Stephen transformed his response to the high priest’s question into an opportunity to share a narrative of the Good News of Jesus Christ. First, he provided a synopsis of his own understanding of how God was present in the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, stories the members of the Sanhedrin also knew very well.
The newborn Church continued to grow very quickly, and with each milestone a new organizational strategy or approach developed. In today’s passage, a “food distribution team” was formed to make sure no one was overlooked. Stephen, a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” was the very first person named to the team.
Notice that today’s reading begins with feelings and acts of jealousy. Feelings of jealousy are flashing caution signs, warning us that we are probably not seeing things the way God sees them. The religious leaders of Israel are jealous of the apostles of Jesus and place them in jail.
In last week’s First 15s, we read about the compelling movement of the Holy Spirit in the newborn Church of Jesus Christ. In Acts 4:32, we read, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
The early followers believed and proclaimed that the major religious and governmental powers had taken their “best shot” at Jesus and failed. After all, they had tried to kill him and discredited his holiness. For Jesus’ followers, however, their new power was all the evidence they needed that Jesus was who the prophets, the angels, indeed all creation said he was. This was all the evidence they needed.
What had so emboldened these men? How had these uneducated, inexperienced men gained such eloquence? When had they learned to reason and argue so well? What power had enabled them to heal a person that had been disabled all his life?
He was amazed. Everyone was amazed to see the man who had been crippled from birth standing, walking, jumping, even leaping! Peter’s words to them were confusing. “Why are you amazed? We didn’t do this.
This is the moment to which preachers look. We’ve preached the Good New and proclaimed the Gospel. Has anyone heard? Was anyone listening? Often, we may not know. Our words may have been a seed planted, yet to bear fruit.
Peter, the coward, has become Peter the Rock! He who denied Jesus out of fear, now leads the band of Jesus’ followers with boldness and confidence.
Have you ever been called to be a witness to a signature, a document, an accident or perhaps in a trial? To qualify as a legitimate witness you must know the person, have actually seen the signing, or seen the accident/event first hand.
As we end one year and begin another, I challenge you to not make resolutions or promises. That’s right. Do not start with a list of things you would like to do differently this year. Instead determine your focus. Instead of actions you may want to change, consider your mind and it’s preoccupations, wanderings, concerns, etc. Think about your mental focus and where you would like it to be for the coming year.
As we approach the new year, many of us will begin anew. New plans. New goals. New focus. And like many years before, many of us will fail at keeping these new commitments. So what if this year, we looked at it a bit differently?
Many people across the globe celebrate the day after Christmas. They use this extra day to stretch out the holiday because it's worth savoring. I think its a worthy effort. Last year, I started thinking of December 26th as “Savory day.” :) So instead of going back to business as usual today, try lingering in the feel of Christmas for one more day. This can be a luxury for some of us, but if you are able, get your family or friends on board with this idea, and savor the day after Christmas together.
Merry Christmas! Find some time today to read these verse slowly and thoughtfully. Perhaps read them to or with your family. This is the Christmas story! In these few verses, we see the immense love God had for us, for you, me, and all of creation. God gave himself to us in the form of a helpless infant. It’s unimaginable, really.
Imagine being Joseph - your fiancée is pregnant, by some miracle. Her baby is to be a king of some sort. And you are tasked with accepting this shocking and shameful circumstance, then raising this important child. It will be your job to teach this kid — the “Son of the Most High” — how to work, how to pray, how to follow God and how to be leader to many. How do you accept this overwhelming responsibility? With a lot of humility and courage.