A reflection on Acts 7:55-60
“… Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
What allows someone who is being stoned to death to cry out in prayer ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’? What fills someone with such selfless focus and love for those who are bringing about their death?
Surely it is what Stephen knew to be true and what he saw. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…’ He was given a vision of the glory of God.
I think something we learn from Stephen here is that this life is not everything, but the glory of God that awaits followers of Jesus allows us to show mercy to those who wrong us.
We can forgive and be gracious to others because through Stephen’s experience we are drawn into behold something of the glory of God also.
The glory of God, his wonder, his awe, his power, his love, his greatness, his beauty. We see Stephen’s response to this vision was one of joy and delight that allowed his concern not to be to save his physical life but to care for the spiritual lives of those attacking him.
He wanted them to come to experience the transformation that he had experienced through Jesus death and resurrection to forgive his sins and grant him everlasting life.
And, what is so cool is that we see his prayer answered. We are told a man named Saul is here giving approval to Stephen’s death. God answers Stephen’s prayer for the mercy of his killers in the most remarkable way.
Jesus will transform this Saul and send him “to open… eyes, so that [people] may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God… receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus”].
When were caught up in God’s beauty and power we see things differently, as He sees them. When were captivated by His glory we live for His purposes and experience joy that goes beyond what we could imagine.