Feast of Saint Stephen, Protomartyr
December 26 and 27
Matthew 21: 33-42
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’ .
After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples saturated Jerusalem with the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. They could not stop proclaiming what they had seen and heard. In the temple, in private homes, even on the streets, the apostles preached the good news with signs and wonders. Residing in Jerusalem at that time were Jews who spoke Greek and worshipped in their own synagogues. They too heard the witness of the disciples and many were counted among the believers. Seven of these Greekspeakers were chosen to assist the apostles in caring for the church.
One of them was Stephen, a man filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Stephen longed to share the good news with other Greek-speaking Jews. He preached that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that God had promised the Jewish people. Some, however, refused to accept his teaching about Jesus, and instead, they rose up in their synagogues and opposed him. These Jews claimed that Stephen was hostile to the law and to Moses.
But in spite of their arguments “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). Like their fathers in the desert, these Jews continued to resist the work of God in their age. They brought Stephen before the Sanhedrin and arranged false testimony against him. Like his Master, Stephen was charged with blasphemy against the temple and the law.
Through prayer and the word of the Hebrew scriptures, Stephen had become clear about the work of God in history. As a result, he was not afraid to contend against the hostility of his assailants. He met their charges by reasoning from scripture in the wisdom and power of the Spirit. As he spoke, bearing witness to the Lord Jesus, his face was as radiant as an ‘angel’s.
This same confidence can be ours if we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us as he taught Stephen. We must go before the Lord daily in prayer and be clear about what God has done in history and in our own lives. Then we will be able to share with others about the power of God. “Come, Holy Spirit, and teach us wisdom. Pour out your grace on us so that we might be clear about how God has worked in our lives. Guide us so that we might help others to experience the same truth in their lives.”
Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Christian church. He was engaged in providing charity to Christians of Gentile origin, and died at Jerusalem in 34 AD. He is considered the patron saint of deacons, as well as the Republika Srpska.