As Jesus’s church grows, it becomes hard for the twelve disciples to manage the practical needs of their followers and still do their main job.
To focus on teaching, they decide to find seven godly men to help with the fair distribution of food. (Sorry ladies, again the Bible specifies men, but don’t let this past cultural convention limit what you do today.)
One of the seven is Stephen. He’s a man of great faith and full of the Holy Spirit.
Stephen, under God’s grace and power, performs many amazing miracles. But some people oppose him and argue with him. Unable to counter Stephen’s wisdom, some men slander him.
They accuse him of blasphemy. This riles up the crowd, and they drag him before the religious Council. For their prosecution, Stephen’s detractors present more false witnesses.
As they prosecute Stephen, his face glows like an angel. He launches into a powerful sermon, reviewing his people’s history up to the present time. He collectively calls them uncircumcised (a huge religious insult at that time) and says they resist the Holy Spirit.
He says their ancestors murdered the prophets who predicted Jesus’s coming. “And now you killed him.”
Furious, they grind their teeth at him.
“Hey, look.” Stephen points up. “I see heaven and Jesus standing there at God’s right hand.”
They cover their ears so they can’t hear him, scream as loud as they can, and rush him. They drag him out of town and throw stones at him.
As Stephen’s life fades, he gives his spirit over to Jesus and asks that the men killing him not be held guilty for their actions. Then he dies.
A young Pharisee named Saul sees the whole thing, and he approves of Stephen’s murder.
When people do us harm, how far will we go to ask God to forgive them?
Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.