13 May. Acts 7:1-60

13 May. Stephen defends himself at the Jewish Council

"The high priest said to Stephen, 'Are these things true?' [Have you been speaking against Moses and against God?]"

"Stephen answered, 'Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to Abraham, our ancestor, in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran. God said to Abraham, "Leave your country and your relatives, and go to the land I will show you..." God sent him to this place where you now live...'"

"'God made an agreement with Abraham, the sign of which was circumcision. And so when Abraham had his son Isaac, he circumcised him when he was eight days old. Isaac also circumcised his son Jacob, and Jacob did the same for his sons, the twelve ancestors of our people...'"

"Jacob's sons became jealous of Joseph and sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him... The king made him governor of Egypt and put him in charge of all the people in his palace... So Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and his sons died...'"

"'Then a new king, who did not know who Joseph was, began to rule Egypt. The king tricked our people and was cruel to our ancestors... At this time, Moses was born...'"

"'So Moses led the people out of Egypt... This is the same Moses who said to the people of Israel, "God will give you a prophet like me, who is one of your own people."'" [Deuteronomy 18:15]

"'But our ancestors did not want to obey Moses... Later, Joshua led our ancestors to capture the lands of the other nations... Solomon was the one who built the Temple. But the Most High does not live in houses that people build with their hands... As the prophet says, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool..."'" [Isaiah 66:1-2]

"Stephen continued speaking; 'You stubborn people! You have not given your hearts to God, nor will you listen to him! You are always against what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you, just as your ancestors were. Your ancestors tried to hurt every prophet who ever lived. Those prophets said long ago that the One who is good would come, but your ancestors killed them.'"

"'And now you have turned against and killed the One who is good. You received the law of Moses, which God gave you through his angels, but you haven't obeyed it.'"

"When the leaders heard this, they became furious.... But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God's right side. He said, 'Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at God's right side.'"

"Then they shouted loudly and covered their ears and all ran at Stephen. They took him out of the city and began to throw stones at him to kill him. And those who told lies against Stephen left their coats with a young man named Saul [Paul]."

"While they were throwing stones, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' After Stephen said this, he died."

          (Acts 7:1-60)

 

 

Having been accused of anti-Jewish rhetoric - speaking against Moses and God - Stephen defended himself admirably. He explained how Jesus’s coming was foretold by Moses and the prophets (see Deuteronomy 18:15) and how Jesus was rejected by the more traditional Hebrew-speaking Jews. When he glanced up and said “Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at God’s right side” (Acts 7:56), the Jewish council members were furious.

They dragged him outside and stoned him to death on the grounds of ‘blasphemy’ (severe disrespect for God).

As with Jesus, the Jews had no legal authority to carry out a death sentence. But Stephen was executed illegally during a power vacuum that had occurred between the departure of Pontius Pilate as Roman governor and the arrival of his successor.

Stephen is thought by many to have been stoned to death in the Kidron Valley just outside the Lion Gate or 'St Stephen’s Gate' at the north east corner of the Temple Mount.

However, the 6th century church built by the Byzantine Empress Eudocia in memory of St Stephen was located near the Damascus Gate to the north of the city, and this may well be where Stephen met his death. The more recent St Stephen’s Church, built alongside the Nablus Road in 1900, is on the site of the original Byzantine church.

The photo shows the Old City of Jerusalem near St Stephen's Gate.

You can read more about Stephen's death (and its consequences) @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/stephen-is-killed-the-be…/


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