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Thursday, February 5, 2015

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Consider the parallels between Stephen’s trial and the trial of Jesus just weeks earlier. Both Jesus and Stephen were brought before the Sanhedrin in the same hall. Both were charged with blasphemy. Both faced witnesses who lied at the request of the judges. Both were asked to respond 

Jesus kept silent. “As a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open His mouth” (Isa. 53:7). Only when the enraged high priest shouted: “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” did Jesus reply, “It is as you said” (Matt. 26:63, 64). The Sanhedrin then condemned Jesus to death.

Stephen, however, did not remain silent. He offered a sermon, a history lesson of the Israelite nation. He told of how the Israelites had always resisted the Holy Spirit and told his accusers that they were doing the same. He accused his judges of killing the same Messiah whom they were waiting for.

The religious leaders’ reaction serves as a warning of how quickly we can change by shunning the Holy Spirit. At Jesus’ trial, the religious leaders had not dared to carry out the death sentence without Roman approval. At Stephen’s trial, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. … Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:54, 57-58).

Compare this with the reaction of the crowd of devout Jewish men whom Peter, in a sermon similar to Stephen’s, accused of crucifying Jesus. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent” (Acts 2:37, 38). Being “cut to the heart” can have two very different effects: conversion or murder.

“Dear God, keep my heart open to Your Holy Spirit. May I never resist His loving, imploring voice. When the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin and I am cut to the heart, may my response never be to ‘stop up my ears’ but to fall on my knees in repentance. Amen.”

 

Andrew McChesney

News Editor of the Adventist Review