Reading: Acts 7:59-60
Verses 59-60: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
After Jesus, Stephen is the first person to die for their faith. Just as the early church is finding itself and its voice, this tragedy occurs. Stephen was bold and lived his faith out loud. He was led by the Holy Spirit. He was drawing people to Jesus Christ. The stoning of Stephen must’ve felt like a massive gut punch to the early church. Until you heard the words he said even as death came. Stephen’s last words were a powerful witness to the faith that he had in the Lord.
As the stoning began Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He was committing his soul to the one in whom he put all his hope and trust. He was declaring his faith in the one who rose from death. Even now he remained bold for his faith. With his last breath Stephen offers these words that echo Jesus’ words from the cross: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Like his master, even in death Stephen offers forgiveness. He models grace. This too is a great testimony to the power of the Spirit of Christ within Stephen, leading and guiding him right to the very end.
This martyrdom and the intense persecution that will follow forces the church out into the world. Led by Saul, the Jewish religious leaders will try to eradicate this new faith in Jesus Christ. This too will lead to bold witnessing for their faith. In Spirit, truth, and faith the church will grow and thrive. It is God’s plan. May it continue to be so with you and with me.
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the witness of Stephen. Lead and guide me by the same power of the Holy Spirit. Empower in me a bold and courageous faith that stands tall for you. Amen.