Acts 7:54-60 NIV
When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
It's so sad to see a young man die. especially one like Stephen. a man who loves Jesus. a man who is filled with the Holy Spirit. a man who has dedicated his life to serving Jesus. It seems so tragic. Yet, the Lord turned Stephen's death into triumph. He showed Stephen where he was going. and Stephen told those around him what he saw. Filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of condemning those who were killing him, Stephen prayed for them. In the midst of a noisy, violent, vicious death, Stephen was peaceful. Those around him couldn't help but see it. and perhaps the seed was planted for some of them to accept Jesus later. We know that at least one did - Saul, whom we know as the Apostle Paul, who wrote nearly half of our New Testament!
What if Jesus had not died at the age of 33? Human logic says that it would have been better if He had lived longer. He could have personally touched so many more lives than He did in the short three years of His ministry. He could have taught so much more. healed so many more. raised so many more from the dead. He could have continued to be a greater and greater influence on the world until old age. In that light, Jesus' death on the cross at the young age of 33 was a tragedy.
But in the light of God's eternal love, earth's greatest tragedy was turned into heaven's greatest triumph. Jesus was resurrected. He is alive right now, sitting at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you and me. Through the tragedy of the cross came triumph over sin and death for those who will believe. Without the tragedy of the cross, Jesus could only have influenced those people within walking distance of Nazareth. Through His triumph over sin and death, the whole world has come under His influence - even those who refuse to believe.
Was it a tragedy that He died on the cross after only three years of ministry? No! It would have been a tragedy if He had never died, because He would never have conquered sin and death through the resurrection. It would have been a tragedy if He had never left the earth, because you and I would never have had the Holy Spirit to indwell us and guide us and teach us. And the greatest tragedy of all would have been if He had never come to earth at all - because then we would have had no hope. Praise God today for the hope you have found in Jesus, and - as a believer - for the salvation you have gained through the greatest triumph in the universe!
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