26 December: St. Stephen, First Martyr
I Reading: Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59: I can see heaven thrown open.
Gospel: Mt 10: 17-22: It is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.
Jesus’ warning of persecution (Mt 10: 16-23)
In this passage, Christ was warning his disciples about the coming of future persecutions. The disciples are like sheep in the midst of wolves. They can be expected to be persecuted at any time in any where for the sake of Jesus Christ. He counselled them on how to deal with persecution.
Today we celebrate the first martyr of the Church St. Stephen, the first Christian bearing witness to Jesus Christ by shedding of his blood believing in these encouraging words of Jesus Christ. During the time of trail and persecution, he knelt down and said aloud “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” He could forgive his enemies because he experienced the love, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus in his life. Thus he could see heaven thrown open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. When the persecutors were stoning him, he prayed, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.”
1. Two facts must be kept in mind (v.16):
a. Disciples are commissioned: sent forth.
b. Disciples are as sheep among wolves.
2. Counsel 1: be wise and harmless (v.16).
3. Counsel 2: beware of men (17-18).
a. The persecutors: the state and the religionists.
b. The reasons you will be persecuted:
1. For the Lord’s sake
2. To be a testimony.
4. Counsel 3: do not worry about a defence (19-20).
a. God will meet your need
b. God’s Spirit will speak through you
5. Counsel 4: know that families will be divided (21).
6. Counsel 5: endure to the end (22).
7. Counsel 6: flee persecution (23).
Thought: The Lord’s witness is to have a snake-like mind (clever) and a dove-like spirit (innocent). The Lord’s people and messengers are exposed to a world of evil people (wolves). Therefore be wise or shrewd as snake and be innocent or harmless as dove.