In this lengthy reading, we have Stephen’s teaching about Jesus and the record of his stoning as a direct result of it.
Stephen has been called the first Christian martyr. The first to die for the faith!
But wait…Jesus died first for the faith. And it was His death and resurrection made possible the faith now beating so strongly in Stephen’s heart! A faith filled with the courage of his convictions, even to the death.
Yet even in suffering death, Stephen is following in His Teacher’s footsteps. He is being the very best kind of student of Jesus. Taking trust in Jesus to the ultimate level!
Stephen faced an extreme test of faith. For when you give up your life, you lose everything you have and everything you ever hope to have.
Unless…unless there is hope for something more beyond this life. And this something is the resurrection to a new life Jesus promises to all who follow Him.
Naturally, martyrs are held in the highest esteem by fellow students. Loving Jesus more than life, they become supreme examples faith and encouragement.
It is interesting to read early Christian writers. Some of their letters express a ready willingness to die for the faith also. However, it is not external threats of physical death that trouble them most.
Surprisingly, their greatest persecution seems to be internal. The struggle against temptations in their own lives!
Such was their focus on being a good student of Jesus. The personal failures and sins of the flesh to which they were liable were the greater persecution and suffering from which they most wanted to be delivered.
They expressed a longing to move beyond this life to perfection with Jesus - While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.