Seeing Christ in the Stones

Rev. Bradley Swire   -  

Do you ever find your mouth running faster than your brain? I certainly do. Sometimes, we speak before we think, and it lands us in trouble. This tendency to speak boldly, without weighing the consequences, is something we see vividly in the story of Stephen in Acts 7:55-60.

Stephen was a fervent follower of Christ who boldly preached the gospel. His debates with the Jews from Greek-speaking synagogues in Jerusalem caused quite a stir. He argued that the gospel of Jesus made the temple and its sacrifices obsolete. To his opponents, this was blasphemy against Moses and God. His powerful preaching led his opponents to bring him before a judicial council, accusing him of speaking against the holy place and the law, and proclaiming that Jesus would destroy the temple and change their customs.

Given a chance to defend himself, Stephen didn’t try to placate the council. Instead, he launched into a history of Israel’s disobedience to God and denounced them as “stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears.” He accused them of resisting the Holy Spirit and killing the prophets, including the “Righteous One,” Jesus. This enraged the council, and they dragged him out of Jerusalem to stone him.

As the stones were lifted, Stephen saw the heavens open and the glory of God, with Jesus standing at God’s right hand. In his last moments, he prayed for his persecutors’ forgiveness, echoing Jesus’ words on the cross. Stephen didn’t see death in those stones; he saw Christ.

This profound moment aligns with Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:2-10. Peter describes Jesus as the living stone, chosen by God and precious. Jesus, though rejected by people, is the cornerstone of our faith. As believers, we are to be like living stones, built into a spiritual house. This cornerstone isn’t just for support; it is the foundation that keeps everything together.

Peter reminds us that the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This stone causes some to stumble, but for those who believe, it is the foundation of their faith. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. We have received mercy and are now God’s people.

Stephen’s death by stoning isn’t a mere coincidence; it’s an ironic and powerful testimony. The stones intended to kill him instead led him to eternal life. Stephen saw Christ in those stones, just as we are called to see Jesus as our cornerstone.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them. When they express confusion about how to get there, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” To follow Jesus is to make Him the cornerstone of our lives. When faced with stones of persecution, we should see His glory and what we stand to gain in Him.

This brings to mind the story of Jackie Robinson, as depicted in the 1950 movie about his life. When Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, asked Robinson if he had the guts to not fight back against racial abuse, Robinson responded, “Mr. Rickey, I’ve got two cheeks.” Robinson’s strength lay in his ability to see beyond the immediate insult to the greater goal.

Similarly, as followers of Christ, when we face adversity, we must see beyond the stones thrown at us. We must see Christ in those stones, understanding that they are not meant to destroy us but to strengthen our faith and draw us closer to God.

Stephen’s story encourages us to be bold in our faith, to see the glory of God in our trials, and to trust that Jesus, our cornerstone, will keep us standing strong. When the world raises stones against us, let’s see Christ in them, finding strength and hope in His presence.

Let us live as a chosen people, built on the cornerstone of Jesus, ready to face whatever comes our way with faith and grace. In doing so, we proclaim the excellence of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.