Last week we heard about Peter and John healing the man at the temple gate, and how many people once again believed because of the miracle they saw and the things Peter and John said. But others weren't so convinced, and we heard all about the religious leaders trying to put a stop to the message about Jesus.
This week we're going to hear about Stephen, who spoke up boldly, and even died for that message. Watch the video.
Today's Bible passage comes from Acts 6: 8-15, and Acts 7. The Good News Translation is below, or you can use a different version if you'd like.
(The passage is very long, so below is Acts 6: 8-12, followed by Acts 7: 51-60. Feel free to also read the rest of chapter 7, but the main points are coverd in the video)
Stephen, a man richly blessed by God and full of power, performed great miracles and wonders among the people. But he was opposed by some men who were members of the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), which had Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. They and other Jews from the provinces of Cilicia and Asia started arguing with Stephen. But the Spirit gave Stephen such wisdom that when he spoke, they could not refute him. So they bribed some men to say, “We heard him speaking against Moses and against God!” In this way they stirred up the people, the elders, and the teachers of the Law. They seized Stephen and took him before the Council.
“How stubborn you are!” Stephen went on to say. “How heathen your hearts, how deaf you are to God's message! You are just like your ancestors: you too have always resisted the Holy Spirit! Was there any prophet that your ancestors did not persecute? They killed God's messengers, who long ago announced the coming of his righteous Servant. And now you have betrayed and murdered him. You are the ones who received God's law, that was handed down by angels—yet you have not obeyed it!”
As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died.
At some point in the coming week collect stones with at least one smooth flat side (you may even already have some lying around) Use paints to decorate the stone with words or pictures that remind you of Stephen. For example, “Stand up for God”, or simply “Stephen, Acts 7”.
Lord, thank you again for Jesus coming to earth to live and die and rise again so that we might be forgiven for the things we do wrong and the times we turn away from you. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who lives in us to give us joy and courage, and who helps us to live the way you want us to. Thank you for Stephen's example - that he was willing to stand up for your message, and that he prayed for those who harmed him. Help us to be more like Jesus each day.