St Stephen’s Bridge
It may be a little early to think of St Stephen’s Day but we have been recently looking at this Martyr on Sundays. His speech in the book of Acts is the longest recorded by the writer Luke and was clearly very significant for him. However, it is the manner in which Stephen died which captures our attention;
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the S at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
All of this begs the question- Why was Stephen stoned to death? Because he had just made the not so popular charge that all men are law breakers having hopelessly shattered God’s righteous standard. ‘So what?’ somebody might say but, tragically, this is a big deal. You see that as far as getting into Heaven is concerned there MUST be complete conformity to God’s Law. It is this conformity that the Bible calls righteousness. This is very bad news as not one of us has this required righteousness.
However, this raises another question- Despite being a sinner like everybody else Stephen knew that he was going to Heaven; how could that be?
We find the answer in whom Stephen was looking to at the moment of his death. To feel the power of this put yourself in Stephen’s shoes. You are about to die and stand before God in judgment so what are your last thoughts going to be? I suspect we might have been thinking- have I done enough to make it to Heaven? Have I been good enough? Have I given enough money to charity? Have I gone to Church enough?
Let me say it as graciously as possible but if those are the things that we are counting on to make it with God then we have no hope. All of the above mentioned things are good but if we are trying to use them as stepping stones to God then we are going to fall hopelessly short as our works, our righteousness, is simply not good enough.
Feeling angry enough to stone me...? Please read on. Stephen knew that he was going to Heaven as he stared death straight in the face because he was NOT looking to his good works but, rather, was looking to Jesus. Stephen was depending on what Jesus did on the Cross to save him. That was why he could pray with confidence “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Think of two bridges side by side crossing a dangerous canyon. One is made of wood but is hopelessly rotten and can barely take its own weight. The other is made of steel and looks like it could carry a load of cattle during a tornado. Which one would you trust in to take you across? Stephen, at the hour of his death, took the Steel bridge by depending on Jesus.
What about you?