Acts 10 – 11
Trouble comes – it always does.
God is with Stephen, and so he is doing great things, and collects enemies as he does. They argue with him, but he can argue better than they can and so they concoct charges against him and have him arrested. When they give him a chance to speak for himself, he gives them a whole chapter. Have another look at chapter 7. It’s basically a summary of all we read up to Jesus birth – with the conclusion that the people of God never really understood what He was up to, never really went along with what God was doing and often opposed him, and ultimately killed Jesus when they claimed to be waiting for Him.
This, of course, made the rulers furious and they killed him. He gets bludgeoned to death with rocks. During this, he sees a vision of God, and asks God to forgive his killers.
Saul – who we will learn a lot more about, is right there.
Wow! (and not a good ‘wow’ – just ‘that’s a lot to take in’)
Stephen’s doing good stuff for God, and gets killed as a result. I tend to think if I am doing God’s work, then He’s kind of obliged to look after me. I know it’s not true, but I think it anyway. This passage is a grim reminder that we are not guaranteed an easy ride if we do the right things – in fact the opposite is often true.
And Saul (soon to become Paul) is really not a nice guy and he gets worse. He becomes the leader of the campaign to kill followers of Jesus. If I were God I would probably just smite him with lightning and sort him out. I certainly wouldn’t pick him as a new leader of my cause. (which is just another of the VERY long list of reasons why it’s a good thing I’m not God!)
As a result of Stephens death the church is scattered, and so the good news about Jesus spreads out from Jerusalem throughout Israel.
Any time I’ve heard someone talk about this – or looked at it myself, the focus has usually been on the two main outcomes: the church is spreading and Paul is on a collision course with God which will lead to his conversion. But that doesn’t make it OK that a good man, being used by God got killed by an angry crowd.
As my mum used to say: ‘Life’s not fair. Get used to it!’
As Jesus said: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
Trouble will come. It always does. It won’t seem fair or right because it won’t be fair or right. But we serve the one who overcame the world and all its troubles. That is true even when the situation doesn’t seem like it.