1000 years in 50 sentences

11 06 2011

Stephen is accused of balsphemy and is called on to defend his position – “Are these accusations true?”

What follows is an overview of Israelite history from the time of Abraham until the time of David – 1000 years in 50 sentences.  Quite an oration!  Stephen shows how the different pieces of God’s story fit together into a whole.  He could have taken Marge Simpson’s advice at this point and quit while he was ahead – he had shown his grasp of history, displayed orthodox faith, proved that the accusations against him were false.

But what does he do?

He writes his hearers into the story.   That’s no bad thing; listeners love to be part of the story, readers love to enter in.  But listen to what he says –

“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!  Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.” (Acts 7:51-53)

Ouch!

Stephen’s listeners were enraged, so enraged that they shouted abuse, mobbed him, dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death.

How does this fit with the story?

Jesus had made a promise to his followers before he left them –

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Stephen had made a start – in Jerusalem – but look what happened to him…and look what happened next –

“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria… the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” (Acts 8:1-4)

Persecution, which should have put a stop to the spread of the Jesus story, is the very means by which it is propelled throughout the world.  Just “to the ends of the earth” to go.

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