Acts 7:54-60, Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.
Maybe you have witnessed someone who starts walking down the wrong path, only to begin running that same wrong direction as time goes on. This was the case with the young man, named Saul, we read about in the book of Acts. His first mention is in Acts 7:58 where he was the “coat-guard” for those who were stoning Steven. After this moment we find Saul growing more and more aggressive in persecuting Christians.
As Saul witnessed Stephen’s persecution, the original Greek word indicated he “took pleasure with others in…” his participation in this event. It is sometimes used to speak of married couples who take mutual pleasure in staying together. (1 Corinthians 7:12-13) Saul was pleased with the actions of those who were punishing the “blasphemous” and they were pleased with his approval. We call this a mutual admiration society. Examination of the word also indicates a “continuing” action which demonstrates a cheering on of the whole event. He cheered every blow to Stephen like points in some sick game.
As Jesus witnessed this foul behavior, He didn’t miss a single stone or the heart felt actions of its participants. Jesus was standing as all of this occurred. (Acts 7:56) Not the audience self-righteous people would want. From Jesus’ perspective He witnessed a heartbreaking dynamic. He watched the religiously “Self-Righteous” persecute and kill the pure and holy messenger of God. One for Him and several against Him. One covered in Jesus’ blood. The others wearing prayer shawls. One spiritually alive but dead physically.The others were very much alive physically, but as dead spiritually as they possibly could be. The most interesting thing is that both were loved by God none-the-less. (John 3:16)
Stephen had one brief appearance but it is preserved in the annals of God’s Word. With one real chance to stand out, (not that he was looking for this) he met the challenge with grace, integrity, and dignity. At the end of all this, everyone was mostly where they started. Steven was reveling in his realized vision. Saul was handing out coats. Jesus was still standing and loving them all.
The tragedy of this, beyond the loss of a faithful young man of God, was the fact that most of those who were in the wrong did not change. Saul would eventually change due a face-to-face meeting with Jesus. Some might see Steven as abandoned. Stephen was seeing Jesus the whole time! He knew the Savior was right there with him. In fact, as Stephen received his heavenly ovation, he was welcomed into the arms of the very Savior he sacrificed himself for. For those who live for Jesus today, they can all be sure He will welcome them home in similar fashion. May we all be found serving Christ as He watches on. Be sure that He is always with us – watching on! Godspeed on your journey!