Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Have you ever been the object of someone’s wrath? Rage is the caustic emotion which spills out of the heart when anger boils over into violence. While repentance is preferred, sometimes the guilty respond to the Holy Spirit with unholy fury.
Rage Principle: Repentance is self-rage, but impenitence is God-rage.
Full of rage, the Sanhedrin ground their teeth at him. The Gospel-wielding Church was riding roughshod over the broken gates of Hell despite the desperate distemper of its junkyard dogs. Gray-bearded men, growling through clenched teeth, rendered rage-inspired judgment and set the fate Stephan as our first martyr. With much the same effect as Peter’s Pentecost message (Acts 2:37), Stephen’s sermon literally left the Sanhedrin “sawn through the heart” (Acts 7:54). However, it wasn’t the preacher who did the cutting, but the Holy Spirit. The first group repented while the latter raged.
Full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed at Jesus. By faith and his pure heart, Stephen saw God the Son standing. Scripture teaches that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he took His seat at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1, Apostle’s Creed). Kings are seated as they rule their kingdoms and for that reason, Christ is reigning on His throne. But in Stephan’s vision, he saw Jesus standing—why? In only two places in holy scripture (Daniel 7:9-14, Revelation 5:6) is Jesus described as standing in heaven. “One like a son of man” was presented before the “Ancient of Days” who gave Him dominion over all the earth. For rejecting God’s chosen ruler, the nations were judged by the “standing” judge. Why did Jesus stand during Stephen’s stoning? He stood in defense of and solidarity with His witness.
He is “Wonderful Counselor”. Whenever there is a trial in our legal system, both the plaintiff and defendant are represented by their respective attorneys. However, in many ancient cultures, a defendant represented himself (pro se) without the aid of counsel. When the Sanhedrin tried Stephen, Jesus Christ, the judge of all the earth, stood to defend him. While a hail of stones rained down in rage upon him, Stephen’s soul was sheltered by his Savior. Before Stephen closed his eyes for the last time, he was transfixed by a vision of the “slain, standing”.
Several years ago, I was the victim of “road rage”. While driving to my favorite coffee shop for some solitude with my books, a driver in an opposing 25 miles-per-hour traffic lane thought my car crowded the center line threatening to strike his vehicle. He quickly turned around and gave chase. Arriving at the coffee shop about one minute before my stalker, I hurried inside and had management call the police. Before he opened the door, my enraged pursuer began screaming at me attracting the attention of everyone in the restaurant. Every patron stood in horrified silence while I was verbally pummeled by profanity-laced death threats during the most frightening two minutes of my life. Every apologetic attempt on my part only increased the heat under his boiling wrath. When it was finally over and my assailant was gone, I was left trembling and in a state of shock. One of those who was standing approached, put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was going to be alright. He was a Christian from a nearby church and he was a sign—a sign pointing me to see Stephan’s last vision of the slain, standing in heaven for me.
When you are the object of hellish rage, can you, by faith, see the slain, standing for you?