Thursday, March 1, 2012

Acts 7:54-56

Summary retelling of Acts 7: 54-56:

The Sanhedrin hears where Stephen is going with his speech and they are absolutely enraged by his concluding point.  However, much like when Jesus was before the Sanhedrin, Stephen was able to focus on God’s glory and not the impending doom that the Sanhedrin had in store for him.  In a final act of defiance, Stephen declares that he can see the Son of Man, or Jesus, standing at the right hand of God.

Thoughts for Today:
First Thought:
Anger is a funny thing.  It is often said that the first thing that anger shuts is the ears.  I mean, it is hard enough to actually listen to another person in the first place – usually we spend our time planning what we are going to say once the other person quits talking rather than actually listening to them.  But then when we are angry, we have almost no chance to listen and hear truth!  There can be no doubt why Jesus tells people that if you are angry at your brother you are already guilty of murder.  Once anger sets in, the conversation is usually over.

How does anger ruin your life and keep you from hearing the truth like it did to the Sanhedrin in today’s reading?

Second Thought:
Stephen is able to look past the worldly consequences.  Now, we can sit back in our easy chair and on our couches and say, “Well, God certainly doesn’t call all of us to make that ultimate sacrifice.”  But then again, let’s look at the evidence.  Stephen was martyred.  Eleven of the original twelve disciples died violent deaths (1 by suicide and the other 10 as martyrs for their faith).  All of the followers of Christ in Jerusalem  were persecuted so much that everyone but the twelve moved away.  Paul was arrest multiple times, tried multiple times, was beaten multiple times, and likely eventually killed for his faith.  It seems like God actually does call us to make pretty big sacrifices.  But in order to be able to do that, we have to learn how to look past the things of the world.  We have to learn how to value eternal life over material life.  And that is a step that is very difficult.  That is why Jesus says that the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the gate that leads to eternal life is narrow.

Can you honestly confess to being willing to die for your faith?  Although it might seem like a really harsh question, if you aren’t willing, what might that say about your priorities?

Third Thought:
Stephen’s nail in the coffin is professing to see Christ at God’s right hand.  The one who is at God’s right hand is God’s Messiah.  Stephen is saying that Jesus is God’s Messiah (I know, that’s really a no-brainer.)  But this sets up what comes next.  If Stephen is declaring that the Sanhedrin killed God’s Messiah, then he is claiming that in their zealousness for God they have sinned.  They have sinned against God when they were convinced that they were upholding God’s ways.  It means that either Stephen is wrong – and thus blaspheming God and needs to die – or they are wrong and need to convert to what the disciples are teaching.  I think you can see where this is going to go in tomorrow’s reading.

How often do we do the same thing as the Sanhedrin?  Why is it that rather than admit we are wrong, we get angry and go out and find other people who agree with us?

Passage for Tomorrow: Acts 7:57-60
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