Scripture Reading: Acts 7:54-60
“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)
Our passage today tells about the death of Stephen. After he made his defense before the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders were enraged (v. 54). Stephen stood before them in perfect peace. God prepared him for this moment: “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” God gave Stephen a glimpse of His glory prior to his martyrdom.
Stephen saw Jesus standing, not sitting, at the right hand of God. Jesus was standing to vindicate Stephen. The glorified Christ saw the injustice of these religious leaders and stood in outrage over it. He was standing as Stephen was stoned to death.
Because Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, he died praying for the people who had thrown the stones at him. He first prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (v. 59). These were similar words to those Jesus prayed when He was dying on the cross (Luke 23:46). And then Stephen’s final words were: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (v. 60). Do you remember Jesus’ words from the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Stephen died with gracious words on his lips. Because he was full of the Holy Spirit, he died praying for the forgiveness of those who stoned him. People who are filled with God’s Spirit will respond to others like their Savior responded. The Spirit enables us to have the mind and heart of Jesus. Stephen was not the least bit bitter toward those who had mistreated him. Instead he showed the love and grace of Jesus to them even in his death.
Saul of Tarsus witnessed Stephen’s execution: “Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (v. 58). Stephen’s death and his gracious response to the people who killed him left a lasting impression on Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul.
Lord Jesus, may I be full of the Holy Spirit. Give me grace to forgive others who hurt me. May the mind and heart of Christ control me this day.
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