“Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.” (Acts 8.2)
Stephen has just finished a ten-minute sermon outlining the plan of salvation starting with Abraham. Because the religious leaders refuse to hear the Word, Stephen is cast outside the city and stoned. There are several points normally made from this event, but let us look at the last mention of Stephen here; his burial.
Devout men buried Stephen. I am not sure why his family was not involved, or even if they were. The Spirit expressed the burial is completed by “devout men”. When Christians transition from this earthly travail to their eternal treasure there are many different emotions: sorrow for the momentary separation, joy for them joining the jubilee, and more. If anyone has ever died and you were assured of their eternal end, it would be Stephen, right?
Stephen is a man of God who preaches a powerful sermon from scripture, proclaiming salvation to the lost house of Israel. At His moment of collapse he lifts his eyes to the sky and sees his Savior. With his last murdered breath, he begs mercy for his assailants. It would actually be more difficult to make the case for his damnation than his salvation. Confident as these “devout men” should be in Stephen’s salvation; why are they making “great lamentation”?
Temporal life ends for everyone. But, when a (wo)man of God is martyred the very soil under our soles has lost out. Why? Because that beacon of faith, a faith through death, is an example in all ways, for all people. We should never desire Christians be persecuted. Less so that our brethren should be put to death. However, we should look every day for the people like Stephen. Those who have the faith to endure death for Jesus. Their faith is victory! May our faith be ever increased and strengthened by each other.
Martyrs are listed in the Hall of Fame of Faith (Hebrews 11). In verses 37-38 it is said “the world was not worthy”. What a blessing, that even though the world is unworthy, God has blessed it, and us, with the presence of such great faith. Praise God! LORD, increase my faith.