“Excuse me, but where is my food? I’ve been waiting for quite awhile and these other people, who came in after me, have already got their order?” said one of the Greek women to Peter and James as the morning breakfast was being served.
“I think you need to put in more hours preparing the food ahead of time so that we don’t have to wait so long.” replied a man who had accompanied one of the widows to Solomon’s Portico but was really there for a free meal.
James whispered to Peter as he ladled out more cracked wheat porridge into the empty bowls that sat on the table. “We can barely find any time to study and now that so many people are coming we are stuck here all day serving tables”
“Patients James, God will give us the power to persevere and more people to help as we continue to do His will!” smiled Peter as he continued to hand out flat bread.
“God’s ways are not our ways, we need to give ourselves to all these people who are in need and show them God’s love and then, just maybe, they will want to know more about the Lord.” explained Peter to a group of disciples who had gathered around to hear what the apostle had to say.
“We are all a stiff-neck bunch of people who always want to be served first, have the best seats in the synagogue and receive praise for the gifts we bring to God.” added Stephen whose face was beginning to shine like an angel.
While the disciples continued to serve all who had gathered at the portico to be fed, a group of elders, scribes and Sadducees began plotting among themselves how they could silence these followers of Jesus. The disciples had been preaching and teaching, to anyone who would listen, how Jesus died, was buried in a tomb for three days then miraculously came back to life as He rose from the dead.
The Sadducees, who were a group of wealthy pseudo-religious men living in Jerusalem, didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead or life after death and didn’t care for the disciples constantly preaching to their followers. So they hired several men to give false reports of what Stephen was teaching and brought him before the council for questioning.
Stephen used the opportunity to preach to the high priest and the council about Jesus and included a very detailed Jewish history lesson at no extra charge. Everything was going well until he pointed out their faults “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murders, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” Acts 7:51
After hearing these words from the mouth of the young disciple, rage filled their hearts and they dragged him to the outskirts of the city where they stoned him to death. But God gave Stephen a great amount of faith to bear-up under the persecution as He allows the veil between heaven and earth to be peeled back giving Stephen a glimpse of the Son of Man. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55
Stephen was the first martyr of the church and when asked what he believed he seized the opportunity to address the ones who had put Jesus to death. He gave them the whole truth even to the point where he reminded them that they were responsible for putting the Messiah to death. He never worried about what he would say to them as the Holy Spirit welled up from inside and poured out over all who were gathered there to accuse him of blasphemy.
God’s ways are truly not our ways. He is a merciful God who is longsuffering desiring that all men come to Him in repentance. We are, on the other hand, a selfish bunch of stiff-necked people who want only to be served. Screaming for and demanding our rights over the rights of others while pushing our way forward in a crowd until we arrive on top.
If we would only see our destination, eternity with God, just as Stephen did then maybe we would put the needs of others before our own. The only things we will take along with us into eternity are the relationships we make while here on earth.