A Horrific Tale Indeed: Reflections on Acts 7:55-60

The tiny light in the story appears in vs 58, though it hardly is light at this point in the tale. "The witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul." This first mention of the great missionary apostle whom we will later know as Paul forces us to take seriously what happens to this particular man as the narrative unfolds. In 8:1 we are told that this Saul "approved of their killing of him," with the possible implication that Saul himself may have had a hand in instigating the entire event. Of course, in chapter 9 this Saul will have his life turned upside down by a visit from the murdered Jesus himself, and as a result of that visitation will become the apostle to the gentiles, opening the gospel message to many "even to the ends of the earth."

And it will be this Paul who will give to the world his anguished concern for his Jewish brothers and sisters who have refused to accept that this same Jesus is in fact their Messiah. In Romans 9-11 Paul will struggle with that refusal with genuine pain. Unlike the rancor and bitterness of Peter and Stephen, the apostle Paul will pray that his Jewish friends will see those wonderful ways of the new Christians and will feel deeply their desire to join in. For Paul eventually all Israel will find its way into the arms of Christ Jesus (Rom 11:33-36).

I find no joy in Luke's story of the stoning of Stephen, but his introduction of Saul/Paul into the story, and his later focus on Paul's passionate desire to open the gospel up to those well beyond the bounds of Judaism, offer me hope that the narrow way that the gospel was first uttered by Peter and Stephen was finally not the hallmark of the rich gospel of Jesus the Christ.

Thanks then be to God for Paul, who offered this gift to all. May we do the same in our own proclamation today.

Author's Note: I offer one more announcement of the cruise I will be joining, and on which I will be lecturing about the book of Job, leaving the USA on Sept 3 and returning Sept 14. We will cruise the Baltic and visit 6 of the world's great capitals. Go to eo.travel.com for full details.

My novel, King Saul, is now available from Amazon.com. I hope you will enjoy reading it!

5/8/2014 4:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.
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