Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 7:55-60: But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.
Summary – Despite the tragic subject matter, this is really a precious, tender portrait of Stephen’s death, because of the ministry of Christ to him in the midst of his death (Ps 23:5). Blessed by the light of Christ’s face shining upon him, literally, Stephen was granted sight of Heaven, and we’re told specifically that he saw Christ ‘standing’ to watch as His faithful servant was attacked. Did you know that this is the only time in the New Testament where you’ll find Christ ‘standing’ at the right hand of the Father? He is always otherwise found regally seated there, but not at this moment. Christ knew the terror of a moment like that and He was not unaffected by it – He was not simply a casual Heavenly observer or disinterested witness. He was moved to His feet. He’s not a High Priest above being touched by our pains (Heb 4:15).
Insight – We are called to walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor. 5:7). But there is a time when our faith will be transformed into sight; our vision into beholding. Stephen’s faith was sight at this moment. Christ was risen indeed and not only risen, but ascended and received into the most honored position of Heaven: the right Hand of the Father’s throne. Since Christ was there, it is only through Him that anyone can now approach the Father. And with the sight of this, Stephen’s heart was no longer troubled. He not only faced his violent death faithfully, but found the grace to repeat the words of His Savior, praying mercy on his foes . . . a prayer that was answered, at least in part, through the life of the chief of sinners, to whom we’re also introduced in this passage: Saul, who would become St. Paul.
Child’s Catechism -What did Stephen see? He saw Jesus standing at the right Hand of the Father as his advocate.
Discussion – Why were the men so angry with Stephen? Specifically, they lost control when he claimed that Christ was at the right hand of the Father, why was this statement so infuriating to them?
Prayer – Merciful Father, our times are in Your good hands. We praise You for caring for us, Your people, so tenderly. We praise and thank you for the way you shepherd us through the hardships You have for us. We praise You for Your steadfast love and sufficient grace. And we praise You for giving us a Savior like Christ, Who was acquainted with suffering, and apart from Whom, no one can come to You. Give us His heart of mercy and cause the light of His face to shine on us in our dark hours we pray, in His name, Amen.
(Contributed by Pastor Ben Rossell)