Scripture: Lectionary 273. Acts 6:8-15. Psalm 119:23-24,26-27, 29-30. John
Stephen has already been mentioned to us as one of the seven who were
chosen to take care of the needs of the Greek speaking widows and the poor.
He has similarities to the role of a deacon and has been blessed by the
imposition of hands–those of the apostles. Now Luke develops his role in
proclaiming the Resurrected Jesus and in confronting those who wish to
silence his boldness. We will be listening to his sermon tomorrow.
Stephen is the first who will witness by his death to the keryma or
proclamation of the Good News. He is called the “protomartyr” and we
celebrate his feast after Christmas on December 26! Then will come the
martyrdom of the holy innocents, Dec. 28 showing us the witness of even
those two years and under. In our pericope from the Acts we see Stephen’s
wisdom and power (through the Spirit) offsetting his opponents who are
enraged at what he is proclaiming. They interpret him as blaspheming the
law of Moses, the Temple, and the whole of their religion. In reality, he
is confriming the Scriptures through Jesus fulfilling them as we have seen
in chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke. As for the temple, Luke is writing
after he has knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and
brings that into the conflict with his adversaries. Stephen continues to
speak boldly and to witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. His
speech will occupy all of chapter seven of the Acts and, though it is,
taken from Luke’s source it is loosely constructed. It is a sermon that
shows God working throughout history through his chosen servants. Above
all, it is Luke’s way of demonstrating the resurrection in the sermons that
he has throughout Acts almost twenty of them in an outline form. We have a
unified presentation of Stephen and Philip from Acts 6:8-Acts 8:3.
The trial of Jesus is taken from the sources Luke used and put here in the
Acts. Stephen is another Christ, an alter Christus. At the end of Acts,
Paul will face something similar through imprisonments, confronations, and
eventual death by the sword in Rome. The Church is emerging and the dictum
“the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church” is one of the underlying
themes of the Acts.
The Holy Spirit guides all of those who speak boldly in the name of Jesus
and about his resurrection. Stephen carries on what Luke has given us in
Luke 12:12 : “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment all that should
be said.” We have Jesus saying, “I will give you words and a wisdom which
none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict.”…some of
you will be put to death. And all will hate you because of me…By patient
endurance you will save your lives.” (Luke 21: 15, 17, 19). The testimony
of Stephen and the Apostles is our cornerstone for belief in the
Resurrection. Christos aneste! Amen. Alleluiah.