Renew us day by day, Lord, that we may shine with your glory and so bring honor to your name.
We all like to justify ‘our’ group. We are proud of our identity and bond through our distinctiveness. The Hellenistic Jews may have looked with some smugness at the convulsions within the Hebraic people. Now the infection spread as Stephen comes among them, as Peter had to the Hebraic Jews. This had to be stamped out before it took hold.
The words Stephen spoke were given added weight by his character and actions. To the people, at least, it was clear that he was anointed by God. This was confirmed in both his gracious tone and his unanswerable arguments. Incidentally, it may have been news about Stephen’s preaching that drew a particularly eloquent Jew, Saul, from Cilicia back to Jerusalem. One face remains incontestable, that the gospel of Jesus provokes a reaction and splits opinion. There is nothing sleep-inducing about such a message, and there never should be! If you need a sweet to keep awake, perhaps the preacher needs a firework!
Defeated in public debate, the Hellenistic Jews resort to lies in the name of defending truth. How ironic! Witnesses are coached in their ‘evidence’. The charge of blasphemy had been used to secure Jesus condemnation. It could be rolled out agin. Some people never learn! As for Gamaliel’s recent words, sometimes anger just squeezes out reason, though its victory is usually short-lived. Speaking by rote, the charge is made: anti-temple, anti-Law and anti-Moses. The whole history and faith of all Jews was being trampled on. Something had to be done about it. However, unlike Jesus, Stephen exercised his right of reply to remarkable effect, as we shall see. Yet before they heard him speak, once again it was his presence that silenced them, and possibly exposed how shabby their pack of lies truly was.
‘The fruit of the Spirit is not excitement or orthodoxy: it is character.’ The events you face reveal your character.