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?