Jesus in Acts
July 27, 2022
Jesus—Waiting to Welcome Us Home
(Adapted from the Acts Bible Companion)
Between the Gospels and Acts, we witness Jesus Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven. Jesus sends His Spirit to empower the nearly 25,000 saints. These early days were filled with wonderful stories of how God grew them up as a church.
Perhaps the best way to see Jesus at work in the book of Acts is to look at one of the leaders of the young church, Stephen. Wise, with true conviction, Stephen also was full of saving faith and serving faith. He did many great wonders and miracles, proving he acted with God's authority.
As God’s Word went out, many people responded in faith in Jesus Christ. This wonderful upheaval stirred trouble with the Sadducees, who hated what was happening.
Because Stephen is a strong witness to the gospel, he catches their attention. At first, they try to argue him down. But they’re no match for Stephen’s wisdom and spirit. Finally, they pay witnesses to lie and frame Stephen before the Sanhedrin.
While Stephen stands in court, everyone sees something marvelous in his face—he looks like an angel. When given a chance to defend himself, he instead rehearses Israel’s history and gives a Spirit-filled description of how Israel resisted and rebelled against God. With unselfish courage, he charges the council with betraying and murdering Jesus which of course caused them to go crazy. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly notices—he only has eyes for God. “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” God opened heaven for Stephen to see Jesus, standing, ready to receive His first martyr.
The crowd rushes Stephen, and begins to stone him. They give their coats to Saul, their young protégé, to hold. Two young men—Stephen and Saul of Tarsus—both remarkable, are together here for the only time. They stand on the opposite sides of the Cross. God used them both to shape the course of the early church.
As they stone Stephen, the young deacon calls out to Jesus saying, “Receive my spirit!” and “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” Does that remind you of anyone?
Stephen goes into the presence of Jesus Christ, standing there to meet him. Stephen is the first of millions to give up his life for the highest cause in history.