” keeps coming to mind as I think of Stephen and others who have been persecuted for their faith. May our anthem also be “You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.”