Scripture Focus: Acts 6.15
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
From John: On Maundy Thursday, many Christians observe a ceremony of foot-washing in memory of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet as a model of service. It is fitting then that today we focus on Stephen, one of the church’s first servants, or deacons.
Reflection: A Jesus-like Life
By John Tillman
What does it look like to follow Jesus? To be one who devotes the pattern of their thinking, acting, and speaking to follow him? In two short chapters, Luke tells us.
In less than 2,000 words in the NIV, we read the life, ministry, and death of the church’s first martyr, Stephen. It’s shorter than your average online article. Nearly 1300 words are Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin, so narratively, we have a 700-word story of a life patterned after Jesus.
Stephen’s life maps onto the ministry of Jesus. We can both observe and adopt this pattern.
Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. Stephen’s faith was strong and he knew the scriptures well. We can make an intimate inner life of devotion, filled with prayer and scripture, our foundation. (Luke 3.21-22; John 3.34; Acts 7.55-56)
Stephen’s first ministry was serving outcasts and those hurt in a church controversy. He brought justice to an unjust situation, healing to those harmed, and restored the good name of the church in the process. We must serve the hurting and hungry for the sake of the gospel. (Luke 4.16-25; Acts 6.1)
Stephen performed “signs” among the people. We don’t know what kind of “signs” Stephen performed, but we know they were evidence of grace and pointed people to Jesus. We can be known for powerful, beneficial work in our community. God’s power must be used for his purposes, not our own. (Luke 4.2-4; Luke 9.12-17; Acts 6.8)
Stephen faced trouble boldly, but with grace and love. Even in his sharp critique of the leaders, Stephen held out hope and the gospel to them. And he forgave those who killed him. We can be both convincing and winsome. We can forgive our enemies and offer them God’s redemption. (Luke 23.1-4, 33-34; Acts 6.15, 7.59-60)
The pattern of Stephen’s life is the pattern of Jesus’ life and that pattern is the pattern of the cross. Not many Christians will face physical death for the sake of the gospel but we all must lay down our lives on the cross.
What would have to die in our lives for us to live according to this pattern?
…to be more devoted to scriptures and prayer?
…to serve the outcast and the hurting?
…to seek God’s purposes and rely on his power?
…to contend with grace for the gospel?
…to forgive our enemies and do good to them?
Stephen-like, Jesus-like lives will bring salvation to people and growth to the church.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life. — Psalm 119.49-50
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
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When tempted to add to an already full plate, know that it is wise to ask for help.
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When we know the forgiveness of Jesus, God’s glory goes from intimidating to liberating, from terrifying to electrifying.