After reading the conclusion of the discourses of Stephen, we read today his martyr’s death. As Stephen was pummeled my stones, he said:
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”
If I were being hit by rocks, thrown by people who believe me to be a blasphemer and are so angry at my Christian witness that they believe I must die, would I have the courage at that moment to forgive them?
Stephen was described in Acts 7:55 as being “filled with the holy Spirit” and this is the source of his courage.
Later in the Gospel reading (John 6:30-35), the crowd around Jesus wants a sign from him as proof so that they might believe in him:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “
Jesus responded that it is God, not Moses who gave their ancestors bread from heaven. He continued:
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
We Christians take comfort to remember that God will provide for us – both physically and spiritually. I think we are so often unaware of our spiritual thirst and hunger because we are distracted by the state of our physical bodies and associated emotions and feelings.
In these moments, we can look to God for courage. The Psalm response today (31:6) is a prayer I can recite to myself in these moments when I am afraid or forget that God’s will for me is my best choice because he loves me. So, when we recite this simple prayer:
“Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
we have an opportunity to trust God, to turn over our will to Him and accept his love.