All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (verses 15)
What a remarkable sighting. What a remarkable man. He’s filled full to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and even under duress he shines with the very presence of God.
And yet, he appears so briefly on the pages of scripture and on the stage of history. He’s only in these two chapters, together with a couple of fleeting references later. Without these, we wouldn’t even know Stephen existed.
But what an impact. Just as his face shone like an angel then, his life continues to shine right into this very moment with divine presence. It sparks a number of thoughts:
• What is the backstory that brought Stephen to this moment? What encounters with God, what acts of obedience and devotion, what trials and hardships, what faith-shaping influences from the community of believers? How did he become a man-filled-full of the Spirit so that in this present crisis he shone with holy presence? Whatever the backstory, it’s clear to me it was crucial. This moment didn’t just spring out of the blue. It’s the overflow of a life lived with God.
• This is the most powerful description thus far in the book of Acts regarding the impact of any believer on the surrounding community. “His face was like the face of an angel.” Clearly, he made an indelible impression. Yet Stephen wasn’t an Apostle. He didn’t have a wide-ranging ministry. He was certainly one of “the Seven”, but he didn’t serve long in that capacity. I wouldn’t have expected he would be the one to so impact this crowd of hostile Sanhedrin members. Yet he is – the Lord uses him. It tells me there is no limitation on how the Lord might choose to use any one of us, either, as we yield our lives to him.
• How many others down through history have shone out in their moment, yet have never been recorded? Old or young, educated or unschooled, poor or rich, extrovert or introvert, influential or unknown, mature believer or new convert – from all walks of life, there must be multitudes who have been used by our Lord to communicate his own presence in a moment they least expected.
The glory of Jesus is shining. May we so submit to his lordship, that his presence shines in us, also.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
Lord Jesus, I submit myself to you again, eager for your work in my life, eager for your presence to shine. Use me in every moment you choose. To your glory alone. Amen.
Reflect: This day, how might you make yourself more present to the Lord that he might make himself more present with you? “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).