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.
- St. Stephen is the 1st Martyr and he is Glorified pretty early on. It takes another 10+ years for the 1st Apostle, St. James (the Son of Zebedee), to be martyred in 44 A.D. (a beheading by King Herod Agrippa which gives us the “sword-like” Cross of St. James). Regardless, St. Stephen had a front-row ticket to witness Heaven, Jesus, and God after being filled with the Holy Spirit. And, indirectly, St. Stephen is used by God to start the conversion of St. Paul. Can you imagine what St. Paul must have been thinking watching this young man courageously speak for the Lord while being stoned and then asking the Lord to forgive the crowd? Sounds very similar to the way Jesus died – including crying out with a loud voice. When have we forgiven others when they were “martyring” us? When they were “hurting” us? Do we stop to think that their minds could be debased and full of hurt, anger, etc. and they don’t know what they’re doing? That it just might be the devil doing it?
Psalms 97:1-2, 6-7, 9
R. The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne. R. The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory. All gods are prostrate before him. R. You, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods. R.
- “All gods”……..noodle on that one for a bit…….what does that mean? The gods of other religions or other idols, that aren’t really gods like our God, but are earthly creations? Hmmm…
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
I, John, heard a voice saying to me: “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates. “I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.” Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water. The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
- “Even So Come”……the final words of the Bible are “Come, Lord Jesus!” and this is beautifully displayed by Passion City’s All-Star Performance at Philips Arena in 2015. I’ve been Blessed to have had four (4) dreams with Jesus over the course of my life (see Job 33 as to “why” God talks to us in our sleep). In the 3rd dream, Jesus was sitting on my lower back massaging it and repeating the words, “come…come…come”. I struggled to understand this dream for years. Now, after significant Spiritual and medical healings, my back is nearly fixed (I’m talking scoliosis like an S-curve almost gone). Jesus wants us to come fully to Him. It’s simple, but it’s hard in our world and flesh. How are we not letting go and coming to Jesus? What are we holding on to that has no eternal power over us? Side Note: Ask me sometime about my 4th dream that happened a couple of months ago……..
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord. I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice. R.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
- The Gospel this week is all about uniting everyone and everything. It’s a reconciliation if you will of the world with Jesus and God. While it isn’t apologetic, you can sense Jesus’ sense of urgency and His concern (love) for everyone making it Home. Jesus is our Ultimate Intermediary with God, but, let’s not forget, that He is also God and was even “before the foundation of the world.” As Believers, we are reconciled already – bumps, bruises, and all. But, we are called to ACT and bring others to Christ. It’s like the final scene of an action movie where everyone is trying to “make it safely” out of their disaster (e.g. think “Speed” with Keanu Reeves & Sandra Bullock or “Dante’s Peak” with Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton). How are we ACTING for Jesus? How are we not ACTING?