Jump Start # 2197
Acts 7:56 “and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Our verse today are the words of Stephen. He had made a great sermon connecting the Old Testament to Jesus. The Jewish crowd was through with Jesus. They thought once Jesus was crucified, that things would die down and eventually all talk about Jesus would fade away into history. But that didn’t happen. The disciples kept talking about Jesus. They kept emphasizing that Jesus was in Heaven seated along side of the Father. More and more were beginning to see that this was true. The movement was exploding rather than dying. And, here was Stephen, continuing that message.
The Acts 7 chapter, Stephen’s sermon, was actually his defense. He was dragged before the Jewish council, the same that had found Jesus guilty. False witnesses were presented to tell lies and make up things to make Stephen look bad. The chapter begins with the high priest asking, “Are these things so?” What follows is his sermon. It’s one of the great summaries of the Old Testament and a great picture showing how Jesus fits in God’s story.
Stephen claimed to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God. That was enough for that crowd. They rushed Stephen, dragged him out of the city and immediately executed him by stoning him. They didn’t wait for a Jewish trial. They didn’t get permission from Pilate or Rome. Those things take time. This was mob rule. This was like the old West when citizens broke into a jail and strung up a prisoner on the nearest tree. No trial. No judges. No verdict. This is what the Jewish mob did with Stephen.
It is noteworthy that Stephen claimed he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. That’s a rarity and a unique statement. Often in the New Testament, Jesus is said to be seated at the right hand of God, not standing. In Revelation, Jesus is busy riding a horse and conquering Satan, but the most common expression is that He is seated. The image of royal chairs, seated side by side, is the image that many have. Jesus is seated next to Jehovah and there they reign. But with Stephen, he saw Jesus standing.
I was at a high school volleyball game the other day and I stood a few times. I stood for the National Anthem. It was senior night, and I stood to congratulate the senior players. We stand to get a better view. We stand for approval. At the end of a concert, we have the standing ovation. We hope the band will come out a play an encore of one of their hits. We stand as a sign of respect and decency. If someone walks into your office, you stand and shake their hand. That’s expected. That’s polite. If you were in England, and the queen came in, you’d stand. Here, we stand when the President appears.
Jesus was standing. I doubt it was to get a better view. I expect it was to show approval, acceptance and a sign of great encouragement for Stephen. The preacher Stephen was putting his life on the line. He was not holding back. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the cause of Christ. The message was greater than his life. He would not be silenced until they took his life. Courageous, fearless, determined—like Moses before Pharaoh, or Elijah before the prophets of Baal, or even John the baptist before Herod, young Stephen would be the first known martyr in the young church. There would be others, many others. But this is the first one that we can put a name to. And, the Lord stood.
I thought about this last night. I was watching my Dodgers in game one of the playoffs. The Dodger pitcher, Hyun-jin Ryu, threw seven great innings of shut-out baseball. He was on. The other team had very few hits. As the top of the seventh inning came to a close, it was obvious that he was going to be taken out of the game for a relief pitcher. He had done his job. It was a masterful performance. He struck out the last batter. As he walked off the field, to the cheers of the fan, the cameras focused upon one particular fan, who was standing. It was the legendary Sandy Koufax, the great hall of fall hero of the Dodgers. When baseball experts get together and make their lists of the greatest pitchers ever, in the history of the game, Sandy Koufax’s name is always on that list. In his time, no one was greater than Koufax. And, there this super star legend was standing, applauding the great job that young Ryu had done that night. In the world of baseball, I cannot imagine an image that would be greater than to have a Koufax standing and applauding something you have done.
Biblically, we remember Jesus noticing incredible faith. The Lord marveled, the Gospels tell us. It was a “wow factor.” It caught the eye of the Lord. There are so many things here that would have disappointed Jesus. Seeing the prejudice, hatred and selfishness of the villages he visited. Seeing the abuse that some were using to take advantage of others, or, seeing the corruption in both politics and in religious circles, was so common. But when Jesus saw genuine faith, He was impressed. He marveled.
And, the Lord noticed. The Lord stood. Before the Lord stood for Stephen, Stephen had stood for the Lord. We sing the song, “Stand up, stand up, for Jesus.” It’s hard to sing that song sitting down. But the song isn’t about our posture as we are singing, but rather our way of life as we live. Stephen stood up for Jesus. Stephen, one of the seven chosen in Acts 6, as being full of the Spirit, was to help the neglected widows. Stephen was all in for the Lord. Committed. Dedicated. Faithful. He was an example to others.
Well done, are the words of the master to the five talent man. Luke 15 shows the angels in Heaven rejoicing over the lost being found. There seems to be an excitement and a joy running through Heaven as the righteous follow the Lord.
Jesus stood for Stephen. Jesus was approving of what Stephen was doing. Jesus may have stood to welcome Stephen to the other side. I’d like to think that when it’s our time to pass through that door of death, that as the angels carry our soul, there we see Jesus standing, welcoming us home. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but it sure is a nice thought.
And, Jesus stood. That’s amazing!