Where are You Looking? 1/12/2018

Where Are You Looking?                                            1/12/2018

Acts 7:54-57
As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” 57 With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. 

They rushed at him. Someone grabbed his arm. Another held a fistful of his cloak, twisting it and shoving him forward. They spit and ground their teeth. They growled like dogs, hissed like snakes. They kicked at his legs as they shoved him outside. Dragging him through the streets, they hurled insults and accusations.

They shoved him to the ground, pelting him with stones. At first, he tried to fend off the rocks with his arms, but blow after blow stole his strength. His body was battered. The stones came fast and hard. Dust mingled with blood as he folded into a heap.

What caused these religious leaders to burst into a murderous rage? Stephen had spoken only truth, but it was a truth they did not want to hear. They had used God’s name in vain—to exalt themselves rather than the One they claimed to worship. They had the motions right but lacked inner submission to God.

Stephen’s accusers looked at the law and they feared man. Stephen looked at Jesus and found both truth and life. 

What did Stephen see?
He saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” (Acts 7:55-56)

What did Stephen’s accusers and the Council see?
Stephen’s opponents tried to shut Stephen up since they could not refute him and his God-given wisdom. So they lied and bribed men to bear false witness against Stephen. Hearing these lies as testimony, the Council became furious, ground their teeth, and covered their ears. They cried out and turned from a respected authority to a savage mob. Dragging Stephen out of the city and stoning him in a furious, passionate defense of—what? They had missed the coming of the Messiah! Now they opposed the gospel. How could these religious leaders have been so blind? Because they had lowered their gaze and became entangled in futile thinking, political power struggles, and jealous quarrels.

What did ‘lifting his eyes” do for Stephen?
He saw God. His circumstance became secondary. He had purpose, wisdom, and authority, which enabled him to withstand any threat. He delivered the message and received his reward. In the end, he became like Christ, asking forgiveness for his murderers, even as they continued to strike him.

What can we learn from this? How can we respond?
Lift your eyes. Taking our gaze off Jesus makes us vulnerable to distractions of the worst kind, distractions of the kind that substitute political gain for heavenly glory, and earthly power for Spirit-led wisdom and grace. We move toward wherever we fix our gaze. Look up! 

~ Kay Helm

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