May 14 – 5 Easter
Acts 7:55-60
The Stoning of Stephen 

Background: The Acts of the Apostles is the second portion of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry and details the formation and growth of Christianity. This account begins immediately following Jesus’ resurrection and ends with Paul’s demise in Rome. The beginning portion of this book delineates the growth of the Christian cult from Judaism. Most specifically, this passage helps define the life of the growing cult and orthopraxis.

Theme: This week’s passage describes the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. This section concludes a longer passage beginning in chapter 6 wherein Stephen is accused of actions that appear to warrant his death. In this and the preceding section we see Stephen making his defense using a typical philosophical defense basing his actions and conclusion on Jewish Scripture. Ultimately this leads to his death. It is at the time of his execution that we are introduced to Saul who later becomes Paul.

Questions to Ponder:
* Please read Acts 7:55-60.
* Briefly describe the setting of this passage. What has happened leading up to this passage? Where does this passage take place?
* Who do you think was trying to kill Stephen?
* Why do you think they were trying to kill Stephen?
* With what was Stephen charged that would lead to his stoning?
* What do you think Stephen’s intent was in his criticism of the Jewish hierarchy and defense of his actions?
* How did Stephen set up his case against his accusers?
* In verse 56 it appears that Stephen’s statement, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” was the final straw. Why might this verse be the thing that propels Stephen to his death?
* Who were the witnesses identified in verse 58 and why would they lay their coats at the feet of Saul?
* Verses 59 and 60 are reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross at his crucifixion. What do you think Luke is trying to say by using these common words?
* An alternate translation in verse 60b can be “he [Stephen] fell asleep.” How might the translation, he fell asleep, change the way that we read and interpret this passage?
* What principles are at stake in this passage? What is Stephen standing for and what are the Jews standing for?
* For or against what or whom is Stephen bearing witness in this passage? Why might his witness lead to his martyrdom and death?
* How is this passage real for us today in Suffolk?
* What practical applications are there for this passage about the stoning of Stephen?