“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed ~ he only had eyes for God!” (Acts 7:55 The Message).
It is one of the great, dramatic moments in Scripture — Stephen giving his defense before the High Court of Israel. His presentation was masterful and respectful. His recall of history was exact and compelling. The case he presented was flawless and clear.
But as he spoke he saw the smug indifference etched deep into the faces of his judges. Their hearts were hardened by pride, their eyes blinded by bigotry. Stephen, realizing that nothing he could say was going to change their prejudice, shifted gears and got straight to the point.
“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!” he cried. “You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”
As any student of the pugilist arts knows, no champion ever relies on a single punch to knock out his opponent. No, he peppers him with jabs, rocks him with a one-two combination, and then drops the bomb – a left hook and a blinding overhand right. BAM! Stephen does the same.
While the council was reeling from his stunning indictment, Stephen continued, “Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?” Before they could compose themselves to reply in religious double-speak, he delivered the knockout blow – “Just as your fathers killed those who told us that the Messiah would come, now you, their sons, have betrayed and murdered the very Messiah Himself!”
The Bible says, ” Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” One translations puts it this way, “At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective.” We are then told, “At this the council members covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.”
Amazing, isn’t it, the depth of evil that lurks in the hearts of religious people? From the moment Cain murdered Abel, religion has found no other way but violence to force its claims against those with whom it disagrees. Oh how quickly those esteemed as holy and impartial judges turn to nothing more than a band of alley thugs.
But now, set in sharp relief against this dark backdrop, get the point of our opening text: “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed ~ he only had eyes for God!”
Wow. How wonderful it must be to “hardly notice” the dumb, outrageous, banal, and vindictive attacks of the devil through people and circumstances around us. What is the key? How did Stephen manage to remain so detached? The word says, “he only had eyes for God!”
O Lord, give me eyes only for you!