by Barry Newton
In one of his parables Jesus had taught, “if they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, then they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
Stephen’s preaching at the Synagogue of the Freedmen could easily provide a case study. Not only had Jesus been raised, but now the miracles Stephen performed only further served to confirm his Christian message which even by itself they were powerless to refute.
How did the members of the Synagogue respond? Did they humbly submit to truth by following Jesus? No, these people who claimed to follow God organized some liars in order to rid themselves of an inconvenient message and messenger.
Both Scripture and experience reveal the naiveté of believing that if you can just make the truth clear enough and present strong enough evidence that everyone will choose to follow God and conform to his ways. This being the case, should we react against such a lack of sophistication by sinking into a cynicism repeating the mantra, “So what’s the point? Why even try?” Hardly!
Our eyes need to rise above the blindness of a mere human-driven pragmatism to behold our world as it really is. Sure there is evil which refuses to come to the light. But there is also a powerful loving Creator, who having taken us to be his own, has commissioned us to spread the good news. Stephen was fulfilling his purpose.
Although from a human perspective it might appear Stephen lost because he ended up being executed, as a faithful servant Stephen won as evidenced by his exclamation, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) Jesus personally welcomed him home, presumably with the words, “Well done!”
There is a question more important than, “How many were baptized?” Philippians 2:13 invites the introspection, “Have we allowed God to work through us for his purposes?” While any given individual or group may not embrace Jesus, God’s word will not return to him empty. Our purpose is to speak.