A second long passage today to study the rest of Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrin.
He goes on to discuss the life of Moses. This is interesting both with the information we are given by Stephen and the angle he takes. To the Jews, Moses was the epitome of someone who answered God's call to go out. He gave up a Kingdom in order to support and rescue the people of God. Again, Stephen emphasises that the great individual who follows God is not chained to the past who seeks only to maintain their personal privileges as the Jews did.
It appears that tempers and voices are becoming raised within the Sanhedrin. There is the sense that Stephen rushes towards his conclusion where he berates the Jewish religious leaders for their attitude. In this closing section between verses 37-53, he has woven together several strands of thought:
1. The people of Israel were disobedient to Moses' leadership and to the LORD throughout their wilderness wanderings.
2. This was despite having the most amazing privileges. They had the prophets, God-appointed leaders, the Law and the Tent of Witness. This must be put side by side with their disobedience. It is clear in Scripture that the more one has, the greater the expectation of them. The judgement on the Jewish nation was complete when they crucified the Son of God.
3. They had wrongly limited God. They had come to worship the Temple in Jerusalem rather than the God of all people.
4. Peter had allowed for the fact that the Jews had acted ignorantly in crucifying Jesus, but Stephen states that this act was the culmination of all previous disobedience. Stephen is both immensely sad at a people who have refused a destiny God graciously offered them and angry at the terrible crime they wilfully committed.
A speech like this could only have one outcome: death. It appeared to the Sanhedrin that he had committed blasphemy in his own summary, and the penalty for blasphemy was stoning to death. However, this would have been considered a lynching as Roman law prohibited capital punishment without their agreement.
We see Stephen following the example of Jesus in praying for forgiveness for his murderers and we see the first mention of Saul who was to become Paul, one of the great figures of the Bible.