But they wouldn't listen. Instead, they stoned him.
A young man named Saul was there, cheering them on with every blow. Yes, the same Saul that later became Paul - the Apostle whom God used to pen about two thirds of the New Testament! Jesus can change even the hearts of those we think are beyond hope; the ones who are so against Him that they persecute and even kill Jesus' followers! Nobody is beyond His grip of grace.
It is very clear in the Bible that Jesus is seated at God's right hand, yet in this story Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. He mentions it twice. I've always believed it was because when we stand up for Jesus, we can be assured that He stands up for us. Our faith brings Him to His feet!
As I read this morning in Beth Moore's book Paul: 90 Days on His Journey of Faith, tears fell down my face. I realized after I read it the third time that I wanted to share it with you because it perfectly describes what Jesus may have felt as He watched Stephen and Saul that day:
Remember, Christ was up on His feet at the time (see vs 56). Can you imagine the alloy of emotions He must have experienced as He looked on the two key players in the Kingdom that day? One FOR Him; one AGAINST Him. One covered in blood; the other covered in prayer shawls. One who could not save himself from men; the other who could not save himself from sin. One dead in body but alive in spirit; one alive in body but dead in spirit. One loved by God; the other loved by God. Grace, grace, God's grace.
Just a day in the life of Stephen. A shooting star. He had one brief performance. One chance on stage. But it was absolutely unforgettable. As the curtain fell on his life, he received a standing ovation from the only One who really mattered. I have a feeling that seconds later the two of them hadn't changed positions much. Christ was still on His feet. Stephen was still crumpled to his knees. How sweet to imagine the first heavenly words that day: "Welcome, Stephan's, My joy and My crown."I wonder if seeing Stephen die for his faith had an impact on the heart of Saul (who later becomes the Apostle Paul?) Right before Stephen passed away, he asked God to forgive those who were stoning him! My heart tells me you cannot watch something so powerful without having something happen in your heart. What an encouragement to know that even when we don't realize it, people are watching. Our stand for Christ could plant a seed in their heart that could eventually produce beautiful fruit!