Obscure Bible Characters That Pump Me Up: Stephen

I’m thrilled to get in a new entry to my section of obscure Bible character. This next man is not quite as obscure as the Roman centurion. Anyone who has read their Bible enough will recognize Stephen. I want to write on him though because few realize his importance, and just what kind of a man Stephen had to have been. If you know anything about Stephen it is probably about his death. We will get to that in a moment, but first I want to go back to where we first learn about this wonderful man.

Stephen first shows up in Act 6. He is introduced in the midst of internal conflict for the church. There were people in the church who grew frustrated over favoritism that was coming up. You see, in the church you had the Hebrews and the Hellenists. The Hellenists were individuals who immersed themselves in the Greek culture. They were often of Jewish heritage, but they followed more of a Greek culture rather than the culture of their ancestors. The Hellenists were feeling particularly neglected in comparison to the Hebrews in terms of “pastoral” care. There was a lot of friction between these two groups. This is where we see Stephen enter the picture.

The apostles had the church pick out from among them a group of men who could care for the physical needs of people in the church. Stephen was the first one chosen. Scripture tells us he was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. This was a man picked and agreed on by both sides of this conflict. Stephen had enough respect from both sides that the church body was comfortable having him in this position. This had to be a man that was loved and respected by the people in the church.

This is the introduction we receive of Stephen. This is a man with a bright future before him. A man loved by people from all sides. I should point out how difficult it is to accomplish that. Often you are either loved by one side or hated by all. People in the middle ground are rarely respected by people from all sides. Stephen is a leader.

We rapidly go into what many might consider a tragedy for Stephen. Maybe you watched the Bible series on the history channel. If you watched the episode with Stephen’s death I should mention that that was done completely wrong. The demeanor that actor portrayed was not the vibe we receive from Stephen when we read what is going on. Stephen was a man who spoke with real authority.

Stephen finds himself in trouble for preaching about Jesus Christ. He gives a speech full of power and truth. He points the finger at those responsible for crucifying the son of God. Stephen gives a history lesson to these religious men leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. His speech ended with him seeing a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven. Upon speaking of this vision these religious men went into a rage. They stoned him. They stoned Stephen because they couldn’t take it anymore. They couldn’t stand him speaking the same blasphemous words Jesus spoke of. It was that same phrase spoken by Jesus that made the Pharisees determined to crucify him. Thus Stephen died.

That can’t be right. How can this obscure Bible character pump me up so much? How can such a depressing end to such a promising man fill me with courage? We meet Stephen in chapter sic and in chapter seven he is murdered. What a waste! Why would God let such a promising man die so early in his career of servanthood. How could this character possibly pump me up so much? Stephen’s death teaches me something powerful about servanthood. True servanthood to God can have an impact beyond death.

Stephen died because he was a loyal servant to God. He did not shy away from the truth. He spoke with boldness. He became the first Christian martyr. His death started off the first persecution of Christians. God used the murder of Stephen to make history. God used Stephen’s servanthood to the death to bring about the expansion of the Gospel.

A man was present for Stephen’s murder. His name was Saul. Saul carried out a full on persecution. This lead to Christians dispersing. They went off into varies lands, but shared the Gospel wherever they went. Stephen’s death gave them the push to move forward. His death became a war cry for believers. They did not keep silent when they saw their first martyr. If anything evangelism exploded after that point.

This martyr would lead Saul himself down a road where he would meet Jesus Christ and become one of the greatest servants for the Gospel. I see a man full of promise in life accomplish more form his death. This is why Stephen pumps me up so much. He gives me courage to face death. He gives me hope in realizing that a true servants work will live on.

Stephen’s life puts in me a desire to be a man worth the respect of opposing sides. His death gives me the courage to speak truth boldly. His legacy gives the joy to know my work can continue on. We look at Stephen’s death and think it is one big waste, but look at it closer and we realize God made more out of Stephen’s death than he ever could have hoped to accomplish in his life.

Just how far will your servanthood take you? What legacy will your servanthood leave behind?

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Obscure Bible characters that pump me up: The Roman Centurion

This is my first post in this new category, and it is one I am seriously thrilled to share. It has been on my mind so intensely lately after processing through the gospel story again over the past few weeks. The character I am writing about today is a man with no name. We know very little about this man, but what we do know should have a profound influence in how we view the impact the crucifixion has.

He was a Roman centurion. He was a soldier of the might Roman Empire. His ranking placed him as the head of 100 soldiers. He was a man with a certain amount of power. You didn’t cross Roman soldiers in this time period. They worked for those that ruled over you. This would have been a man with a measure of influence amongst the men he was leading. What were this man’s beliefs though?

As a Roman soldier he would have stood with the popular religious views of Rome. A religion filled with multiple deities. A religion where the Caeser was to be declared your Lord, and to be called the son of God. The current Caesar was always called the son of God since he followed the former Caesar who became a full blown deity upon death. This man was a pagan.

We know something else about this particular Roman soldier. He played a role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He was among the soldiers that nailed Jesus to the cross. He was around the soldiers he gambled over Christ’s clothing. He was in the crowd that mocked Jesus. Like all the others soldiers there he was a tormenter of Jesus. He was in the same crowd that Jesus cried to God to forgive since they did not know what they were doing. This was a man of profound ignorance for playing a part in crucifying the true son of God. If only he knew how much his life was about to change.

Upon Jesus death, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us a series of events took place. Put all of the details form these gospels together, and you will find that Jesus death was impossible to ignore. The veil in the temple that represented division between God and man was torn in two, there was a great earthquake that split open the earth, and a great darkness covered the sky. All these events lead to one of the most profound statements uttered. The Roman centurion looked at all that had happened and said, “Truly this was the son of God.”

How often have you blown over that statement? It is mentioned in some form in three of the four gospels. The gospel of Luke mentions how the centurion realized Jesus innocence. In three of the gospel this character shows up in order to show one simple truth. Each account of this event shows that the centurion realizes how wrong he has been.

Do you grasp the impact of these words? A roman soldier who played part in the death of Jesus has admitted his guilt in the event. A roman soldier who has been trained to call his Caesar Lord and son of God has effectively denounced all that by calling Jesus the true son of God. Not son of a Caesar God. Christ has been proclaimed as THE son of God. What overwhelms me even further is what it took to get this Roman Centurion to believe this life changing truth.

He did not need to see the resurrection of Christ. The sheer impact of Christ’s death showed him the importance of this man. The fact that so much power and influence came from Christ’s death showed this soldier who he really was. What I imagine amazed this man even more was the fact that Christ willing let himself die when he clearly could have done something about it.

This Roman soldier who believed everything opposite Christianity found belief in Christ just by witnessing his death. This is incredible! Don’t you see? Christ took the most powerful symbolic enemy of mankind. He took death itself. It was the foe that was believed to be incapable of defeat. It was the enemy that marked the end of all things. He took that foe and used it to show the impact of his own power and strength! Christ took the most powerful, dark, symbolic villain man has ever know, and effectively showed that death was meaningless compared to him. How did he show it? By dying! Christ’s death showed that death itself was unable to handle him. His creation literally screamed out from the event. Christ’s death effected things on a global scale. It was a physical example of the spiritually creation would receive form his resurrection. This Roman soldier got to witness something incredible. He got to witness Satan’s greatest blow being his worst nightmare. It took death, but the Roman soldier found God.

One man. No name. A statement that creation itself echoes to this day. I don’t know about you, but that just gets me excited.