You Stiff-necked People!

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it."

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul. 
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them";
and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Now Saul was consenting to his execution. - Acts 7:51-8:1 (NAB)

Stephen has a way with words, don't you think?  "You stiff-necked people uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors."  I might have to remember that line!
When I looked up "uncircumcised," the second definition says "spiritually unpure:  heathen."  Apparently Stephen was right because the people stoned him to death for those words.
Though Stephen condemns the people for their unpure spirit he doesn't hold their actions against them, as they stone him to death.  "Lord receive my spirit" and "Lord do not hold this sin against them."

How many times has someone said or done something stupid to you and you have held it in your heart for how long?  Hours, days, years?  Yet Stephen, like Jesus, immediately forgives his killers!
Stephen was martyred for his faith in an extraordinary act.  I wonder if his killers ever realized the gift that he gave them?

Leave a comment