The tabernacle of witness to our forefathers (dwelling) in the wilderness was to be constructed according to the (stringent) requirements which were set forth to Moses. This was also maintained by our forefathers under Joshua when they were brought into possession (of the land) when God drove them out and it remained so until David. David found favour in God's sight and asked permission to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. Still, it was Solomon (in fact) who (finally) built a house for Him. And yet the Most High does not dwell in (such special) places crafted (for Him) as (indeed) the prophet says, "The heavens are to me my throne and the earth is my footstool. By what (kind of) house are you (then) going to house me?" You are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in your hearts and your. You always oppose the Holy Spirit just as your fathers had done. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not put to flight? And they killed those who, going before the Righteous One, announced His coming. And of Him you have become betrayers and murderers, you (the ones) to whom the law was delivered by God's messengers. It is this law that you have not kept. (Acts 7:44-53/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne)

CONCLUDING REMARKS: As Stephen's trial before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was drawing to a close, Bruce C Wearne says he was aware of the council's power to his death by stoning. PICTURE: Dimitris Petridis/


Stephen brings his case to a close.

Luke seems to have come across a verbatim court record of what Stephen said in his defence to the council. We do not know, and probably Luke did not know, how Stephen delivered all that is stated here. We do not know of the interruptions. We do not know of the contribution of members of the council like Gamaliel who, in an earlier confrontation, advised his fellow religious leaders to leave the apostles alone. We will note shortly that, though a widespread persecution followed this council confrontation, the apostles were indeed being left alone.

I can't help wondering whether Stephen, as he progressed through his defence, saw the eyes of his accusers, saw the reactions of the council, and realised that "the game was up". This indeed seems to have been a "replay" of an earlier trial when the chief priest tore his robes and agreed that the judgment of blasphemy was warranted. Then they had to take Jesus to the Roman authorities because they could not execute Him themselves. Here, however, it is clear that Stephen knows the council's power to order his stoning for his alleged crime. But that does not stop him from stating the case as it had to be stated.

It is as if he is saying: "Stop denying the truth! Face up to what you have done!" It is the same message that the apostles had proclaimed since the day of Pentecost. God's mercy and forgiveness have been poured out. Listen to Moses! Listen to the Prophet Isaiah! The Lamb has been slain. It is over. Believe the Good News.

But as we read this now, we know it as Luke's account of the death of Stephen. This wise and compassionate fellow, a loyal and faithful proselyte, a believer in Israel's messiah, was taking his place in the story he told, the story of rejection, and that culminates in his profession of faith about Jesus standing up for him (and us) at God's right hand.

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