Have you ever had this experience with your children or seen it with someone else? You have something important to tell them, maybe for their safety, or to correct behaviour and they just do something like this… Stick their fingers in their ears and just shout “Nah, na, nah, na, na, I’m not listening!” Sound familiar? Maybe you’re like me and you’ve done this very same thing yourself when you were their age or maybe it’s a tactic you still use to avoid washing up! Don’t worry I’m not here to judge!
I bet Stephen cut the pose of a frustrated parent as he finished speaking about God’s story. First of all those in attendance did not listen with their hearts, open for God to convict and call, but instead became ‘furious and gnashed their teeth at him’ (v.54). They took Stephen out to be stoned to death and, as He prayed and saw his destination (v.56), they, like little children ‘covered their ears and yell[ed] at the top of their voices’ (v.57) They did not want to hear the hope that was offered through Stephen’s words.
Maybe this resembles some of the relationships that you have with friends, colleagues or even family. That at any mention of the name Jesus they cover their ears and start to scream. Maybe it’s not that extreme, but you can tell that a wall has been put up and they will no longer listen to your words. I’m sure that at some point we’ve all experienced something like that as we have witnessed about God’s love to those who don’t know Him.
But Stephen’s witness was not without fruit. In attendance at his stoning was a figure who was about to have a very significant role to play in the future of Jesus’ church. ‘Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul… And Saul approved of their killing him’ (7:58 & 8:1). Saul, soon to be Paul, would have a transforming encounter with Jesus himself and even whilst, at the time, Stephen’s witness may have seemed futile, an encounter with Jesus can change even the hardest of heart.
Do not give up! With love and sensitivity keep up your witness, whatever the resistance and keep praying for those you spend time with to encounter the risen Jesus and experience a transformation that only he can bring!