You just went on a journey through Genesis and Exodus. Here we find ourselves with Stephen again. He was one of the deacons who then turned preacher who was arrested by the Pharisees because he was speaking of Jesus as Savior. The high priest asks him to begin our Scripture, “Is this so?” The this, in the this, is the accusation that Stephen was speaking against the temple and that Jesus was going to destroy the temple. This was a big deal. You don’t mess with the temple because it was the residence of God. I am so thankful that we do not believe that God actually lives in the church. Sure, we respect the church and consider the church a place where we come together to worship, but we don’t believe that God lives there…do we?
If we believed that God lived in the church then we would act one way in the church and another outside the church. We don’t do that do we? If we believed that God lived in the church then we would treat some people one way in church and then ignore them outside of church, and we don’t do that. If we believed that God lived in the church then we would think that for some reason God can hear us and is closer to us while we are in the church and we can feel him more. Wait, maybe we do think that God is somehow associated with the building of the church more than we should.
Back to Stephen, he takes us on a journey through Genesis and through Exodus, the first two books of the Bible. It is taking me more than two years to get through Genesis and he did it in less than 5 minutes. Everything seems to be going great until he gets to verse 51 where he calls the high priest and those surrounding him stiff necked people. He accused them of falling in line with their ancestors who stoned the prophets and refused to listen to the advice that they gave. He accused them of being in line with generations of people in power who refused to listen to people that God sends to them in order to give them guidance. As you can imagine they don’t like that. But they can live with that. It is what he says next that really drives them mad.
He blasphemes by saying that he saw God and the Son of Man standing next to him. The son of man, who would that be? Throughout the Gospels we find Jesus called the Son of Man. Here are some references: Matthew 18:11, Mark 2:27-28, Luke 11:29-32, John 1:49-52. So in every single Gospel we find Jesus called the son of man. The Pharisees understood Stephen to say that Jesus, this man who had been executed as a common criminal, is standing next to God. Stephen becomes the first martyr. Here is another Rembrandt depicting the scene.
I hope you noticed who was gathering the cloaks of the people as they got themselves warmed up to throw stones at Stephen. Make sure you don’t miss vs. 58 where we find the first mention of Saul who will be the one who writes the most of the New Testament.