Summary: Let’s see how it begins: •Verse 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. •Stephen is obviously a multi-talented individual. He not only takes care of the widows, but he’s out there on
“Dying to Please Jesus”
The Martyrdom of Stephen
One of great movies of recent years is Amadeus, a mostly fictional account of the life of the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
•The story is told from the perspective of Antonio Salieri, a fellow composer.
•As a young boy, Salieri hears stories of the gifted child prodigy Mozart, and he too longs to be a composer ... to make beautiful music ...
•Unfortunately his father, unlike Mozart’s father, does not approve and for years he envies the boy genius.
•Then one day, his whole life is changed. His father chokes on a chicken bone and dies, and Antonio is sent to Vienna to learn music.
•Everything goes well for Salieri. He becomes the court composer for Emperor Joseph II, and it looks like he will fulfill his dreams.
•Then one day Mozart himself, now a grown man, comes to the Emperor’s court, and the emperor and all those around him, become enamored by Mozart.
•Salieri becomes obsessively jealous of Mozart’s incredible gifts, and plots to destroy him.
•He anonymously commissions Mozart to write a requiem, which Mozart comes to believe he is writing for his own dead father. Salieri slowly drives Mozart crazy with this obsession.
The story is a fascinating account of the power of passion – the passion for music – and the power of jealousy.
•Amadeus, Mozart’s middle name, means “Loved by God,” and Salieri cannot accept the unconditional gift of love, music, that God had given Mozart.
•So in his anger and jealously he really turns against God, seeking to destroy the object of God’s favor.
•But jealousy always destroys, and ultimately it drives Salieri to insanity himself.
•The whole movie is told to a priest after Salieri, now an old man, attempts to commit suicide in a sanitarium.
We are continuing our study of Acts this morning, and there is an interesting parallel to the story of Amadeus and to what is happening in the book of Acts.
•God is at work in his Church. He has now offered them the free gift, the Amadeus, of salvation.
•The religious leaders in Jerusalem should rejoice in the gift God has given the Church.
•Instead they see the Church as a threat to their power and prestige, and so they seek to destroy it.
And like Salieri, they are about to lash back once again..
And it will spark the greatest trial yet for the Church
•If you recall, the church has been threatened and harassed; the apostles beaten.
•Now, the greatest trial yet: martyrdom of one of their members.
We pick up our story where we left it last week.
•If you have your Bible turn to Acts 6.
•If you remember a conflict has arisen in the Church between two ethnic groups, the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, the new kids on the block, were complaining against the Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians because their widows were being neglected
So seven servants are chosen, chosen from the Greek-speaking community itself, to take care of the widows.
•If you recall all seven were Greek-speaking Jewish Christians. They were from the community that was feeling left out.
•Two of these servants, Stephen and Philip, will play a major role in the events follows.
Let’s see how it begins:
•Verse 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
•Stephen is obviously a multi-talented individual. He not only takes care of the widows, but he’s out there on the streets, on the front line, sharing the Gospel.
•It is ironic that Stephen, who was chosen so the apostles could do the job what Jesus told them to do – preach the Gospel.
The moral of the story is you can’t hold a good man down.
•Stephen is zealous for Jesus, and so when he gets done distributing
•He has the courage to preach the Gospel.
1. Stephen’s Arrest: The courage to preach the Gospel
But it is that courage that will get him into trouble.
•You see this was a dangerous time to be on the streets of Jerusalem.
•Remember that the apostles (1) had been warned not to do it. Then (2) they had been beaten for doing it
And opposition does come. Look at verse 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) —
Now remember Stephen is one of the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians and it is opposition from a group of Greek-speakers. Notice where they are from (v. 9): Jews of Cyrene (N. Africa, modern Libya) and Alexandria (in Egypt) as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia (modern Turkey). These men began to argue with Stephen,
•These people, like Stephen, are ex-patriots; they are Jews who had emigrated out of Israel and have now returned.